A coalition of over 20 climate and environmental groups launched Monday a campaign calling for an EU ban on advertising or sponsorship for fossil fuels. It is similar to the bans on tobacco advertising.
To draw attention to the European Citizens Initiative, more than 80 Greenpeace activists prevented Shell’s oil refinery from entering the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.
This action is less than a month ahead of the United Nations climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow. This 12-day summit will seek to secure greater commitments to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, with the goal of keeping it below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
To block the entrance, activists used floating cubes with fossil fuel-linked advertisements and the protest ship Beluga II with the words “Ban Fossil Fuel Advertising” strung between the masts. The activists also attached posters to Shell’s logo by climbing up a 15-meter (15 yard) tall oil tank.
“I grew-up reading warning signs about cigarettes killing you. But I never saw similar warnings at petrol stations or fuel tanks. “It’s scary that my favorite sports, museums, and charities are sponsored by airlines or car companies,” Chaja Merk said in a statement by Greenpeace. “Fossil fuel ads belong in a museum, not sponsoring them.”
Shell stated that the company has invested billions in “lower carbon energy”. We need to rapidly grow these businesses in order to change the energy mix Shell sells. This means that we need to let our customers via advertising and social media the lower-carbon solutions that we are currently developing or offering, so they can make the switch when it is convenient for them.
To disperse the protest, police arrived and boarded the Beluga II. They also detained activists. At the oil tank, more were also detained. Greenpeace reported that 17 activists were detained. The number of arrests was not confirmed by Rotterdam police immediately.
Shell stated that it supports peaceful protest “if it’s done safely.” This is not the situation now. “The demonstrators are illegally present on our property. We have strict safety protocols,” the company stated.
There is growing support for a ban on advertising that promotes fossil fuels. Amsterdam banned ads that were linked to “fossil products”, such as cheap airline tickets and gas-powered cars, from its metro network earlier this year. This was a first step towards removing such ads from Dutch capitals streets, according to the municipality.
In a year, 1 million signatures are needed to support a campaign to ban ads that promote fossil fuels within the EU. The EU executive Commission must look into the request if it succeeds. However, they are not required to act.
The environmental coalition stated on its website that “this legislation would increase public awareness about products and technologies responsible for climate change, and other health and environmental harms,”
Greenpeace’s Dutch branch released a report accusing major oil companies of “greenwashing” their advertising campaigns. It described the term as “a mixture of fossil fuel companies’ advertisements that promote genuinely climate-friendly initiatives as well as those that promote fake climate solutions as “green”” at the time of the launch.
Six energy companies were surveyed on social media and 63% of them claimed to be greenwashing.
The report stated that “all the companies in our dataset are greenwashing” as their advertisements don’t accurately reflect their business activities. This could be either by a high emphasis on their ‘green activities’ or a low focus on their fossil fuel activities.