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Campaigners call for high-carbon ad ban

the words "Bristol Airport is Big Enough" on an orange background. To the right of the image a hand reaches down holding airline tickets that read "stop adverts fuelling the climate crisis"

Adblock Bristol are calling on Bristol City Council to ban the advertising of high-carbon products such as airlines, airports, petrol and diesel cars, and fossil fuel companies across the city. 

This morning (September 14), campaigners from the group delivered an open letter to Marvin Rees asking that the council update its 2021 advertising and sponsorship policy to include restrictions on high-carbon products in council-owned advertising spaces, such as bus stops. 

Enacted in April this year, the council’s policy prohibits adverts for tobacco products, gambling, pay-day loans and foods high in fat, salt and/or sugar.

In their letter, Adblock praise the council as a leader on environmental issues, but warn that the council’s ambitions risk being ‘undermined’ by advertising for high carbon products. ‘Adverts for petrol and diesel cars, SUVs and airlines directly work against the Council’s climate goals,’ the letter continues. 

Read more: the battle to end corporate advertising in Bristol

Charlotte Gage, from Adblock, said: ‘We want to see local art and community projects in our public spaces rather than ads for highly polluting products like flights and SUV cars which are fuelling climate change and making local air pollution worse. 

‘Other cities like Norwich, Liverpool and Amsterdam have voted to end high carbon ads, so we’re asking Bristol Council to step up and do the same.’

Adblock point favourably to the recent case of the Dutch city of Haarlem, which has banned advertising of high carbon products, including cars, fossil fuels and meat, from 2024. 

Henry Kenyon, an Adblock Bristol member from Fishponds, said: ‘We have to think about whether it’s sensible or ethical for advertising to be driving up demand for flights in a climate emergency – we’ve seen the hottest summer on record, wildfires across Europe, and yet adverts for products that we know worsen climate change are still saturating our public spaces.’

The billboard, outside Chaya Veggies on Mina Road, was last decorated by Adblock in March. Image: James Ward.

National polling by Opinium Research in April 2022 found that 68% of UK adults support restrictions on the advertising of environmentally harmful products and nearly half of adults (45%) favour restrictions on adverts for highly polluting cars. 

A citizen’s assembly run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2020 found widespread support for the idea that the government should phase out the sale of polluting vehicles such as SUVs, and clamp down on adverts for highly-polluting products.

The assembly also supported higher taxes on frequent fliers.

In Bristol, the citizen’s assembly of 2020 recommended that the council prioritise ‘sustainable, safe, healthy, accessible alternatives to the car for all’.

In a linked event, on Thursday (September 15) Adblock will hold a community paint-by-numbers mural event in St Werburghs. The group will be painting a billboard on the corner of Mina Road and James Street with a design by artist Soofiya that celebrates local activism against Bristol Airport’s greenwashing and planned expansion. The event begins at 2pm and runs until 6pm. 

The open letter and community art event take place alongside actions across the UK, in cities including Norwich, Lambeth and Lewisham, and Europe to mark an international week of actions challenging high-carbon advertising during a climate crisis.

Feature image: Soofiya.

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