Some fossil fuel advertising is now banned in France

France has banned some fossil fuel ads, but the ban’s limitations – including allowances for natural gas and financial advertising – have led to criticism.

On August 22, 2022, a ban on fossil fuel ads was announced in France. At the moment, the ban on broadcast advertisements targets only ads featuring petroleum products, energy from coal mining, and carbonaceous hydrogen. Natural gas, meanwhile, benefits from a temporary exemption valid until June 30, 2023. The advertising ban was agreed upon by the French Parliament last year as part of the Climate and Resilience Law.

The impact of fossil fuels

Fossil fuels produce considerable quantities of carbon dioxide when burned. For about the last seventy years, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have been the primary source of anthropogenic emissions, and their share has continued to rise until the present day.

fossil fuels
The burning of fossil fuels for energy production is the primary driver of the climate crisis ©️ Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global CO2 emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes reached their highest-ever annual level in 2021. Coal, by itself, made up over forty per cent of the overall growth in global CO2 emissions in the same year.

Opposition to fossil fuel ads

Given the impact of fossil fuels, many environmental associations have been campaigning to ban adverts relating to them. By authorizing fossil fuels companies to promote their products, governments allow them to increase their sales and expand, which is incompatible with the emission reductions needed to stave off the climate crisis.

In 2020, Greenpeace France, alongside Le Réseau action climat and Résistance à l’agression publicitaire published a report demonstrating the urgent need to enforce a ban on advertisements promoting products harmful to the climate, an approach inspired by the 1991 “Évin law.” On May 3, 2021, Amsterdam banned ads for fossil fuels and aviation from its metro stations. The adoption of this ban was made possible by the work of Reclame Fossielvrij and fifty-one other Amsterdam-based organizations.

Greenpeace, Reclame Fossielvrij, and more than thirty other groups are running a campaign inviting the European Commission to set forth new EU legislation banning advertising for fossil fuels, as well as air, road, and water transport powered by fossil fuels.

The limits of the French ban

Even after the ban, advertising for the fossil fuel products listed above remains permitted if they contain more than fifty per cent carbon-free energy. Additionally, this decree specifies that patronage, sponsorship, institutional communication, and financial advertising on fossil energy products are still allowed.

fossil fuel advertising
France’s ban is a step in the right direction, but it is far from perfect ©️ Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

These limitations have sparked criticisms from Greenpeace France: “You will read everywhere that advertising for fossil fuels is now prohibited, but that’s not true! Ads for gas can continue, patronage, sponsorship, institutional communication, and financial advertising on fossil products remain authorized” the organization stated on Twitter.

The expansion of oil, coal, and gas is at odds with the action needed for a livable planet. The IPCC has said that massive emission reductions in all sectors are necessary to limit the warming to 1.5°. Wealthy nations with historical responsibility for climate change and the means to move faster should oppose fossil fuel expansions, including putting an end to the advertising, patronage, and sponsorship of fossil companies.

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