Edinburgh set to ban adverts for high-carbon products including fossil fuels

The City of Edinburgh Council is set to ban out-of-home advertising for fossil fuel companies and several high-emission forms of transport, stating that a failure to do so would undermine the credibility of its climate emergency declaration.

Edinburgh set to ban adverts for high-carbon products including fossil fuels

The Council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee met earlier this week to finalise changes to its Advertising and Sponsorship Policy in line with key council “policies, values, objectives and strategic goals”, including net-zero by 2030.

Members agreed to proceed with a ban on adverts for certain high-carbon products, including airlines and airports and cruise holidays. Notes from the meeting stipulate that there are no low-carbon options for commercial air travel or cruise travel available at present, and these are not likely to be commercialised in the near future.

Adverts for cars and vans that produce tailpipe emissions will also be banned, as will adverts for zero-emission SUVs and those promoting the price of petrol and/or diesel.

Additionally, the ban extends to any adverts from fossil fuel majors, “associated sub-brands” and lobbying organisations for the sector. There will be a particular focus on adverts showing petrol stations, fossil fuel products and hydrogen.

The ban will apply to all adverts which could be installed on assets owned by the council. It also covers sponsorship of council events and initiatives. Advertising in commercial areas and parts of the public realm not owned by the council will not be impacted.

It will take effect as soon as possible and will apply to all current agreements as and when they are due for renewal.

Council meeting notes confirm that a ban on foods containing red meat was considered but ultimately not deemed viable at this time.

Setting a precedent

Staff at the Council have been closely observing the number of rulings the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has made against campaigns on climate grounds in recent years, as well as the regulator’s updated guidance on ‘carbon-neutral’ and ‘net-zero claims’, the notes stipulate.

Moreover, Council members have drawn on the experience of other regions and nations.

For example, France has banned fossil fuel product advertising since 2022 and also will not let cars or vans be advertised without a strapline encouraging people to walk, cycle, lift share or take public transport. Amsterdam has banned adverts for fossil fuel companies, aviation companies and vehicles with internal combustion engines from the city centre and subway network.

The City of Edinburgh Council believes its approach will be politically viable in the UK, as it was supported by the UK’s Climate Assembly. Formed of 108 people, the Assembly met several times during 2020 and published final recommendations that September. It is the first and only initiative of its kind in Britain to date.

Several UK councils have already expanded their sponsorship and/or advertising exclusions policies with climate in mind including Liverpool City, Norwich City and Coventry City.

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