As a record heatwave strikes Europe, this campaign is urging people not to fly
The ‘Ministry for the Climate Emergency’ tells The Drum why it’s shouldering the burden of creating a public campaign on the impacts of flying.
As Europe is hit by some of the warmest temperatures on record, a response to calls from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to reduce demand growth for flights has coincided with calls from the House of Lords to regulate ‘high carbon’ advertising has been set in motion.
In response, industry groups Badvertising, the New Weather Institute, Possible and Ad Free Cities have come together to launch the concept of ‘Fry-Day' (July 21, the day when the peak number of scheduled flights leaving Heathrow clashes with the last day of the English school term) through a campaign called 'Planes on the Brain'.
Under the guise of a public service campaign from the unofficial ‘Ministry for the Climate Emergency', the public information campaign responds to the issue by raising awareness of the dangers of exposure to aviation advertising includes increasing the demand for flights and sets out proposals for an end to the active promotion of flying with a tobacco-style end to airline adverts.
“The CCC is very clear that what’s missing from the UK government’s overall strategy for reducing emissions is reducing demand for the most polluting activities and behaviors. Specifically, it goes into a lot of detail about aviation," Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute think tank tells The Drum.
“We know from history that whenever there’s been a big challenge to change behaviors, there’s not only been policies and taxes and incentives, but huge public information campaigns – whether it’s wearing seatbelts or banning smoking. We think it’s highly peculiar the government isn’t doing this.”
The Ministry previously launched its ‘Brain Pollution’ campaign against high-carbon advertising.
“Because the government isn’t running any public information campaigns about changing behaviour, we thought we’d create our own ‘Ministry for the Climate Emergency,’ to step in a fill that gap in a creative way,” Simms adds.
Despite France instilling a nation-wide ban on fossil fuel and associated industries' advertising, and other global cities including Amsterdam and Sydney adopting similar bans, fossil fuel advertising (including aviation and automotive) is still a major source of income and reputation for the ad industry.
“The problem is, airline advertising is so ubiquitous,” says Simms. “Not only does it normalise the idea that it’s ok to fly around the world several times a year if you can afford it, but it normalises the advertising as well. It’s in virtually every sports stadium, and ironically, every public transport station.”
The ‘Planes on the Brain’ campaign includes an animation voiced by Dr Chris Van Tulleken, an expert in commerciogenic diseases, about the new, dangerous condition called ‘planes on the brain’, caused by exposure to aviation advertising, and a unique travel brochure showing the reality of the impact of flying that sits behind the usual glossy adverts. A virtual billboard campaign completes the picture.
Coinciding with the start of peak holiday season in the UK and Europe, Simms notes that while flying for business has dropped post-pandemic to a potentially permanent new, lower level, heavily promoted and polluting leisure flights are back to pre-pandemic levels. “It is a disaster for the climate that just as people had found less polluting ways to enjoy holidays, frequent flying has crept back after being heavily promoted by the airline industry," he says.
“The official, scientific advice to reduce demand for flying is as clear as a blue sky with the contrails removed. People will still be able to fly, but ending airline adverts would be the easiest way to reduce damaging demand."