City of Sydney to consider banning fossil fuel advertising to combat climate change and pollution

Ads promoting coal, oil and gas could soon be banned from hundreds of buildings and public spaces in Sydney.

The city of Sydney will consider becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to ban fossil fuel advertising on city council-managed property and infrastructure, citing detrimental effects on health, the environment and the climate.

Deputy Mayor Jess Scully said the influence exerted by fossil fuel companies, which spend millions on advertising annually, has contributed to Australia’s lack of action on climate change.

“It’s about drawing a line in the sand, to say the least, we see through this whitewash, we see through the marketing spin,” Cr Scully said.

She will present a motion at Monday’s council meeting calling for an investigation into restricting fossil fuel ads and endorsement deals, comparing the health effects to tobacco products.

“Air pollution from burning fossil fuels takes 8.7 million lives prematurely each year, worse than tobacco,” Cr Scully’s motion read.

If Sydney goes ahead with the ban, it would be the biggest victory to date for a campaign to stop advertising by coal, oil and gas companies similar to anti-tobacco advertising laws.

The silhouette of a power plant is seen against the early afternoon sky, with thick smoke billowing from three towers.
The deputy mayor compares the health effects of air pollution from fossil fuels to tobacco products.(Shutterstock: Kip Scott)

Comms Declare, a group of 300 marketing, public relations, advertising and media professionals behind the campaign, described Sydney’s city-controlled real estate, including bus shelters and street furniture, as the “jewel in the crown ” from the Australian ad space.

“The city of Sydney has one of the largest outdoor advertising networks in the world,” said Comms Declare co-founder Belinda Noble.

France has adopted a nationwide ban on fossil fuel advertisements and Amsterdam in the Netherlands bans such advertisements on its public transport network.

In Australia, Yarra and Moreland councils in Melbourne have also resolved to investigate a ban on fossil fuel advertisements.

Cars, heated pools among targeted ads

From ads promoting gas-guzzling cars to those selling gas-heated swimming pools, Noble said the messages about fossil fuels were “insidious.”

“People don’t realize how many messages about fossil fuels are in their everyday lives,” he said.

Determining which ads would fall under the proposed ban will be part of the council’s investigation.

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