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I am writing as the founder of Comms Declare, an industry group representing more than 360 communications professionals and advertising agencies that support climate action. 

We are currently running the Fossil Ad Ban campaign to stop or restrict promotions for coal, oil and gas in light of their health and climate impacts. The campaign is supported by more than 200 health professionals and organisations.

Advertising and sponsorships increase demand for high emissions products and also provide social cover for fossil fuel companies to delay real climate action. Advertising and marketing is increasingly being recognised as an important driver of greenhouse gas consumption. We refer to ‘Advertised Emissions’ as the scope 3 emissions caused by promoting a high carbon product or company.

If Adelaide is to truly be a ‘leading council’ on climate, we believe these issues need to be addressed in your draft climate plan as they are being overseas.

In France, the Climate Bill included the following actions to reduce high-emissions consumption: 

  • Ban on advertising of coal, oil and gas products
  • Ban on advertising of the most polluting large vehicles
  • Mandate that green transport options appear on car and airline ads
  • Mandate clear carbon labelling
  • Mandate climate education in schools

The UK’s Environment & Climate Change Committee found that one third of greenhouse gas emissions reductions up to 2035 require decisions by individuals and households to adopt low carbon technologies and choose low-carbon products and services, as well as reduce carbon-intensive consumption. But that, “The effectiveness of policies aimed at improving public health has historically been undermined by lobbying by parts of the tobacco and food industries. There is a risk that parts of the food and fossil fuel industries, as well as heavy users of fossil fuels, similarly seek to undermine the policies needed to enable behaviour change to meet net zero.”

It recommended:

  • Mandatory eco and sustainability labels on food
  • Product standards and labels to encourage low-carbon consumer choices
  • Measures to regulate advertising of high GHG products
  • Assess how online climate misinformation can be challenged
  • Support climate-friendly life choices through education

It added: “..the Government should introduce a public engagement strategy to build support for helping people adopt new technologies and reduce carbon-intensive consumption in key areas where behaviour change is required. Net zero cannot be achieved without addressing both.”

Your Draft Action Climate Plan 2022-2025 does not mention how to reduce these scope 3 emissions.

We suggest that any reductions in emissions you achieve by planting trees and changing the lightbulbs will be cancelled out many times over by your advertising and sponsorship arrangements of companies such as Santos.

In addition your plan does not mention how to tackle methane emissions, such as those from the extraction, production and use of natural gas. Methane is more than 25 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

In addition, your Flags and Banners Policy, Temporary Use of Public Space Policy, Unsolicited Proposals guide and Strategic Partnership Program does not restrict the promotion of coal, oil or gas companies nor do they require that partners are environmentally sustainable or have robust net zero plans.

While your Strategic Events Fund Guidelines request environmental sustainability in the event itself, coal, oil or gas companies are still eligible to apply. In fact, the Santos-sponsored Tour Down Under just received a substantial grant from your ratepayers,  despite Santos making record profits of $1.3b in the first half of this year. Even Wellfest could be potentially used as a greenwashing vehicle by high emissions companies under current guidelines.

Fossil fuels are hazardous to human health. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels alone takes 8.7 million lives each year – more than tobacco. Burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming which is driving more intense and frequent heat waves, storms, and flooding which pose a threat to the safety and wellbeing of your residents.

Eight Australian councils, including the City of Sydney, have voted to explore bans on fossil fuels being advertised on council property and at council events. We hope Adelaide will update the Draft Climate Action Plan 2022-2025 to reflect your community’s values and to help you attain your carbon neutral city goal.

Photo by Syed Hadi Naqvi on Unsplash