Edinburgh council bans SUV and cruise ship ads in climate crackdown

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Adverts for sports utility vehicles and cruise holidays are to be banned by Edinburgh council as part of a wide-ranging crackdown on promotion of the fossil fuel industry across the Scottish capital.

The prohibition of advertisements from council-owned spaces such as billboards and bus stops also covers airlines, airports, fossil-fuel powered vehicles and arms manufacturers — though stopped short of outlawing meat adverts.

The council said “the promotion of high-carbon products is incompatible with net zero objectives”.

Its ban echoes similar ad crackdowns by councils across Sheffield, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Coventry, Liverpool and Somerset, as well as a decision by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority last year to ban a Toyota pick-up truck advert that showed vehicles driving off-road.

In Ireland, opposition party Sinn Féin has introduced a bill to parliament calling for a ban on fossil fuel advertising. 

Edinburgh has an ambitious net zero target for 2030, seeking to remove as much greenhouse gas as the city emits by the end of the decade.

The council said the target recognises the need for cities to make faster progress on reducing emissions if Scotland is to meet its national 2045 net zero target.

“It’s just basic common sense that if the council is serious about its commitment to climate justice, we cannot allow council advertising space to be used to promote fossil fuel companies,” said Ben Parker, a councillor for the Scottish Greens, who spearheaded the policy. 

The ban will be applied to all advertising and sponsorship agreements when they come up for renewal, with some contracts still in place until 2030. 

The council was told that the decision may lead to a fall in advertising revenue of up to 10 per cent, or about £200,000, when it was formulating the policy. Campaigners including the Adfree Cities, a volunteer group lobbying for the reduction of harmful adverts, argue that new products will take the place of banned products.

“There is no evidence to suggest that they wouldn’t be able to replace that with other products that are not high carbon,” said Alys Mumford, another councillor with the Scottish Greens. 

All SUVs, including electric-powered ones, are included in the ban.

SUVs, which made up 48 per cent of global car sales in 2023, tend to be heavier than traditional sedans or hatchbacks, and emit about 20 per cent more carbon dioxide emissions than the average medium-sized car, according to the International Energy Agency. If these vehicles were grouped as a country, they would be the world’s fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the global energy watchdog added.

Edinburgh council, in its policy document, said the UK Climate Change Committee had recommended a 20 per cent to 50 per cent reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2050, given the evidence that diets that are higher in plant protein lower emissions.

The document noted that Haarlem in the Netherlands had become the world’s first city to ban meat advertising but said “doing the same thing in Edinburgh would be highly controversial”.

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