More than 20 environmental and climate groups have launched a campaign calling for a ban on fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship across the European Union, similar to bans on tobacco advertising.
More than 80 Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Shell’s oil refinery in the Dutch port of Rotterdam to draw attention to the launch of the European Citizens’ Initiative calling for the advertising ban.
The action comes less than a month before the start of the United Nations climate summit, Cop26, in Glasgow.
The 12-day summit aims to secure more ambitious commitments to limit global warming to well below 2C, with a goal of keeping it to 1.5C compared with pre-industrial levels.
Activists used floating cubes emblazoned with fossil fuel-linked advertisements to block the entrance, along with the protest ship Beluga, with the words “Ban Fossil Fuel Advertising” strung between its two masts.
Activists also climbed up an oil tank and attached advertisement posters next to Shell’s logo.
“I grew up reading signs about how cigarettes kill you, but never saw similar warnings in petrol stations or fuel tanks. It’s frightening that my favourite sports and museums are sponsored by airlines and car companies,” said Chaja Merk, an activist on board the Greenpeace ship.
“Fossil fuel adverts belong in a museum – not sponsoring them.”
Shell said the company is investing billions of dollars in “lower-carbon energy”. It added: “To help alter the mix of energy Shell sells, we need to grow these new businesses rapidly. That means letting our customers know through advertising or social media what lower-carbon solutions we offer now or are developing, so they can switch when the time is right for them.”
Calls for fossil fuel advertising bans are gaining traction. Earlier this year, Amsterdam imposed a ban in the city’s metro network on ads linked to what it called “fossil products” such as cheap airline tickets. The municipality called the move a first step in a wider move to remove such ads from the Dutch capital’s streets.
The campaign for a law banning ads linked to fossil fuels across the EU needs to gather one million verified signatures in a year. If it succeeds, the EU’s executive commission has to look at the request, but is not obliged to take action.
“This legislation would increase public awareness of products and technologies that are responsible for climate change and other environmental and health harms,” the environmental coalition said on its website.