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France mandates car ads must urge viewers to walk, cycle or take public transport instead

France aims to decarbonise transport by including tobacco-style warnings on car ads

In France, car advertisements will now require a caveat encouraging consumers to walk, cycle or take public transport wherever possible as part of new regulation due to come into power in March.

The move follows years of campaigning by French environmental groups and aims to cut transport emissions, which currently make up a quarter of the European Union’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, according to the European Environment Agency.

Under the new regulation, car brands will be required by law to include one of the following three messages in any advertising within the country: “For short journeys, walk or cycle”, “Consider carpooling” and “Take public transport.”

At the end of the message, advertisers must affix the hashtag “#SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer” – which roughly translates to #MovePolluteLess.

Car manufacturers must also include a vehicle’s carbon-dioxide emissions class in promotion.

The rules will apply to radio, television and theater ads, as well as digital, TV and print. Advertisers that fail to include the message will be fined up to €50,000.

Carmakers in the country have aired mixed reactions to the mandate, with the chief executive of Hyundai, Lionel French Keogh complaining that the measures “stigmatize automobile” and are “a bit counterproductive” since they do not distinguish between types of cars, even as the government tries to incentivize the use of electric vehicles.

However, environmental groups are currently campaigning to ban fossil fuel advertising within the EU altogether, launching a European Citizens Initiative that would ban ads from industries that rely on fossil fuels – including automotive. And France has already committed to banning ads for the highest-polluting vehicles from 2028.

The French ecological transition minister, Barbara Pompili responded to the new advertising rules saying: “Decarbonizing transportation does not only mean switching to an electric motor. It also means using public transportation or cycling when possible.”

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