Stop fossil sponsorship and ban fossil ads at COP27

COP27 President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, members of the Egyptian delegation and members of the UNFCCC Secretariat

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In this letter we, a global coalition of health professionals, scientists, NGOs and activists, urge you to ban advertisements and sponsorship from the fossil fuel industry at COP27. The UK government banned oil and gas companies from sponsorship deals at COP26 in Glasgow because the organizers have conceded that the oil industry’s claims of going Net-Zero don’t add up and that their actual business plans directly undermine the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement[1].

Looking at other climate conferences of the UNFCCC, we expected the fossil fuel industry to be interested in sponsoring COP27 and advertise in and around negotiation spaces. Although not made public, Egypt Air has been confirmed to be a main partner of COP27. There are indications more fossil companies will follow. We call upon President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the UNFCCC to not continue fossil partnerships. We urge them to act in line with the last IPCC report, saying that “without urgent, effective and equitable mitigation actions, climate change increasingly threatens the health and livelihoods of people around the globe, ecosystems health and biodiversity”. It also states that limiting global warming to 2.0 or 1.5 degrees involves rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gasses which requires transitioning from fossil fuels[2].

This means ceasing collaborating with the fossil industry, including fossil fuel companies, airlines and fossil car companies. We therefore urge the UNFCCC to follow the example of the UK government when hosting COP26 and not accept sponsorship from the fossil industry as well as ban advertisements by the fossil industry during COP27 in Egypt.

The climate crisis is recognized by the World Health Organization as the biggest threat to human health of the 21st century[3]. Being responsible for 89% of annual CO2 emissions, the fossil industry is fueling the climate crisis and air pollution. Every year, 13 million people die due to preventable environmental causes, of which 8 million deaths can be attributed to air pollution from fossil fuel combustion[4] [5].

Through marketing and sponsorship, fossil companies are promoting and normalizing fossil fuel usage in a time when we should urgently phase out fossil fuels. For decades, fossil fuel companies, airlines and fossil car companies have spent billions of dollars on advertising. Extensive analysis of InfluenceMap found that TotalEnergies, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and BP, the five supermajor oil companies, spend 750 million dollars annually to portray themselves as positive and proactive on tackling the climate crisis while their core business is in oil and gas[6]. Their ads make us believe they are part of climate solutions their actual investments show differently. For example, Shell and TotalEnergies investment between 2018 and 2020 3-5% (Shell) and 10-14% (TotalEnergies) in renewable energy while their ads are for 81% (Shell) and 55% (TotalEnergies) about green, (false) climate "solutions"[3].

Advertising is not only misleading consumers, but also influencing policy makers. Advertising by the fossil fuel industry typically flourish around important moments of political decision making, such as the COP27[7]. Through sponsoring, fossil companies are pushing their own agenda and portray themselves as green, sustainable companies leading the energy transition. In reality, they are fueling the climate crisis, delaying effective climate action and are promoting false climate “solutions” aimed at expanding their own profits, thereby undermining the ability of ecosystems to thrive and safeguard global health. Advertising and funding important climate decision-making events are amongst the ways the fossil fuel industry buys social licenses with the aim of blocking restrictive regulation of the sector. But the science is very clear: we need to confront current power dynamics within climate decision making and tackle corporate vested interests of the fossil industry to achieve the necessary climate action.

Like the tobacco industry, the fossil fuel industry has deliberately created disinformation and confusement around the harmful social and ecological impacts their products cause, blocking popular awareness about the dangerous global health effects of the industry[8]. The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) by the WHO has been effective in reducing the lobby power of the tobacco industry and preventing sponsorship and advertising of its products and services[9].  Globally, air pollution caused by fossil fuels now causes more deaths annually than tobacco. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization has named air pollution the “new tobacco”[10]. Yet, there is no such legislation put in place for the fossil industry.

Restricting fossil advertisements and sponsorship is a necessary and indispensable prerequisite to phase out fossil fuels and to combat further climate disruption. The IPCC suggests regulating advertisements as a measure to tap in the emission reduction potential of 40-70% by mass behavioral change[11]. Potsdam scientists name a fossil ad ban as one of the interventions that will lead to a social tipping point, which is needed to keep global warming below 1,5C[12]. And research by Diana Ivanova et al. names a ban on ads for high carbon goods, flying and cars as a mitigation measure with high potential[13]. Also, the Cambridge Sustainability Commission on Scaling Behavior Change and the UNEP identify a ban on advertising of large, high-carbon private vehicles and a restriction on airline and flight advertising as mechanisms for lifestyle change which can have a substantial mitigation potential to reduce emissions [14],[15].

