Let's reverse the trend!
Let’s take the right path. Let’s regulate car advertising.
At a time when the climate crisis constitutes one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, we are being bombarded with ads promoting gas and diesel-powered vehicles, particularly SUVs and other light-duty trucks.
Scientists no longer need to prove that advertising has a real influence on our consumer choices. In 2022, more than 4 out of 5 new vehicles sold in Canada were light-duty trucks (including SUVs). Despite the well-known impacts of these large vehicles, there is still a high level of social acceptability.
In response to the climate crisis, the Canadian government has committed to banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 - a measure which will help the country meet its climate targets. But it also has the power and the responsibility to take action to help reduce the social acceptability of gas-powered and oversized vehicles. Better regulating car advertising would be a very effective way to do so.
It's time to reverse the trend on our roads.
“ It's time to change the social norm around gas-powered cars. We must urge our governments to act decisively and bring in regulatory measures to ensure that business practices are compatible with our climate goals. ”
To better regulate car advertising and change the social norm
In 2020, Équiterre published a wide-ranging research project on The rise of light-duty trucks in Canada. The findings from this study exposed the automotive industry’s advertising practices and strategies, provided a better understanding of the regulatory framework within which they operate, and proposed solutions designed to reverse the trend.
Since then, Équiterre has mobilized partners and launched a petition, maintaining pressure in the public arena on this issue to demand tighter regulations on car advertising practices.
To reduce greenwashing and disinformation
Together with a number of partners, Équiterre is pressuring the federal government to put measures in place to stop corporate greenwashing practices by better regulating advertising practices. Équiterre submitted its recommendations during the federal government's consultations on reforming the Competition Act in 2023.
Équiterre’s "Reverse the Trend!" mobilization campaign calls on the federal government to reform the Canadian advertising regulatory framework in order to control the impact of car ads and reduce the social acceptability of gas-powered vehicles.
Actually, according to a recent Léger survey commissioned by Équiterre (in french), the majority (58%) of Quebecers are in favour of tighter controls on advertising for light-duty trucks, including SUVs.
17,000 petition signatures
organizations mobilized in the coalition
- 1 report on automobile advertising in Canada
Équiterre participates in consultations on reforms to the Competition Act
Équiterre submits recommendations (in French) to combat greenwashing during federal government consultations on reforming the Competition Act.
Letter to Minister Champagne regarding the reform of the Competition Act
Équiterre and its partners called on Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to consider the problem of advertising polluting products in its consultation on the reform of the Competition Act.
Équiterre and its partners launched a petition calling for tighter regulations by the federal government on automobile advertising in Canada.
Report publication: The rise of light-duty trucks in Canada
The report brings together eight analyses exploring the causes and consequences of the rise of light-duty trucks in Canada.
Why was this petition launched?
At a time when Canada is falling behind on its Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and transportation electrification targets, sales of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and other light-duty trucks are soaring. Most sectors are attempting to reduce their emissions, while those of the transportation sector are alone accounting for 25% of Canada's GHG emissions. 2019 data: Between 1990 and 2019, GHG emissions from gasoline-powered light-duty trucks in Canada increased by 161% (Source: https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2021/eccc/En81-4-2019-1-fra.pdf)
However, as far as Équiterre is concerned, it is totally inconsistent to be promoting - massively, recurrently and with large budgets - products that are incompatible with achieving our climate targets. In this respect, the environment has not yet been integrated into the legislative framework that governs advertising in Canada, even though we know that this framework is regularly required to evolve in response to societal issues. Prime examples of regulatory reforms in the field of advertising are the ban on speeding while driving and the prohibition on promoting tobacco products. Meanwhile, large vehicles continue to dominate in advertising: 79% of automotive ads in Canadian newspapers and magazines in 2019 and 2020 featured only or predominantly light-duty trucks.
Furthermore, the Canadian automotive industry invests huge amounts in promoting its products. Its total advertising budget, however, is difficult to determine. Nevertheless, in 2018 the industry led the way in digital advertising expenditures (21%), and in 2019 it accounted for 19% of spending on ads (Emarketer, 2019; Emarketer, 2020), representing approximately $1.6 billion for this form of advertising alone (Briggs, 2020).
