Overnight the pandemic transformed the way people moved, worked and spent their hard-earned cash. Whole industries, institutions and communities adapted in the face of a new reality. The advertising industry cottoned onto this quickly and there was a flurry of brands pronouncing that ‘we are all in this together’. But many soon questioned the messaging, and whether the products being pushed were actually improving human wellbeing.

Efforts to ban high carbon advertising during the pandemic go hand-in-hand with initiatives to tackle the persistent greenwash from some of the biggest polluters. In the UK, environmental lawyers ClientEarth is calling on policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company adverts unless they are accompanied by a tobacco-style health warning to reverse this “great deception”.

As soon as Covid-restrictions were lifted, ads for flying spread like a virus: on our streets, in our newspapers, and on our digital timelines. Advertising raises emissions considerably and maintains an illusion that a high carbon lifestyle is normal and appealing to a huge mass. This is an important roadblock for the transition and that’s why we are campaigning for a law that bans fossil ads, just like tobacco ads are banned.

– Femke Sleegers, Reclame Fossielvrij (Fossil Free Advertising)

As the world emerges, and people begin to spend money once again, the power of advertising could be used to accelerate the solutions to the climate crisis instead of glorifying the companies and products that are driving it.

This story is part of the Reset series – a collection of short downloadable stories that  look in more detail at over consumption and unnecessary travel. They consider some of the key messages and solutions that have become apparent during the pandemic that could help us make the rapid transition to a more sustainable future.

This guide has been made possible by the support of ClimateWorks Foundation.