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Edinburgh bans advertising of cars, cruise holidays and airlines

In a radical clamp-down on the advertising of fossil-fuel products, Edinburgh Council has banned advertising on high carbon products on council infrastructure, in a move described as ‘world-leading climate policy’.

Included in the ban will be all cars, expect those electric vehicles that are not SUVs, airlines and airports, cruise holidays and any company with an involvement in fossil fuels, such as petrol stations. Hitherto, Amsterdam was only major city in the world with such a wide-ranging prohibition on such advertising.

Photo of Commercial District During Dawn

The city’s advertising and sponsorship policy was developed in 2019. In October 2022, a motion on an ethical advertising sponsorship policy which requested the council explore the process, by which an ethical advertising and sponsorship policy could be developed, was approved. 

The council believe that such advertising is inconsistent with its Business Plan priorities, including the net zero target. 

The council have defined the products covered by the ban and added an explanation, as below: 

  • Airlines and airports: all advertising by airports and airlines which might reasonably be deemed to promote more flying

There are no low carbon options for commercial air travel available currently or for the foreseeable future, so air travel per se should be treated as high carbon.

  • Fossil fuel companies: all firms and associated sub brands or lobbying organisations that extract, refine, produce, supply, distribute, or sell any fossil fuels.

This includes, regardless of the companies’ potential sustainability commitments advertising or sponsorship:
• showing fossil fuel products, energy from coal or hydrogen
• showing petrol stations, and any ads promoting the price of petrol/diesel

  • Cars: exclude all advertising and promotions for petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV).

Advertising for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen fuelled vehicles are still permitted if these are not Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs). PHEVs have been shown not to yield meaningful emissions savings over conventional vehicles.

  • Cruise holidays

Cruise ships emit more carbon per passenger kilometre than flying. They also generate black carbon and produce a lot of waste which is often discharged into the sea. Their engines run 24/7, often even at port which has damaging impacts on air quality.

Robbie Gillett from Adfree Cities, said: ‘Our daily exposure to adverts encouraging us to buy more and more polluting products runs in contradiction to the urgent need to decarbonise our economy. Edinburgh Council have taken an important step to resolve that contradiction. This is literally world-leading climate policy, putting Edinburgh ahead of any other global capital city.’

Freddie Daley from Badvertising said: ‘Rremoving adverts for polluting products is a rapid, cheap and popular way to cut emissions and help decarbonise our economy. Edinburgh Council have taken an important step and shown what is possible when ambition is twinned with action.’

Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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