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City pursues ban on fossil fuel advertising

The City of Sydney has become the first jurisdiction in New South Wales to pursue a ban on fossil fuel advertising on its properties and events.

City of Sydney councillors on August 22 committed to supporting a community campaign for a ban on advertising by companies involved in the production or supply of fossil fuels, including at council sponsored events and on council-managed property.

They requested the Chief Executive Officer to investigate implementing restrictions on advertising for fossil fuels for any council controlled signage or property, as well as a ban on accepting sponsorships from companies whose main business was the extraction or sale of coal, oil or gas.

The Lord Mayor was requested to write to the Federal Minister for Communications and the NSW Minister for Digital Government and Minister for Customer Service, asking them to impose restrictions on fossil fuel advertising.

The City of Sydney has one of the largest outdoor advertising networks in the world, seen by more than two million people a week, and accepts sponsorships for events, such as New Year’s Eve.

While the council is committed to climate change action and there may not be fossil fuel advertising on council property at present, there are no rules stopping coal, oil or gas from being promoted on council-owned billboards, bus shelters and banners and nothing preventing fossil fuel companies from sponsoring City of Sydney events.

Sydney’s move follows an open letter from more than 200 health professionals and organisations asking for Fossil Ad Bans because of the devastating health and climate effects of burning coal, oil and gas.

Initiated by Comms Declare, a coalition for positive climate action from the communication, creative and advertising sector, the Fossil Ad Ban campaign aims to achieve tobacco-style bans on ads and sponsorships for fossil fuels at local, state and federal levels.

Comms Declare defined fossil fuel ads as those that promoted coal, gas and petroleum products, corporations that primarily produced fossil fuels, or organisations that generated more than 20 per cent of revenue from fossil fuels.

Founder of Comms Declare, Belinda Noble said, “Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is responsible for 5,700 premature deaths in Australia every year. In addition, Sydney will suffer more deadly heatwaves, have less drinkable water and 15-30cm of sea level rise by 2050 because of climate change.”

She said, “While we transition to cleaner energy it’s imperative that legacy industries are not allowed to greenwash their businesses or delay emissions reduction efforts.”

Tobacco ban campaigner, author and Emeritus Professor from Sydney School of Public Health, Simon Chapman, said, “Tobacco advertising is banned in most nations because smoking kills two in every three of its long-term users – eight million people a year worldwide.

“But this number is chickenfeed when we consider the existential threat to generations to come of unabated climate change this century caused by frequent extreme weather events, crop failure, conflict caused by population displacement and more.

“How can we continue to allow the rampant marketing of fossil fuel emitting energy sources to continue when we know what the impact will be and what is at stake?”

Speaking at the council meeting on August 22, deputy lord mayor Jess Scully said the ban was in line with the council’s commitment to climate-change action.

She said, “I think this is the moment we can draw a line in the sand and say ‘not here’ and ‘no more’ because we know that the people of the City of Sydney do want climate action, they do want us to move away from a fossil-fuel dependent economy and they do know that to do that we need to get rid of the whitewashing, get rid of the self-promotion that the sector is doing.”

She said the influence wielded by fossil fuel companies, which spent millions on advertising annually, had contributed to Australia’s lack of action on climate change.

She was not aware of the council accepting any advertisements in recent years that would potentially fall under the ban but she hoped the council taking the step would trigger other councils and organisations to take similar action.

“I think it’s a market signal that we want to send.”

For more details and to support the Fossil Ad Ban campaign visit fossiladban.org.

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