Fossil fuel company adverts must display climate change warnings

ClientEarth’s #TheWholeTruth campaign is intended to change the law in the UK so that ‘fossil fuel companies’ must place ‘health warnings’ next to advertising – even if the advertising is promoting renewable products.

The first company in the firing line is BP, it would appear because it is about to embark on a major advertising campaign. According to the activist group more than 96 per cent of BP's annual spend is on oil and gas, and it accuses BP of ‘greenwashing’.

The legal complaint focuses on BP’s ‘Keep Advancing’ and ‘Possibilities Everywhere’ campaigns being shown across billboards, newspapers and television in the UK, US and Europe as well as on social media and online.

The lawyers have triggered an official complaints procedure against the company under the guidelines of the OECD, an international set of rules governing corporate conduct.

ClientEarth is also asking for a petition to be signed to call on the next UK government to legislate for all fossil fuel advertising to come with a warning about its climate impact in the same way tobacco companies have tro carry a health warning on products.

Sophie Marjanac of ClientEarth said the complaint features a dossier of more than 100 pages of evidence examining BP’s advertising and the impression it creates for ordinary consumers.

“BP is spending millions on an advertising campaign to give the impression that it’s racing to renewables, that its gas is cleaner, and that it is part of the climate solution,” she said. This is a smokescreen. While BP’s advertising focuses on clean energy, in reality, more than 96 per cent of the company’s annual capital expenditure is on oil and gas.”

There are, of course, issues that it is unclear how any legislation might handle. For example, at what point is a company exempt (half its turnover?) what of separate companies within a holding company? And why fossil fuel alone – for example makers of EVs still can, and do, contribute to global emissions. We attempted to contact ClientEarth to clarify these issues but have not had a reply as yet.

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