Amsterdam bans fossil fuel ads in its metro

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People passing through Amsterdam’s busy metro will no longer see advertisements for greenhouse gas-intensive products such as gasoline-powered cars and cheap flights across Europe.

Amsterdam’s city council last week banned such ads in the city’s metro, which it is hoped will pave the way for wider and more comprehensive advertising bans in the Netherlands and beyond. .

This particular ban will have an impact on the hundreds of big-screen TV commercials shown to the 4 million weekly passengers who use the metro every week.

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“We have a downtime of between four and eight minutes on the platforms,” said Radjen van Wilsem, CEO of CS Digital Media, the company that places ads in the subway. “During this waiting time, as an advertiser, you have plenty of time to tell your story.

The stories in these ads will no longer promote a lifestyle that loves fossil fuels. About 10% of the ads will be removed, like the gasoline rental car ads from companies like Sixt, Avis and Budget.

Auto brands like Peugeot, Ford and Volkswagen can no longer promote their SUV models.

And cheap plane tickets have also come out.

“We are not telling you that you can fly to Barcelona for 19 euros,” van Wilsem said. “We don’t do that anymore. “

The media company will offer financial incentives for companies to advertise electric vehicles and renewables.

“It’s not just about banning fossil fuels. It was only a first step. … It is about opening up more advertising space and giving advantages to advertisers to tell how we are progressing in changing the environment.

Radjen van Wilsem, Managing Director, CS Digital Media, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“It’s not just about banning fossil fuels. It was only a first step, ”said van Wilsem. “It’s about opening up more ad space and giving advertisers perks to tell how we’re progressing in changing the environment. “

Van Wilsem said he expects the change to cost the company millions, but it’s worth it to make their announcements more in line with their values.

Related: Three major environmental groups join Facebook advertising boycott

This ban was decreed by the Amsterdam City Council.

“A majority of the Dutch population accepts that climate change is a real problem and that something needs to be done about it. “

Jasper Groen, City Councilor of the Green Party

“A majority of the Dutch population accepts that climate change is a real problem and that something needs to be done about it,” said Green Party city councilor Jasper Groen, who introduced the ban. “But they are not at the point where the majority are ready to accept the measures we need to take, like stealing less or eating less meat.”

Groen said he hopes the advertising ban will start to change that.

The ban is part of a larger effort in Amsterdam to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the city by 55% by 2030.

Groen said he hoped to extend the advertising ban to all public spaces in Amsterdam, and possibly beyond.

“I hope doing it in Amsterdam would be an example for other cities in the Netherlands or maybe other cities around the world,” he said.

Groen said some city councilors opposed the ban on the grounds of free speech and argued that a ban on fossil fuel ads would create a slippery slope that could lead to other bans, such as for meat consumption, which also contributes to global warming.

The inspiration for the ban came from an activist group called Fossil Free Advertising, or Reclame Fossielvrij in Dutch, who approached Groen about a year ago.

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“We want a national ban,” activist George Ongkiehong said. “All tobacco and smoking advertisements are banned, and we are working to pass tobacco-style law.”

The tobacco law passed in the 1980s in the Netherlands made advertising of tobacco products illegal because of the harmful effects of smoking on health.

Studies of Burma, China, United States and elsewhere show that seeing tobacco advertisements leads to more smoking, especially among children.

And a d prohibitions have led to a decrease in smoking in many countries, according to World Health Organization.

Ongkiehong said that since tobacco, oil and gas are also harmful, the government should not encourage their use.

“It doesn’t make sense to keep advertising something that we want to get rid of quickly. … How will people understand the urgency of climate change if advertisements for planes, cars and fossil fuels are everywhere? “

George Ongkiehong, country man

“It doesn’t make sense to keep advertising something that we want to get rid of quickly,” Ongkiehong said. “How will people understand the urgency of climate change if advertisements for planes, cars and fossil fuels are everywhere?” “

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While Amsterdam is the first place to do this, the French Parliament is consider a similar ban. Activists in the UK, Sweden, Finland and Canada are also pushing it.

New York City filed a complaint in state court last month against oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell, BP and the American Petroleum Institute, alleging they had misled consumers about their products’ link to climate change.

There hasn’t been much research on the link between advertising bans and individual actions for climate change, but Marijn Meijers, an environmental communications researcher at the University of Amsterdam, said she believed that a ban like the one in Amsterdam could contribute to subtle cultural changes. .

“It could change the way we think about taking a cheap flight or taking a bigger car,” she said. “It could slowly change perceptions within society. I wouldn’t say it has no effect, but it might not have significant direct effects. “

However, there is evidence that when people see their government taking action on climate change, it can increase their own motivation to act, Meijers said.

“[The ban] is a good middle ground. It can green our consumption, but in the end, it can’t really stop our consumption, which would be more efficient.

Marijn Meijers, researcher in environmental communication, University of Amsterdam

“The whole point of advertising is to sell stuff,” she said. “[The ban] is a good middle ground. It can green our consumption, but in the end, it can’t really stop our consumption, which would be more efficient.

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