CITIZENS INITIATIVE FOR A FOSSIL ADVERTISEMENT-FREE CANADA

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"The fossil fuel industry is 98% coal, oil, gas and petrochemicals, but their advertisements are 99% about children, windmills, butterflies, pristine jungles, clean air, old-growth forests and unspoiled water bodies."

We, the original, established, and new Canadians, believe in advertising transparency and accountability.

With this citizens' initiative, we call on Parliament to demand accountability from the Fossil Industry and legislate a 'tobacco law' for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a 'fossil law.' 

Do Comparisons Between Tobacco and Climate Change Liability Withstand Scrutiny?

Martin Olszynski, Sharon Mascher, and Meinhard Doelle from the University Of Calgary Faculty Of Law conclude that “while there are some important differences between these two contexts, from a legal perspective, the comparison is actually quite apt. Both contexts involve products (tobacco and fossil-fuels) initially considered harmless but increasingly understood as posing significant risks, not just to their direct consumers but to the broader public as well. Probably the single most important factor in our analysis, however, is the public nature of the costs incurred in both contexts: public healthcare costs as a result of tobacco-related disease and the various public remedial and adaptation costs that are expected to arise as a result of climate change. Other similarities include well-documented campaigns of denial in the face of mounting scientific evidence in both contexts.”

This CITIZENS INITIATIVE FOR A FOSSIL ADVERTISEMENT-FREE CANADA calls for laws that:

  • Ban Fossil Advertising,
  • Warn consumers at the point of purchase about the damage caused by fossil products and services, 
  • Re-direct oil and gas subsidies, profits, revenues, dividends, and marketing and advertising budgets away from fossil projects, investments, products and services, and
  • Re-direct oil and gas funds and funding to retraining and transitioning oil and gas workers into clean, renewable energy projects,  products, start-ups and fossil-free business models.

A ban on fossil advertising can realize the Paris Agreement's goals sooner and faster. A ban on fossil marketing and advertising will help to:

  • lower greenhouse gases
  • weaken the fossil industry lobby
  • increase support for climate policy
  • create space for sustainable solutions

As early as the 1950s, the Tobacco and Oil Industries shared scientists and publicists to downplay the dangers of smoking and climate change.

In 1989, Canada enacted the Tobacco Products Control Act (TPCA), which prohibited tobacco advertising, required health warnings on tobacco packaging, and restricted tobacco-related promotional activities. Not surprisingly, Canada's major tobacco companies immediately challenged the TPCA's constitutionality, arguing that it exceeded the federal government's legislative authority and violated the constitutional protection of freedom of expression

In their article “Petro-pedagogy: fossil fuel interests and the obstruction of climate justice in public education, Emily M. Eaton & Nick A. Day establish that this petro-pedagogy intends to restrict the imagination of possible climate solutions to individual acts of conservation that fail to challenge the structural growth of fossil fuel consumption.

Evidence: Festival Generation Discover is part of Shell’s worldwide Make The Future campaign.  The Advertising Standards Authority Board of Appeals ruled that Shell misled children between the ages of 8 and 14 at the oil and gas company's  Generation Discover 2018 children’s festival by suggesting its Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) technology would contribute to a better environment and to attaining UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Time for fossil advertising to stay away from children, young people and adults For Good.

Sign this Citizen’s Initiative.

NEED FOR A BAN

Given the urgency to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, measures such as 'nudging,' 'stimulating' and 'raising awareness' is no longer enough.

Climate Injury threatens life in many parts of the world. Canadians, the residents of a moneyed and oil-rich country with three of the largest coasts globally, are interested in a smart, effective and timely divestment from coal, oil, gas, and petrochemical plastics.

Yet fossil companies strengthen their position with advertisements in which they pretend to be (much) greener than they really are. Fossil Companies are 98% fossil and 2% clean. But when you see their commercials, you get the impression that it is exactly the other way around. We are also enticed almost daily with advertising to purchase, lease or rent fossil fuel cars and air travel, even during a pandemic.

