Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Misleading Fossil Fuel Advertisement in the Climate Crisis
Journal of European Consumer and Market Law, 1/2021
25 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021 Last revised: 26 Aug 2021
Date Written: February 16, 2021
To meet the goal set by the Paris Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by as much as 45% by 2030. Fossil industry advertising subverts this objective: It stimulates continued demand for fossil fuels, and creates doubts about their enormously harmful effects. Misleading advertising is prohibited under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, as well as other regulatory instruments. This article explores under which circumstances fossil fuel advertising must be regarded as misleading, and thus prohibited. Drawing from the example of tobacco regulation it will be argued that advertising is misleading if it "normalizes" a harmful commodity, i.e., if it portrays its production and use as acceptable and normal. It will then be shown that fossil industry advertising systematically "normalizes" fossil fuel products in such a manner, and must therefore typically be understood as misleading.
Keywords: fossil fuels; misleading advertising; unfair commercial practices directive; tobacco advertising
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