Advertising fossil fuel companies is toxic and wrong. And adverts for Shell have recently been officially banned for greenwashing, joining the ranks of many other polluters who cannot be trusted to advertise responsibly. We urgently need a tobacco-style ban on adverts for fossil fuel companies – can you write to your MP to ask them to support this in parliament?

You can find the contact details of your local MP at www.WriteToThem.com   

All you need to do is:

  1.  Update/change the PURPLE text and personalise the letter in any way you want e.g. talking about personal impact on you or your family.

2. Email the letter to your MP and copy in hello[~at~]adfreecities.org.uk

3. If you get a reply and want help discussing policy with your MP or to arrange a meeting with us and other experts, email hello[~at~]adfreecities.org.uk

Template email to MPs (to copy + paste)

Dear NAME OF MP,

I am a constituent of yours, living in [ADD POSTCODE], and I’m writing to ask for your support in the introduction of tobacco-style legislation to restrict advertising for high-carbon products and services such as fossil fuels, flights and the most polluting cars, to prevent the harms caused to the environment and public health. 

I am deeply concerned about climate breakdown and we should be doing everything we can to address it. I am contacting you as I hope you will represent me in parliament on this matter.

On 7th June 2023, the UK’s advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), banned adverts for fossil fuel company Shell for misleading consumers by overstating Shell’s investment in renewable energy, while failing to mention the firm’s expanding production of fossil fuels. 

It is encouraging to see the ASA taking action on this and similar irresponsible advertising. However, it concerns me that this ruling came almost a full year after the adverts were first published – when the damage had already been done. 

It is also concerning that due to a lack of national policy restricting high-carbon advertising, the ASA is limited to providing industry guidance and enforcing advertising codes which aim to prevent misleading ‘green claims’. The harms caused by high-carbon advertising are much broader and deeper than this. Advertising plays a substantial role in shaping social norms and lifestyles, and currently advertising is acting to promote unsustainable, carbon-intensive consumption patterns

The UK advertising industry was responsible for 208 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2022, adding 32% to the emissions of every single person in the UK, largely through the promotion of carbon-intensive goods and services. 

Taking action to reduce emissions is frequently cited as a top priority for the British public, and the Government is also mandated to reduce emissions under the Climate Change Act 2008. In the Sixth Carbon Budget, “reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities” is given as one of the steps to meet the budget, including “an accelerated shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in travel demand.” High-carbon advertising makes it harder for these goals to be met by providing conflicting messaging to consumers.  

In October 2022, the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee published the In Our Hands report, which states that 32% of the emissions reductions required by 2035 must come from changing how we travel, what we eat and how we heat our homes. The role of advertising is explicitly mentioned in the report as a “powerful influence on consumer behaviour on a large scale” and the authors call for “measures to regulate advertising of high-carbon and environmentally-damaging products.” 

A comprehensive ‘tobacco-style’ legislative ban on advertising for high-carbon products and services is urgently needed to reduce emissions, and to provide an unambiguous legal environment for actors like the ASA and local authorities.

The call for tobacco-style bans on high-carbon advertising is being heard around the world. Speaking at a session of COP27 in November 2022, Maria Neira, WHO Director of Public Health and Climate, said: “Fossil fuels are the new tobacco: we need the same tools as against tobacco. We need to fight against their lobbying, against their advertisements, against their glamorisation. We need a legally binding treaty on fossil fuels that goes even further than tobacco. In the name of health.” 

As my MP, I’m asking you to write to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to call for a tobacco-style ban on high carbon advertising in the UK.

Secondly, please can you raise a Parliamentary Question to ask what action the government will take on high carbon advertising as part of reducing demand for carbon intensive activities in order to reach our legally binding climate targets.

Thank you for taking the time to engage with my concerns, and I look forward to hearing from you.

For more information and advice on any of the above, please visit www.adfreecities.org.uk

Yours sincerely,

NAME

ADDRESS (it’s important to add your address and postcode so that MPs know you live in their constituency)