THE PROBLEM WITH FOSSIL ADVERTISING:

* it reinforces fossil products and services as 'normal.'

* it misleads the public about the role of oil and gas companies in worsening the climate crisis

* it tempts people to fly more or buy gasoline, diesel or natural gas vehicles

THE SOLUTION: A BAN ON FOSSIL ADVERTISING

A ban (restrictions on the supply side) is a normal government instrument in the event of a danger to society that the market cannot resolve. Our Climate Crisis is such a danger. 

A fossil fuel advertising ban (including health-warning when selling) is a no-regrets measure that:

* limits an unnecessary want for, and consumption of, fossil fuels

* illuminates the damage caused by fossil fuels

* explains the urgency of the climate crisis

* stops greenwashing (at the source)

* offers room for a sustainable market

* strengthens societal support for ambitious climate policy

* helps governments around the world to achieve their individual climate goals faster

*  speeds up climate action

"In a 2008 advert, the oil giant Shell described a Canadian tar sands project, involving the strip-mining of 140,000 sq km of Alberta as “sustainable.” “Because we had not seen data that showed how Shell was effectively managing carbon emissions from its oil sands projects to limit climate change, we concluded that the ad was misleading,” said the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)."

In 2019, lawyers with the environmental legal nonprofit ClientEarth filed a groundbreaking complaint against BP for greenwashing in their ads.

In 2019, The Intercept exposed how the media launders fossil industry propaganda. “All mainstream newspapers in the Province of Alberta, Canada, are owned by the same company, political parties across the spectrum prioritize oil and gas interests over everything, and even educational institutions like the University of Calgary (young people) have been compromised by industry influence.”

In 2020, The Motley Fool, headquartered in the U.S. and serving investors and businesses in four of the richest countries in the world, including Canada, published an article naming the French oil company TOTAL as “slowly becoming a renewable energy company” and its oil stocks becoming renewable energy stocks. On the one hand, TOTAL is providing batteries for electric vehicles. On the other hand, the Company is making significant equity investments in deploying natural gas heavy-duty trucks. At the same time, despite the global plunge in oil prices, TOTAL intends to sink 500 wells along a major pipeline that would carry oil 1,448 kilometres or 900 miles across the heart of East Africa. International experts warn that the 20 billion dollar project will displace thousands of small farmers and put key wildlife habitat and coastal waters at risk across the continent. TOTAL has already spent an estimated $4 billion on infrastructure. TOTAL’s investment ratio (by the billions) is approximately 19 to 1—nineteen for fossils to one for clean energy projects. This is an example of the Motley Fool (willingly or ignorantly) green-laundering TOTAL's renewable energy company claims and stocks.

Time for fossil advertising to stay away from children, young people and adults For Good.

WHICH FOSSIL ADVERTISING SHOULD BE PROHIBITED?

A. A STRICT ADVERTISING BAN FOR FOSSIL FUEL AND A WARNING OF (CLIMATE) HARM AT SELLING POINTS (based on the Tobacco Act).

Companies that sell fossil products and services anywhere in the world will be strictly prohibited from spending any money on advertising, marketing, placing products (product-placing), greenwashing, Public Relations, sponsoring, branding, branded activities, teaching materials, and fossil companies' giveaways to children in schools, young people at universities or adults at sports, music or other events.

This Clause A amounts to a ban on the use of the brand, logo and name outside the sale points. Fossil product outlets, for example, gasoline retailers, will have a health warning sticker on every one of their pumps, at their cash registers and on the fuel receipt. Auto-makers will have to warn the public more explicitly about fossil-fuel consumption risks in their advertisement for fossil-fuel-powered internal combustion engine vehicles. So anyone who is about to buy a fossil product or service such as a fossil-fuel-powered vehicle or fossil fuel delivery service is made visually aware of how harmful fossil fuel is to human and planetary health.

Other fossil fuel outlets include and are not limited to airports, long-distance bus stations, train stations, fuel-delivery services, car rental companies, etc.

