The UN Secretary-General has called for a ban on fossil fuel advertising.

Speaking on World Environment Day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres labelled fossil fuel companies the “godfathers of climate chaos”, criticising their influence on public perception and policy.

Also this week, new climate data highlights unprecedented global warming trends. 

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, each of the past 12 months has been the warmest on record in year-on-year comparisons. 

The average global temperature over the 12-month period up to May 2024 was 1.63 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, marking the warmest period since records began in 1940.

While these figures do not signify a breach of the 1.5C global warming threshold, they indicate a worrying trend. 

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported an 80 per cent chance that at least one of the next five years will temporarily exceed the 1.5C threshold, a significant increase from the 66 per cent probability noted last year.

Guterres stressed the urgency of reducing fossil fuel production and consumption by 30 percent by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. 

He compared the proposed ban on fossil fuel advertising to existing restrictions on tobacco advertising, highlighting the harmful effects of fossil fuel use on the environment and public health.

“Just as tobacco advertising was banned because of the threat to health, the same should now apply to fossil fuels,” Guterres stated. 

He urged all countries to implement such bans and called on news media and technology companies to cease accepting fossil fuel advertising.

Despite global agreements and a rapid expansion of renewable energy, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high last year. 

Currently, coal, oil, and gas supply more than three-quarters of the world’s energy needs, with oil demand remaining strong.

WMO Deputy Secretary-General Ko Barrett described the latest climate data as evidence that the world is “way off track” in its efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C, a key target of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

Barrett warned of severe economic costs, environmental damage, and loss of life if greenhouse gas emissions are not urgently reduced.

The impact of human-caused climate change is already evident, with recent events such as deadly heatwaves in Asia and flooding in South America. 

Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, noted the steep loss of Antarctic sea ice as a surprising development, though consistent with projections of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The call for a ban on fossil fuel advertising has garnered support from various political figures in Australia. 

Independent MPs, including Allegra Spender and Sophie Scamps, as well as Greens leader Adam Bandt, have backed Guterres’ proposal. 

Megan Bloomgren, Senior Vice President of Communications at the American Petroleum Foundation, responded to the UN chief’s remarks, asserting that the fossil fuel industry is committed to reducing emissions while continuing to produce reliable energy. 

Guterres’ call for an advertising ban aims to diminish the sector’s influence on public opinion and policy, pushing for a more aggressive approach to combating climate change.