Brussels – Additional greenhouse gas emissions due to advertising for cars and flights around the world could be as high as double Spain’s annual emissions, according to new research. The study, by Greenpeace Nordic and the New Weather Institute think tank, measured the increased climate pollution from vehicles and flights, attributable to higher sales driven by advertising spending.

In the EU alone, ads for cars and airlines could be responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than Belgium’s total annual emissions.

Silvia Pastorelli, Greenpeace EU climate and energy campaigner, said: “Polluting car and airline companies spend billions on ads for a reason: they accelerate sales, but this also accelerates the climate crisis. Transport emissions are skyrocketing, but there’s time to turn this around. We’re calling on the European Commission for an EU ban on advertising and sponsorships by climate-wrecking companies to curb this dangerous consumption and protect public safety.”

The report examines the relationship between advertising for cars and flights in 2019, consumer uptake and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers used publicly available data on greenhouse gas emissions, on advertising spending, and industry return on advertising spending, to make an estimate of the climate impact of the promotion of flights and cars in the EU and across the world.

In January, more than 450 scientists called on major advertising and public relations firms to drop their fossil fuel clients and stop downplaying the climate crisis. 

Greenpeace and more than 30 other organisations are campaigning for an EU law to ban ads and sponsorships from companies selling fossil fuels, or vehicles or transport running on fossil fuels, much like the long-established directive banning tobacco sponsorships and advertisements. If the campaign collects one million verified signatures by October 2022, the European Commission is obliged to respond.

Andrew Simms, co-director at the New Weather Institute and co-author of the report said: “Advertising is fanning the flames of a warming world by promoting major polluters, like the aviation and car industries, just as it once blew smoke in people’s faces by selling cigarettes. The easiest way to start cutting carbon emissions is by ending the excesses that only happen because adverts are pushing higher consumption. We ended tobacco advertising to save lives, now it’s time to do the same for adverts by major climate polluters.”

Key findings

The report estimates that, globally, the greenhouse gas emissions as a result of car advertising are at least the equivalent of 191 million tonnes of CO2, and could be as high as the equivalent of 572 million tonnes of CO2 – higher than Australia’s total annual emissions. In the EU, the report estimated additional greenhouse gas emissions from car ads to be between 38 million tonnes and 113 million tonnes of CO2.

Greenhouse gas emissions attributable to airline advertising globally in 2019 are estimated to be at least the equivalent of 11 million tonnes of CO2, and could be up to 34 million tonnes of CO2. For ads for flights in the EU alone, the report estimated additional greenhouse gas emissions to be between 3 million tonnes and 9 million tonnes of CO2.

The report estimates the combined additional greenhouse gas emissions due to car and airline ads globally to be the equivalent of between 202 million tonnes and 606 million tonnes of CO2. In the EU alone, the additional emissions due to ads for cars and flights is estimated to be between 41 million tonnes and 122 million tonnes of CO2.


Silvia Pastorelli, Greenpeace EU climate & energy campaigner: +32 496 12 20 94, [email protected]   

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, [email protected]

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