Explanation: The fossil industry has known for 30 years that coal, oil and gas emit dangerous greenhouse gases. And for 30 years, their advertising and marketing have been designed to hide that fact. All the major oil companies plan to continue exploring and new extraction projects. None of them have plans for a managed decline of production near in line with the Paris goal to limit warming to 1.5⁰ Celsius.  Indeed some fossil fuel majors have even stated their intent to increase exploration and production for at least the next five years. In the next ten years, fossil companies want to grow by almost 40%, and they will rely on marketing and advertising to help them get there. As with the tobacco industry, a strict fossil advertising ban is necessary.

B. PROHIBITION ON ADVERTISING MESSAGES THAT LEAD TO HARMFUL FOSSIL CONSUMPTION

Fossil advertisements bait people to make choices that further obstruct their government's climate objectives. For example, advertising jet-fuel air travel and diesel, gasoline, natural gas or fossil-derived hydrogen light and heavy-duty vehicles.

Unlike point A. above, this advertising ban does not apply to the company, brand or logo, but only to that part of products and services that are fossil. In this way, we want to stimulate individuals, companies and businesses to make a more sustainable recommendation and choice more quickly.

For example, the car rental agent offers you an electric vehicle before offering you a fossil fuel vehicle. Your travel agent will suggest a sailboat for your trip instead of airplane tickets. Or, you choose to share a little longer ride in an electric vehicle instead of taking a short flight or a diesel bus or train. Or, would it really be more expensive to take the electric train and stay one day before and one day after at your destination instead of purchasing a last-minute plane ticket?

C. REDIRECT WORLDWIDE FOSSIL ADVERTISING FUNDS TO PROJECTS THAT ENCOURAGE THE IMAGINATION FOR CLIMATE SOLUTIONS AND ACTS OF CONSERVATION THAT CHALLENGE THE STRUCTURAL GROWTH OF PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION OF FOSSIL PRODUCTS AND SERVICES.

Big Oil would not invest billions in advertising if it did not benefit them. Their words keep us invested in a fossil fuel world while we need to stop burning coal, oil and gas, and over-produce and waste petro-plastics. "Over roughly the last three decades, five major oil companies have spent a total of at least $3.6 billion on advertisements to control the climate crisis discussion."

Going beyond the tobacco law for companies that sell fossil products or services anywhere in the world, a Fossil Law will re-direct their annual budget earmarked for advertising, children's marketing, Public Relations, sponsoring, branding, branded activities, product-placement, teaching materials and giveaways into a Fossil Environmental Protection and Regeneration Fund (the Fund) for the next three decades or until fossil oil, gas, coal, and petro-derived hydrogen and plastic products and services have been phased out from the market and the economy.

Registering a fossil company in the Fund will be limited to certifying and reporting that the oil, gas and petrochemical companies comply with the transfer of their profits, investing, and advertising budgets into the Fund. Other than that, there will be no mention of the company’s name, brand or logo. Oil and Gas companies redirecting their capital need to be unbranded and remain unbranded. Otherwise, allowing them to have their name, brand or logo attached to the projects supported by the Fund could lead to more and New Greenwashing.

The Fossil Environmental Protection and Regeneration Fund will be strictly dedicated to funnelling the unbranded billions of dollars from the fossil industry each year to supporting workforce up-training, public educational, informative and awareness campaigns and environmental projects that demonstratively:

  • reduce the production and consumption of products and services for oil and gas, coal, hydrogen derived from oil, gas or coal, and petro-plastics
  • upgrade the training and skills of the oil and gas workforce for an effective and efficient transition to a zero-carbon and zero-waste economy
  • regenerate environments damaged by oil and gas exploration, extraction, production, operations, closure and consumption activities included and not limited to spills, breakdown of containments, air pollution, forest fires, sea-rise levels and more as identified by National and International NGOs, governments and Health and Safety stakeholders
  • help the economy and the workforce to transition to clean renewable sources of energy
  • provide fossil fuel warning labels, an electric equivalent option, and an emissions report comparison to the people who are receiving offers for buying, leasing or renting internal combustion engine vehicles of any kind (SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, etc.) in the mail, email, or at fossil transportation points of sale, including and not limited to travel agencies, vehicle dealerships, gas stations and vehicle renting enterprises.

