In France, car ads will have cigarette-like disclaimers to discourage driving

France has taken a bold step to remind people that cars aren’t necessarily the best way to move around. In December, the government passed a law asking the creators of cars advertisements to encourage viewers to try not to drive a car whenever it’s possible. The law will now become operational this March across the country.

Image credit: Flickr / Luc Mercelis.

Similar to mandatory messages such as “abuse of alcohol is dangerous for your health” and “smoking causes cancer” currently found some advertisements, the new car ads will recommend that drivers adopt more environmentally responsible options for transportation. The new recommendations will be mandatory for all media across France – including radio, internet, print, and television.

Carmakers will have three options when running an ad:

  • “For short trips, opt for walking or cycling”
  • “consider carpooling,” and
  • “for day-to-day use, take public transportation.”

All ads will also have to include the hashtag #SeDeplacerMoinsPolluer, which is French for “move more and pollute less”. Not fulfilling the rules could mean fines of up to $72,000. 

The legislation asks the companies to present the messages in an “easily readable or audible manner” and that they are made “clearly distinguishable from the advertising message and from any other obligatory mention.” The ads will also have to include the vehicle’s CO2 emission class, a new ranking system that was recently implemented. 

Tackling fossil fuels

Environmentalists in France have long asked for a ban on advertising for all cars, such as the prohibition imposed on the tobacco industry. But while the French government has taken a measure against car advertising, it won’t go quite that far yet. As currently stated in French legislation, only advertising of the most polluting vehicles (emitting more than 123 grams of CO2 per kilometer) will be outlawed, and only in 2028. 

Transport accounts for a quarter of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions and is also the main cause of air pollution in cities. Within the sector, road transportation is the highest emitter. The bloc aims for at least a 60% reduction of its CO2 emissions from transportation by midcentury as part of its climate change strategy. 

Personal vehicles are one of the most carbon-intensive ways to move around. Taking a train or a bus drastically reduces the carbon footprint and overall emissions, while walking or biking eliminates emissions entirely. That’s why the transition towards a zero-carbon transportation system is very important to cope with the climate crisis. 

At the recent COP26 climate summit, 24 countries, including Canada, the UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Ireland, committed to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040 or earlier. Carmakers such as Ford, Mercedes, and Volvo also signed the pledge, saying they won’t sell fossil-fuel-powered cars in leading markets as early as 2035. 

The International Energy Agency (EIA) warned last year that the world must stop fossil fuel car sales by 2035 in order to have a chance at meeting the Paris Agreement climate targets. The world’s average temperature has already increased 1ºC compared to pre-industrial times, with the Paris deal hoping to limit the increase to 2ºC at most, and ideally 1.5ºC. 

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