Inner West Council unanimously supports fossil fuel ad ban
By WENDY BACON
The Inner West Council passed an unanimous motion supporting a ban on advertising and sponsorship of fossil fuels at its meeting on Tuesday night.
Inner West Council (IWC) is the 5th Australian council to vote for a ban. Greens Councillor Liz Atkins who moved the motion in support of the Fossil Ad Ban tweeted after the meeting, “This is a small but vital step to achieving a cleaner, renewable economy.” City of Sydney passed a similar motion in August and three Melbourne councils have also passed bans.
A fossil fuel company sponsored the Mid Winter Ball at Parliament House. Won’t happen in the Inner West. Unanimous support for my motion on a fossil fuel ad ban at Council last night. @CommsDeclare @FossilAdBan #fossiladban
— Liz Atkins Greens 🏳️🌈 (@liz_greens) September 13, 2022
The motion is not just about ridding council buildings or events of fossil fuel promotion. It is also part of a broader campaign in which Mayor Darcy Byrne will now write to the Federal Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland asking the Federal Government to pass national laws that restrict fossil fuel advertising, and to the Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello requesting the NSW Government also impose restrictions.
The IWC motion was seconded by Independent Councillor Pauline Lockie.
“I supported the fossil ad ban motion as Council assets shouldn’t be used to push greenwashing campaigns, or other ads designed to boost the profits of coal, oil and gas companies.”
Comms Declare, a voluntary organisation of 360 marketing and communications professionals, initiated the Fossil Ad Ban campaign that aims to remove advertising and sponsorship of fossil fuels and push for bans at national, state and local levels of government. The campaign was spearheaded with a joint letter by more than 200 medical practitioners, drawing attention to the devastating health impacts on climate change.
Last week, some MPs including several Greens MPs boycotted the Mid Winter Ball at Parliament House in Canberra because its sponsors included fossil fuel companies Woodside and Shell.
Inside the event, FossilAdBan campaigners put stickers over fossil fuel company logos.
As a result of Cr Atkins’ motion, a similar event run by IWC Council could not be sponsored by a fossil fuel company. Cr Atkins wrote on her Facebook account, “What happened ….couldn’t happen at an IWC event. Council unanimously supported my motion about a fossil fuel ad ban last night. And at a time when both major parties still accept donations from fossil fuel companies, the Inner West Mayor will be writing to Federal and State Ministers seeking restrictions on fossil fuel advertising.”
Founder of Comms Declare Belinda Noble spoke to Councillors at the meeting. She urged them to “consider ‘advertised emissions’ in your policies, specifically the emissions created by the marketing and advertising of coal, petroleum and natural gas – the main causes of global warming”.
“Advertising coal, petrol and methane gas stimulates demand – increasing emissions. Sponsorships by fossil fuel corporations is a marketing exercise that allows them to maintain their reputations in spite of their damaging activities. We estimate AGL, Origin Energy, Energy Australia, Santos and Ampol last financial year spent more than $230 million dollars on marketing – increasing demand, greenwashing and buying social acceptance,” she told them.
Noble also quoted City of Sydney Labor Councillor Linda Scott who had strongly supported a similar motion at the City of Sydney and referred in her speech in support to the “very important war in the public relations battle to ensure that people understand the need to transition and are not inundated by messages that are either false or misleading or are continuing to promote products that damage our environment.”
But IWC Labor Councillors whose support was needed to pass the motion took a different track. Shortly before the meeting, newly elected Deputy Mayor Philippa Scott tabled an amendment which was aimed at the broader issue of ‘ethical advertising’ including fake natural therapies, shop signage for tobacconists and foreign government propaganda.
Atkins offered to consider Scott’s amendment as a separate motion but the offer was refused. Greens Councillors and Cr Lockie voted against the amendment which distracted from their motion’s central purpose of responding to the Inner West Council’s climate emergency policy. But the amendment was passed, leaving Atkins with a choice of either withdrawing her motion or continuing. She put the motion and Labor Councillors voted for it, which gave it unanimous support including for its extra clauses on ‘ethical advertising’.