Worldwide, there is a rapidly growing movement calling for a ban on fossil ads. Restrictions on fossil fuel advertising are being put in place in France, the Netherlands, and several UK and Australian council areas. Other campaigns are being debated in the EU and Canada. The ban of fossil ads by the city of Amsterdam created a huge spin off effect. It led, amongst others, to the launch of a European Citizen’s Initiative to ban fossil ads with a coalition of many organizations led by Greenpeace Netherlands, a petition recognized and pre-approved by the European Commission[17].

We call upon the UNFCCC to act in accordance with the detrimental impact of fossil fuels on global health and stop collaborating with the fossil fuel industry. We therefore urge the UNFCCC to follow the example of the UK government when hosting COP26 and not accept sponsorship from the fossil industry and ban advertisements by the fossil industry in and around COP27 negotiation spaces.

Sincerely,

Reclame Fossielvrij

#banfossilads signatories

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[1] Taylor M. (2021, october 21). No formal Cops26 role for big oil amid doubts over firms’ net zero plans. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/21/no-formal-cop26-role-for-big-oil-amid-doubts-over-firms-net-zero-plans

[2] Pörtner, H. O., Roberts, D. C., Adams, H., Adler, C., Aldunce, P., Ali, E., ... & Fischlin, A. (2022). Climate change 2022: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. IPCC Sixth Assessment Report.

[3] Greenpeace Netherlands and DeSmog (2021) Words vs actions: The truth behind fossil fuel advertising. https://www.greenpeace.org/nl/klimaatverandering/47999/ words-vs-actions/

[4] Torjesen, I. (2021). Fossil fuel air pollution blamed for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide.

[5] Vohra, K., Vodonos, A., Schwartz, J., Marais, E. A., Sulprizio, M. P., & Mickley, L. J. (2021). Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem. Environmental Research, 195, 11

[6] Influencemap.org. 2022. Big Oil's Real Agenda on Climate Change. September 2022. https://influencemap.org/report/Big-Oil-s-Agenda-on-Climate-Change-2022-19585

[7] Brulle, R. J., Aronczyk, M., & Carmichael, J. 2020. Corporate promotion and climate change: an analysis of key variables affecting advertising spending by major oil corporations, 1986–2015. Climatic Change, 159(1), 87-101

[8] Cook, J., Supran, G., Lewandowsky, S., Oreskes, N., & Maibach, E. (2019). America Misled: How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

[9] World Health Organization. (2004). WHO framework convention on tobacco control (No. SEA-Tobacco-6). WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia.

[10] Carrington D and Taylor M. (2018, oktober 27) Air pollution is the ‘new tobacco’, warns WHO head. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/27/air-pollution-is-the-new-tobacco-warns-who-head

[11] IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

[12] Otto, I. M., Donges, J. F., Cremades, R., Bhowmik, A., Hewitt, R. J., Lucht, W., ... & Schellnhuber, H. J. (2020). Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(5), 2354-2365.

[13] Ivanova, D., Barrett, J., Wiedenhofer, D., Macura, B., Callaghan, M., & Creutzig, F. (2020). Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options. Environmental Research Letters, 15(9), 093001.

[14] UNEP, U. (2020). Emissions gap report 2020. UN environment programme.

[15] Newell, P., Twena, M., & Daley, F. (2021). Scaling behaviour change for a 1.5-degree world: challenges and opportunities. Global Sustainability, 4.

[16] Reclame Fossielvrij. Worldwide initiatives to ban fossil fuel advertisements. <https://verbiedfossielereclame.nl/only-words/>. Accessed 13 September 2022.

Petition by

To: COP27 President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, members of the Egyptian delegation and members of the UNFCCC Secretariat
From: [Your Name]

Through marketing and sponsorship, fossil companies are promoting and normalizing fossil fuel usage in a time when we should urgently phase out fossil fuels. By using these tactics, fossil fuel companies, airlines and fossil car companies are pushing their own agenda and portray themselves as green, sustainable actors leading the energy transition during important political events like COP27. They claim to be part of the climate solution but in fact they are only part of the pollution.

We should stop them! We urge COP27 President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, members of the Egyptian delegation and members of the UNFCCC Secretariat to not accept sponsorship for COP27 from the fossil industry and ban advertising by fossil companies in and around COP27 negotiation spaces.

As the climate crisis and air pollution, caused by the fossil industry, are the biggest threats to human health in our century, we call up on you, the global health community and the climate justice community to spread this message, sign our letter and support our call to action.

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