Ads promoting coal, oil and gas could soon be banned from hundreds of buildings and public spaces in Sydney.
- The City of Sydney is considering banning fossil fuel advertisements on its property and infrastructure
- The council controls a major network of outdoor advertising space in Australia
- A coalition of media professionals wants a national tobacco-style ban
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.
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.
Comms Declare defined fossil fuel ads as those promoting coal, gas, and oil products, corporations that primarily produce fossil fuels, or organizations that generate more than 20 percent of revenue from fossil fuels.
Cr Scully said that was reasonable, but he would await council staff advice on the definition and implications for existing contracts.
She said she was not aware of the council accepting any ads in recent years that might be subject to such a ban.
“I think it’s a market signal that we want to send,” Cr Scully said.
He hoped that the council taking this step would prompt other councils and organizations to take similar action.
Ms Noble said momentum was building and she hoped more councils would follow in the footsteps of the city of Sydney.
However, the group hoped that it would be some time before the federal government took over the industry.
“It took 40 years to stop all tobacco promotion in Australia after we learned that tobacco products caused cancer, so we don’t expect this to happen overnight,” said Ms Noble.
Cr Scully’s proposed motion also called for the City of Sydney to write to state and federal ministers urging a nationwide ban.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has previously rejected the need for a tobacco-style ban on fossil fuel advertisements.
She told the Sydney Morning Herald in July that advertising regulation in Australia “strikes a balance between legitimate business interests and appropriate community safeguards.”