Can we stop the big polluting oil companies from advertising?

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Can we stop the big polluting oil companies from advertising?

Is it time to ban advertisements from greenwashing fossil fuel companies? Danny Chivers has some answers.


Activists across Europe have hacked hundreds of billboards and bus stops – like this one in Brighton, England. This is part of the call to #BanFossilAds and stop greenwashing. DESIGN: NOEL DOUGLAS/INSTALLATION: BRANDALISM

The fossil fuel companies are lying to us. Again.

A recent study looked at what ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP said about their climate claims. It found that they were only greenwash. All those adverts and promises about changing to a low-carbon future? In fact, these companies are looking more and more for new oil and gas.

These companies make it seem that they are working hard to change to a low-carbon future. BP and Shell both make these promises. But they both want to open new oil and gas fields. The International Energy Agency says this will not keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In 2020, the oil and gas companies spent almost $10 million on Facebook advertising in the US with about 431 million views.

And not only fossil-fuel advertising is a problem. Research from Greenpeace Nordic and the New Weather Institute found that, globally, advertisements for cars and flights create up to twice the annual carbon emissions of the country of Spain. This is because of the extra demand for driving and flying.

Some high-carbon advertisements try to make it seem that that polluting companies are taking the climate crisis seriously. This helps to stop protests and to make sure they can still talk to people in power. Other companies try to make it seem that high-carbon behaviour is normal. All of these companies are causing a lot of harm in the middle of a climate crisis.

These advertisements are perhaps also damaging our mental health. They suggest we need to choose the right brands to help the climate crisis and so these advertisements are moving the blame for the climate crisis onto the public. This is terrible when so many of us are having feelings of anxiety about the climate crisis.

There are people challenging these advertisements – anti-consumerist groups like Enough, Adbusters,, and Brandalism. Brandalism takes over billboards with more ‘honest’ advertisements. There are also more and more complaints about polluters’ advertising.

But is it time to take the next step and ban the big polluters from advertising? There is a movement calling for that and it is beginning to get results. Six Dutch cities, including Amsterdam, passed laws to restrict or ban high-carbon advertisements. France passed laws to ban petrol and diesel advertisements and reduce the impact of car advertising. A Greenpeace petition to the European Commission to ban fossil fuel advertisements across the EU has almost the one million signatures necessary. There are many ways for people to take action, including supporting campaigns to ban fossil fuel adverts in your country, city, or region. You can also report these advertisements to your advertising standards watchdog, and if you’re in the EU, you can sign the Greenpeace petition to the European Commission at

Andrew Simms from the New Weather Institute says, ‘We stopped tobacco advertising to save lives, now it’s time to do the same for advertisements by the big climate polluters.’


(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)