This environmental warning and education campaign paid by the Fossil Environmental Protection and Regeneration Fund will help prevent uninformed choices.

Example:

- A potential customer receiving information in their email about an Internal Cumbustion Energy (ICE) BMW motorcycle will receive in the same email a cost and emissions report comparing an electric BMW motorcycle and a fossil fuel warning label.

Truth in Advertising.

Suppose a Big Oil company wants to be named in investment-related articles as “slowly” transitioning into a renewable energy company. In that case, they have to demonstrate that they are investing in a one-to-one project and a billion-to-billion ratio. i.e., a four billion-dollar fossil project to a four-billion dollar renewable project, and provide a transparent roadmap and timeline for completely divesting from fossil projects and fully investing in renewable energy activities and operations.

This clause C amounts to a ban on free and paid advertisement of the brand, logo and name outside the points of sale and to the part of their fossil products and services.

A ban on advertising is not a ban on use. Example: The ban on marketing and advertising of tobacco products does not prevent a person from smoking or vaping.

Apart from a legal ban on fossil marketing and advertising, we, as individuals, have to do our part and chose fossil-free alternatives to transportation, electricity, heat, entertainment, packaging, clothing and everywhere our life has been run over by oil, gas and petrochemicals.

Is an advertising ban in violation of freedom of expression?

An advertising ban is a normal instrument when a product can cause serious social damage.

Examples:

  • In Canada, there are advertising bans on tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping.
  • In 1980, Quebec imposed legislation that banned advertisements for toys and fast food aimed at children under 13 in print and electronic media. The legislation was the first of its kind. “To the best of my knowledge, this is the most comprehensive advertising regulation targeting children.” Within the past 10 years, other countries have followed-in Quebec’s footsteps, including Norway, the United Kingdom and Greece, which ban toy advertising on television between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. In Sweden, all advertising aimed at kids 12 and under is banned.
  • "For the 2019 federal election campaign duration, Google banned political advertising on its platform after Canada introduced stringent transparency rules. Bill C-76, which was passed in December 2018, requires online platforms to keep a registry of all political and partisan advertisements they directly or indirectly publish.”

Freedom of expression is a human right. And a human right must be available to everyone.

Companies have to pay (a lot) of money for advertising. As a result, advertising is not accessible to everyone to disseminate their opinion and exercise influence.

For example, a well-established company (the fossil industry is one of the world's richest companies) has many more opportunities to maintain or expand its market than a start-up with a solution for zero-fuel, zero-emissions Electric Commercial Ships (ECS).

Another example, on December 4th, 2020, Western oil giants Shell, BP and Total participated in the auction of oil and gas exploration rights in the Amazon rainforest. These companies will use greenwashing marketing and advertising to influence the citizens of all the countries that share the Amazon Rainforest; Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana, and French Guiana, while the indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon cannot produce enough advertising to disseminate their opinion and their way of life to the non-Amazon residents.

The fossil fuel industry is 98% coal, oil, gas and petrochemicals, but their advertisements are 99% about children, windmills, butterflies, pristine jungles, old-growth forests, clean air and unspoiled water bodies.

Freedom of speech ends where it harms another.

There is a limit to freedom of speech. When the right to freedom of expression of one person/company harms another, the freedom of expression may be restricted.

Fossil advertising increases emissions and impedes effective climate action. Fossil advertising intensifies climate injuries and injustices, thus undermining the breathing and right to breathe the clean air of animals and humans, harming habitats and -according to the UN, endangering human rights.

Sign this Citizen’s Initiative. Time for fossil advertising to stay away from children, young people and adults For Good.

Photo credits:

  1. Global Giving.Org AMAZON&AFRICA WILDFIRE RELIEF FUND
  2. Cheddar.com Emily Atkin, Founder and writer of 'Heated.'