Campaigners call for ban on energy advertising as Rugby World Cup begins

Environmental campaigners are to target the Rugby World Cup calling for a ban on firms associated with the fossil fuel industry sponsoring or supporting next month’s tournament in France.

Greenpeace has launched a new advertising campaign which highlights that the global fossil fuel industry extracts enough oil to fill a rugby stadium every 3 hours and 37 minutes.

French energy giant TotalEnergies is a high profile sponsor of the World Cup and before the event kicks off Greenpeace has begun a video to campaign against fossil fuel sponsorship of major sporting events.

Edina Ifticene, Campaigner at Greenpeace France, said: “Integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect – those are rugby values. But fossil fuel companies like TotalEnergies piggyback those values by sponsoring popular sports events like the Rugby World Cup, to distract everyone from their climate destruction. Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies won’t stop extracting fossil fuels – even though they know it’s jeopardising a liveable future for us all – because they like the record-breaking profits they’re making.”

Alerted to the campaign the Rugby World Cup Limited sent a cease and desist to Greenpeace International on Tuesday the day before the video was due to go public.

Ifticene said: “The Rugby World Cup has sent Greenpeace International a legal letter to try to force it not to publish our video. But we won’t be silenced. Fossil fuel companies like TotalEnergies sponsor events like the Rugby World Cup to distract everyone from their climate destruction. The fossil-fuelled climate crisis has already started to negatively impact rugby itself: a typhoon disrupted the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, and major Pacific Island rugby nations are threatened by rising sea levels. And some of France’s host cities have decided to keep TotalEnergies out of their fan zones. Everyone is waking up to the fact that there is no place for fossil fuels, not in rugby, or anywhere else. We will not be stopped from calling out the truth and will release the video.”

The animated 60-second film, ‘TotalPollution: A Dirty Game’, digitally fills up the Stade De France – the stadium in Paris where the first match between France and the New Zealand All Blacks will take place on 8 September – with the amount of crude oil that the global fossil fuel industry collectively produces in three hours and 37 minutes.

The video features voice-overs from Irish comedian and actor Seán Burke and French comedian and radio columnist Guillaume Meurice.

TotalEnergies’ chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné said when the sponsorship was announced: “Integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect are key features of this sport, and they match our company’s values […] more importantly, rugby is organised first and foremost around a team, just like TotalEnergies: a collective of women and men committed to the energy transition.”

However, Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe last week released a report which analysed the 2022 annual reports of six global fossil fuel majors and six European oil and gas companies. They said the research revealed that 0.3% of their combined energy production came from renewable power. According to the report, 99% of TotalEnergies’ energy production last year came from fossil fuels, meaning only 1% came from genuinely renewable sources.

Edina Ifticene continued: “We want a complete ban on fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship of major sporting events. It benefits no one but fossil fuel companies, and deliberately distracts everyone from the environmental destruction they cause and the communities they harm. For a safer and fairer world, we must end the fossil fuel era, starting with climate-wrecking new fossil fuel projects, before it’s too late.”