Badvertising: Regulatory restrictions on high carbon advertising

Targeting adverts fuelling the climate emergency
The New Weather Institute
DKK 4,070,388
Programme Area
Sustainable Behaviour

If SUV owners were a nation, they would be the world’s 7th largest emitter of carbon. Aggressive advertising, particularly of high carbon goods and services like big cars and air travel, plays a central role in maintaining consumption practices that are driving climate breakdown. Still, advertising generally passes unrecognised as a particular social or environmental problem as most people are indifferent to advertising at a personal level, believing themselves to be unaffected by it.

To address this issue, the New Weather Institute has set out to problematise advertising in relation to the climate emergency, by creating an inseparable link between the two in the public mindset. They demand outright bans on ads for high-carbon products in public domains, complemented by highly visible climate warnings on non-sustainable products and services. Not only to position high-carbon advertising as harmful and inappropriate, but also to allow more pro-environmental messages to be heard amid the noise.

One of those products is the SUV. The growth of the world’s SUV fleet was responsible for 544 million tons of CO2 over the past decade, making SUVs the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector. With the ‘badvertising’ campaign, The New Weather Institute works for an ad-ban on the bulky sports utility vehicle to force manufacturers to concentrate their advertising spend on smaller, more fuel efficient cars and fully electric versions of higher-end models. The aim is to capacitate consumers to deter from unsustainable buyer behaviour and thereby reduce lifestyle emissions.

The New Weather Institute
The New Weather Institute is a green co-op and think-tank, created to accelerate the rapid transition to a fair economy that thrives within planetary boundaries. Collaborating closely with the UK charity Possible as well as Adblock, a network of campaigns to remove the visual pollution of advertising from public domains, they design and advocate ways of working and living that are more humane, reasonable and effective.

Aims of the project:

  • Position advertising specifically for high-carbon products as dangerous and illegitimate in the context of the climate emergency.
  • Encourage an overdue debate around this to create political and public support for action to reduce unsolicited public advertising.
  • Link the reduction of public advertising of carbon intensive activities to the range of climate emergency declarations and plans and propose specific measures for advertising reduction to be included in such plans.
  • Secure commitments from selected media outlets to stop carrying high carbon advertising.
  • Devise and place own counter-adverts in media outlets.
  • Achieve local and national bans on adverts for carbon-intensive goods and services
  • Secure national legislation to mandate ‘climate warnings’ on product labelling of carbon intensive goods and services, specifically fossil fuels, cars and flights.