Charlotte Braat is a climate justice activist with the Extinction Rebellion. As a campaigner for Reclame Fossielvrij, she fights for a ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and for polluting transport and travel.
What does the change you are trying to achieve look like? Why is the EU important?
We want to ban all types of fossil fuel advertising. Something similar to the ban on advertising for tobacco products: the tobacco industry cannot advertise or sponsor. With this ban, there has been a massive reduction in smoking. People see the industry differently. We need to have this kind of change of attitude towards the fossil fuel industry as well.
So far we have only worked in the Netherlands. We want to expand our campaigning beyond our borders by targeting the EU. There is momentum at EU level on green washing and we would like to use it. The first step is to campaign for an end the promotion of fossil fuels and we believe now is the time.
Which challenges are you facing?
We do not have an extensive knowledge of how the EU machinery works. We have launched a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)., Together with other organisations across the EU we collected signatures in different creative ways, but we did not manage to reach the required number of signatures. This experience gave us a clearer picture of how proposals should be framed when discussing them with the EU institutions. We also got to know other like-minded groups.
One tip you want to share with other public interest advocates?
You need partners in different countries to do effective advocacy at the EU level. You need to know how to reach the politicians, what their priorities are, and the rules that apply to your policy area.
Sometimes you need to step back and celebrate what you have achieved. Of course, progress is slow and there are many forces that challenge it. When I started as a campaigner a year ago, we were in a very different situation. Recently we had a first webinar with about 50 groups and everyone was so happy. We realised that we are not alone and that there is a big European network that we can rely on.