THE HAGUE, Netherlands
A coalition of more than 20 environmental and climate groups on Monday launched a campaign calling for a ban on fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship in the European Union, similar to tobacco advertising bans.
More than 80 Greenpeace activists have blocked the entrance to the Shell oil refinery in the Dutch port of Rotterdam to draw attention to the launch of the European Citizens’ Initiative calling for a ban on advertising.
The action comes less than a month before the start of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow. The 12-day summit aims to secure more ambitious commitments to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, with the aim of keeping it 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Activists used floating cubes with fossil fuel related advertisements to block the entrance, as well as the protest ship Beluga II, with the words “Ban Fossil Fuel Advertising” hung between its two masts. The activists also climbed a 15-meter (yard) oil tank and put up advertising posters next to the Shell logo.
“I grew up reading signs explaining how cigarettes kill you, but I’ve never seen similar warnings at gas stations or fuel tanks. It’s scary that my favorite sports and museums are sponsored by airlines and car manufacturers, “said Chaja Merk, an activist aboard the Greenpeace ship, in a statement released by the group.”
Shell said the company is investing billions of dollars in “low carbon energy.” To help change the energy mix that Shell sells, we need to grow these new businesses quickly. This means informing our customers through advertising or social media about the low carbon solutions we are currently offering or developing, so that they can change when the time is right. “
Police intervened to disperse the demonstration, boarding the Beluga II and arresting activists. Others were detained at the oil tank. A total of 22 activists were arrested and 32 others fined, police said.
Shell said it respects the right to protest peacefully, “if it is done safely.” This is not the case now. Protesters are illegally on our property, where strict security protocols apply, ”the company said.
Calls to ban fossil fuel advertising are gaining ground. Earlier this year, Amsterdam imposed a ban in the city’s metro system on advertisements related to what it called “fossil fuels” such as gasoline-powered cars and cheap plane tickets. The municipality called the move a first step in a broader move to remove such ads from the streets of the Dutch capital.
The campaign for a law banning fossil fuel-related advertising across the EU is to gather 1 million verified signatures in one year. If successful, the EU Executive Board must consider the request, but is not obligated to act.
“This legislation would increase public awareness of the products and technologies responsible for climate change and other environmental and health damage,” the environmental coalition said on its website.
Coinciding with the launch, the Dutch branch of Greenpeace released a report accusing major energy companies of large-scale ‘green laundering’ in their advertising campaigns – defining the term as’ a combination of adverts from fossil fuel companies promoting genuinely climate-friendly initiatives, as well as their advertisements that promote false climate solutions as “green”.
The study analyzed more than 3,000 social media ads by six energy companies and found that 63% amounted to greenwashing.
“We can say with confidence that all of the companies in the dataset are greenwashing because their ads do not accurately reflect their business activities – either by placing too much emphasis on their ‘green’ activities or under- estimating their fossil fuel related activities, ”the report said.