France’s ban on fossil fuel ads has loopholes, says Greenpeace

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In a move that was heralded as a sign of the times amid dangerous heat waves and flooding across the world due to climate change, France has become the first European country to ban fossil fuel advertisements. But environmental group Greenpeace, among others, says it is giving industry too much leeway.

Under the new law, passed last month, energy products related to fossil fuels, including oil, coal and carbons containing hydrogen, are banned across France. Sanctions include fines ranging from €20,000 to €100,000, doubled for repeat offences.

Fossil Fuel Ads

The ban was proposed as part of a 150-person assembly in 2019 aimed at reducing exposure to companies that promote fossil fuels linked to climate change. Globally, energy is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions at over 30%.

But the law is facing backlash from the groups that pushed for its existence in the first place. Environmental group Greenpeace lobbied for the legislation several years ago as part of the country’s efforts to tackle climate change.

Now the group says the legislation is not doing enough to properly tackle greenwashing.

“You’ll read everywhere that fossil fuel advertising is now banned, but that’s not true,” Greenpeace France tweeted after the country announced the ban.

Full announcement.

“Gas advertising can continue, patronage, sponsorship, institutional communication and financial advertising on fossil products remain authorized.”

Francois Chartier, a Greenpeace oil activist, called the decision political greenwashing. “It’s not a law that’s going to bring change,” he said.

The group says companies have the option of circumventing the ban, for example by signing on as event sponsors. And natural gas which contains 50% biogas has no restrictions.

“It’s not a law that’s going to bring change,” Francois Chartier, head of the oceans campaign for Greenpeace France, told The Times of London. He points to Total, the French energy leader, which will still be allowed to sponsor next year’s Rugby World Cup, which will feature adverts seen by hundreds of millions of viewers. The last tournament in 2019 attracted nearly 900 million viewers across the world.

Photo by Markus Spiske at Pexels.

“According to legal and regulatory standards, environmental claims in advertising must correspond to scientific evidence. Often it’s as much about what the ads don’t say as what they say,” write Johnny White, a Client Earth attorney and Jonathan Wise, co-founder of Purpose Disruptors, in The Drum.

“The evidence is unequivocal that we need to phase out fossil fuels to have a fair chance at a livable future. But too many fossil fuel companies are heading in the opposite direction – increasing production at a rate that will blow the global carbon budget,” Wise and White said.

Climate change tipping point

They say recent Greenpeace protests and the “surge of anti-green money laundering litigation and regulations” are pushing the industry towards an “inevitable” tipping point.

“This time is when an agency or network group sees that there are more rewards in severing ties with fossil fuel companies than in maintaining them,” they write. “The question is, who’s going to be the leader, and who’s going to be left behind?”

Bombay will switch to Net-Zero:
Atharva Tulsi on Unsplash

The Climate Action Network (CAN) also criticized the legislation, calling it “potentially costly”. The group says billions of euros could be “diverted from investing in a just transition to a sustainable economy to fund the construction of new nuclear and fossil gas power plants, until at least 2045 and 2030 respectively”.

He claims that nuclear energy does not respect the principle of “do no harm” to the environment.

“Fossil gas is a proven source of greenhouse gas emissions and its consumption should be reduced by 30% by 2030 to meet the European climate target,” CAN said.

“To consider it useful for the transition is a dangerous misstep that would distract the European Union from its climate objective.”

Featured photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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