What is a “heavy, fuel-hungry” light-duty truck?
There is no formal definition or consensus across Canada around the description of the components used in our vehicles. Each jurisdiction defines vehicles for its own purposes. As a result, definitions used across jurisdictions range from weight, to physical characteristics, to use, to number of passengers. The most complete definition of a light-duty truck is found in the Passenger Automobile and Light Truck Greenhouse Gas Emission Regulations.
The automotive industry is one of Canada's largest manufacturing sectors. What do you propose?
The time has come for an unavoidable transition. We can no longer continue to manufacture energy-hungry vehicles. We need to recognize the rise of light-duty trucks as not only a climate issue, but also as a public safety and public health issue. And then we need to act accordingly.
Of course, a transformation doesn't happen in a year, but it has to begin as soon as possible. Canada has set itself the clear target of ending the sale of internal combustion cars and light-duty trucks by 2035. Our message to the industry is therefore straightforward: invest in a just transition by training your teams to secure their future, and give priority to electric vehicles. Stop advertising light-duty trucks, which have multi-dimensional and irreversible impacts on our environment, and bring in an adequate range of small vehicles to promote energy- and material-efficient models.
Why target CBC and Radio-Canada while ignoring all the other Canadian media?
As a national network that broadcasts in both of Canada's official languages, it reaches all Canadians, and represents the country internationally. That's why we're asking the government to support the CBC in this transformation, so that it doesn't harm its operation and competitiveness, and that the mechanisms for achieving this are jointly planned out. This work of alignment and synchronization will set the course and, we hope, set the rest of the Canadian media sector on the road to harmonization.
Does the petition aim to encourage the sale of electric vehicles?
The purpose of the petition is to achieve better regulation of gasoline vehicle advertising, not to ban it or restrict the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in favour of electric ones.
It should be noted that, with or without tighter regulations on gasoline vehicle advertising, the use of electric vehicles is set to grow in anticipation of the ban on gasoline-powered vehicles that will be coming into force in 2035. To prevent this from generating electric battery waste, the Quebec government is already planning to require manufacturers to recover and reclaim end-of-life electric batteries sold in Quebec as early as 2027, under the Regulation respecting the recovery and reclamation of products by enterprises.
Équiterre is currently lobbying the government to increase the planned recovery rates and to move forward implementation of the Regulation. In the meantime, the number of electric batteries likely set to end up in landfill sites will probably be marginal. In fact, these batteries can be used to store energy for another 7 to 10 years, after which time they could be recycled for use in the manufacture of new batteries. Quebec-based Recyclage Lithion has already developed processes that will enable it to recycle up to 95% of a battery's components. For further information, please consult the FAQ section of our Running Electric web page.
Before regulating the advertising of gasoline-powered vehicles, especially the larger ones, why not make sure that the supply of electric vehicles is sufficient?
Canada and Quebec is committed to ending the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035. However, vehicles are on the road for an average of 12 years. Équiterre is therefore calling for consistency in its campaign. Why continue to promote the problem and feed the demand for gasoline-powered vehicles?
With regard to our focus on larger vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks, Équiterre believes that electrification should not be seen as a one-size-fits-all solution to transportation issues. The increasing size of vehicles on our roads is an issue that has numerous impacts on society and the environment (rebound effect on energy consumption, increased danger, reduced space in urban environments, increased road congestion, premature wear and tear on infrastructure, additional burden on household finances and the economy). These are battles that need to be fought in parallel, since the consequences of increasing vehicle size cannot be resolved by changing the way vehicles are powered.
Équiterre is aware that more work needs to be done with regard to the supply of electric vehicles (EVs), and that's why we're working hard on this. You can also view the recommendations section of our study's summary report, as well as the political demands section of our Transportation and Mobility Web page.
Do you have a guide to the least polluting or gas-guzzling vehicles on the market?