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Amsterdam bans advertising fossil fuels from its metro

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People traveling through Amsterdam’s busy metro system will no longer see ads for greenhouse gas intensive products such as gasoline cars and cheap flights across Europe.

Last week, Amsterdam City Council enacted a ban on these ads on the city’s metro system, advocating the hope of paving the way for bigger, broader ad bans in the Netherlands and beyond.

This particular ban will affect the hundreds of big screen TV advertisements shown to the 4 million weekly passengers who use the subway each week.

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“We have a dwell time of between four and eight minutes on platforms,” said Radjen van Wilsem, CEO of CS Digital Media, the company that advertises in the subway. “During this dwell time, as an advertiser, you have a lot of time to tell your story.”

The stories in these ads will no longer promote a fossil fuel loving lifestyle. Roughly 10% of ads are posted, such as ads for gasoline-powered rental cars from companies like Sixt, Avis, and Budget.

Car brands such as Peugeot, Ford and Volkswagen can no longer advertise their SUV models.

And dirt cheap airline tickets are out there too.

“We’re not telling you that you can fly to Barcelona for 19 euros,” said van Wilsem. “We don’t do that anymore.”

The media company will provide financial incentives for companies to promote electric vehicles and renewable energies.

“It’s not just about banning fossil fuels. That was just a first step. … The point is to develop more advertising space and offer advertisers advantages to say how we are progressing in changing the environment. “

Radjen van Wilsem, Chief Executive Officer, CS Digital Media, Amsterdam, Netherlands

“It’s not just about banning fossil fuels. That was just the first step, ”said van Wilsem. “It’s about getting more ad space and giving advertisers advantages to say how we’re progressing in changing the environment.”

Van Wilsem said he expected the change will cost the company millions, but it’s worth it when the ads are more in line with their values.

Related: Three large environmental groups join the Facebook advertising boycott

This ban was issued by the Amsterdam City Council.

“A majority of the Dutch population accepts that climate change is a real problem and that something should be done about it.”

Jasper Groen, Councilor of the Greens

“A majority of the Dutch population accepts that climate change is a real problem and that something should be done about it,” said Jasper Groen, councilor of the Greens who introduced the ban. “But they’re not at the point where the majority are ready to accept the measures we need to take, like flying less or eating less meat.”

Groen said he hoped the advertising ban would change that.

The ban is part of a bigger effort in Amsterdam to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the city by 55% by 2030.

Groen said he hoped to extend the advertising ban to all public spaces in Amsterdam and eventually beyond.

“I would hope that in Amsterdam this is an example for other cities in the Netherlands or perhaps for other cities around the world,” he said.

Groen said some city councils opposed the ban on the grounds of free expression, arguing that banning fossil fuel advertising would create a slippery slope that could lead to other bans, such as meat consumption, which is also global warming contributes.

The inspiration for the ban came from an activist group called Fossil Free Advertising, or Reclame Fossielvrij in Dutch, who reached out to Groen about a year ago.

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“We want a national ban,” said activist George Ongkiehong. “All ads for tobacco and smoking are banned and we are working towards a tobacco law.”

The tobacco law passed in the Netherlands in the 1980s made it illegal to advertise tobacco products due to the harmful effects of smoking.

Studies from Myanmar, China, the US and elsewhere show that tobacco advertising leads to more smoking – especially among children.

And advertising bans have led to less smoking in many countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Ongkiehong said that oil and gas are just as harmful as tobacco, so the government should not encourage their consumption.

“There is no point in continuing to promote something that we want to get rid of quickly. … How will people understand the plight of climate change when there are adverts for flies, cars and fossil fuels everywhere? “

George Ongkiehong, activist

“There is no point in continuing to promote something that we want to get rid of quickly,” said Ongkiehong. “How will people understand the plight of climate change when there are adverts for flies, cars and fossil fuels everywhere?”

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Amsterdam is the first place to do this, but the French parliament is considering a similar ban. Activists in the UK, Sweden, Finland and Canada are also pushing for it.

The City of New York filed a lawsuit in a state court last month against oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell, BP and the American Petroleum Institute alleging they misled consumers about the link between their products and climate change .

There isn’t much research yet on the relationship between advertising bans and individual measures for climate change, but Marijn Meijers, environmental communications researcher at the University of Amsterdam, believes a ban like the one in Amsterdam could contribute to subtle cultural shifts.

“Taking a cheap flight or a bigger car could change our minds,” she said. “It could slowly change perception within society. I wouldn’t say it has no effect, but it may not have a large, direct effect. “

However, there is evidence that when people see their government intervening on climate change, it can increase their own motivation to act, Meijers said.

“[The ban] is a nice middle ground. It can make our consumption more environmentally friendly, but in the end it can’t really stop our consumption – which would be more effective. “

Marijn Meijers, environmental communications researcher, University of Amsterdam

“The whole point of advertising is to sell things,” she said. “[The ban] is a nice middle ground. It can make our consumption more environmentally friendly, but in the end it can’t really stop our consumption – which would be more effective. “

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