This means that although the motion to oppose fossil fuel advertising was successful, Labor’s amendment succeeded in taking some of the FossilAdBan focus out of IWC’s letters to the Federal Labor Minister Michelle Rowlands and the local Federal member Anthony Albanese and state Greens MPs Jenny Leong and Jamie Parker than those sent by City of Sydney and other Councils who have passed fossil fuel ad bans.
Liberal Mayor opposes ban in any ‘shape or form’
Meanwhile, Greens Woollahra Councillor Nicola Grieve was unsuccessful in her motion on Monday night to support a ban on advertising of gambling, alcohol, tobacco and fossil fuel advertising on Council bus shelters.
Woollahra Liberal Mayor Susan Wynne made a strong speech opposing the motion in any “shape or form”. She said she was “sick and tired of being told what to do” and would be prefer to be informed by fossil fuel advertising while sitting waiting at a bus stop. Eight Liberal Councillors including the Mayor opposed the motion. Two Greens Councillors and four Woollahra First Resident Councillors supported it.
In response to Mayor Susan Wynne, CommsDeclare CEO Belinda Noble said, “The Woollahra Mayor stated that fossil fuel ads contain useful information about green initiatives which is fanciful when you consider clean energy is a tiny percentage of their activities but the bulk of their advertising. Greenwashing is not information, it’s misinformation.”
“What is really exciting is that we’re seeing support for restricting high emissions advertising across Labor, Independents and Greens, which is hopefully a sign we can get meaningful action at the state and federal level.”
Can bans work in areas with fossil fuel industries?
Once the bans in Inner Sydney are implemented, they will cover a large swathe of inner Sydney from Haberfield in the West, across to Paddington in the east. The IWC ban will affect advertising in White Bay that is seen by thousands of commuters and residents each day. But while inner Sydney delivers a big audience to advertisers, it is not home to fossil fuel developments. But there are plans to extend the bans to other communities, including Wollongong.
Greens Councillor on Wollongong Council Mithra Cox says she intends to campaign on this issue.
“Fossil fuel companies in cities like Wollongong have for decades used sponsorship and advertising to buy social license, and to make those communities feel like we need coal mining in our community. But the fact is that coal mining is hugely damaging to our community – from the hundreds of workers who have been killed in mining disasters, to the increase in respirator illnesses due to the coal dust in the air, to the damage to our water catchment, and of course the enormous impact on climate change,” she said.
“Fossil fuel companies cause untold damage to our environment and to human health and should not be allowed to advertise in the same way that cigarette ads have now been banned. In fact Wollongong is not dependent on coal mining. It only represents a very small part of our economy and jobs profile. There are far more people working in the university, and in social and professional services than in coal mining in Wollongong.”
Third Melbourne Council joins the ban
Greens Maribyrnong Councillor Bernadette Thomas received unanimous support for a FossilFuelAd ban this week, with one councillor calling it a “no brainer”.
“Consistent with the overarching goal of its Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan”, the policy will include Maribyrnong’s large sporting reserves that are used by residents across Melbourne. Moreland and Yarra have already passed motions.
FossilAdBan bill in NSW Parliament next week
Action in state parliaments begins next week as Greens Upper House MP and Spokesperson for Climate Change and the Environment Sue Higginson will move a Fossil Fuel Ad bill in NSW Parliament. Her bill is being supported by Doctors for the Environment.
“Climate change is the biggest public health crisis we’re facing and this bill recognises the huge and destructive contribution fossil fuel companies make to this crisis” said Higginson who comes from Lismore where climate-induced floods have already caused massive damage to her community.
“It’s wrong that these companies that are causing so much damage and who are behind the terrible climate disasters we’re now continually facing are able to run public advertising campaigns showing wind turbines and solar panels or to have their names on the uniforms of our children’s sports teams.
“We need to remove that opportunity for these companies to influence our communities and I commend Comms Declare for their commitment to making this happen,” she said.
This story has been updated since it was first published.