The key month for the ban on fossil advertising and sponsorship in the EU

A decisive month opens for theEuropean Citizens’ Initiative (Ice) which aims to ban the advertising and sponsorship of fossil fuels in the Union and thus to counteract propaganda and greenwashing of multinational companies in the sector. Just like it did with tobacco twenty years ago.
The issue is struggling to establish itself in the public debate, especially in Italy, also considering the link between a part of the world of information and the advertisements of companies linked to gas, oil or coal.

The ICE is a formal instrument envisaged by the European Union which is aimed at activating a legislative process around a proposal for a directive. The one under discussion was launched by Greenpeace and 40 other European organizations on the front line against the climate crisis on 4 October 2021 with the aim of collecting at least one million authenticated signatures within a year, hitting a minimum threshold in seven EU countries, and thus obliging Commission to discuss it.

From the launch in October 2021 – to which we dedicated the cover of the magazine – to August 19, 2022, the signatures collected in the EU countries are almost 280 thousand. Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Sweden have already reached the minimum threshold. Italy, with just under 40 thousand signatures, is at 75%.
With Federico Spadini, member of Greenpeace and coordinator of the campaign for our country, we take stock of the initiative, overwhelmed, like everything else, by the war in Ukraine. “What awaits us will be the key month for the final sprint. We have strong initiatives planned ”.

Spadini how is the campaign going?
FS Well and has already achieved important results. In recent months we have taken various actions to denounce the greenwashing of fossil companies and their attempt to clean up their image thanks to advertising and event sponsorships. We have published report of research that showed numbers in hand how misleading those commercials were and how false was their presentation as a solution to the climate emergency, of the allies in the transition. And we compared the “green” messages with the financial statements of the companies concerned, all still oriented towards the research and extraction of hydrocarbons.

Any emblematic case of a company affected by your mobilizations?
FS Definitely TotalEnergies in France, which is the main one sponsor of the Louvre in Paris. Our activists have been protesting at the museum in recent months. And in Italy I cite the case of Eni, with our protest speech at the Sanremo festival or at the May Day concert, events of which Eni is partner well in sight.

Greenpeace France activists mobilize in front of the Louvre to denounce the museum’s complicity with the oil major TotalEnergies – © Joseph Melin / Greenpeace

Over 700,000 signatures are missing from the goal. How to read this data?
FS Let’s say immediately that the campaign is complex and started in many countries, including Italy, from a very low awareness. There is still a lot of work to do to reach the goal but for us the results obtained are of value. We did talk about the greenwashing and the role of advertising. And in the wake of the campaign, interesting decisions have been made locally. Individual cities in Europe have outlawed certain advertisements, as evidenced by the case of Amsterdam, which banned fossil fuel and airline advertisements. France has also moved on a national level.

How? And does the French initiative convince you?
FS As Greenpeace, we have branded the ban on fossil advertising as insufficient recently entered into force. It does not concern fossil gas and does not involve event sponsorship or institutional communication. But it remains a positive sign that something is moving. People are realizing that there is a theme of “social legitimacy” of the companies that pollute and devastate the planet.

And in Italy?
FS In Italy there are very few newspapers that have decided not to take funding from fossil companies. We are behind in public debate compared to other European countries, especially in the North, but the knowledge of the theme of greenwashing it is growing more and more. This is already a good result.

The main obstacle?
FS I believe that the resistance of the media, largely funded by those same companies that are the target of our campaign, has made a difference. And it is a circumstance also demonstrated by report that we published in the summer on the so-called “trapped”. With the Pavia Observatory we examined over 500 articles published from January 1st to April 30th 2022 by the five most popular newspapers (Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica, Il Sole 24 Ore, Avvenire And The print). Result: the climate crisis finds little space unlike what happens for the advertisements of polluting companies. This is why in the coming weeks we will be implementing initiatives to “free” the world of information from the cumbersome presence of fossil companies. Electoral campaign permitting.

If we look at the signatures collected in the various European countries we notice significant differences. How come?
FS As mentioned earlier, Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Sweden have already reached the minimum threshold. Two countries are missing to reach the seven necessary, in addition of course to the one million signatures in total. Those who have done well show that where there is debate (and demonstrations, reports, presence on the street), from municipal councils to Parliament, the campaign works.

And who did it wrong?
FS There are several variables. Public awareness and also the activity of the promoters. Let’s take the case of Portugal, which with just 1,200 signatures is still at 8.4% of the minimum threshold. There Greenpeace does not have an office and the weight of the Ice has been placed on a single association that has joined. But Germany also achieved a poor result: 21,000 signatures, about 31% of the threshold. There the organization’s offices did not prioritize the campaign. Let’s not forget how the picture has changed since February 24, 2022.

Missing a month, what should we expect?
FS I can’t anticipate anything, I just tell you that in September we will do something very interesting, also in Italy, to launch the “sprint”. By putting the oil world, information and education at the center of our action. We can do it.

At this link it is possible to read and sign the Ice promoted by Greenpeace and other NGOs

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The key month for the ban on fossil advertising and sponsorship in the EU