2023: a year of defiant optimism

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It could have been a year when optimism was hard to find. After all, as record breaking floods, droughts, storms and heatwaves swept across the globe, the price we’re paying for the climate and nature crisis was clearer than ever. And yet the defiant optimism of the Greenpeace community shone on – and together we achieved the kind of momentous progress that shows a greener, fairer future is still within reach.

Throughout the year, we witnessed defiant optimism everywhere we went. And that optimism was right at the heart of all the impact and action we’re proud to present in this report. It delivered a landmark Global Ocean Treaty. It led to a big win in the battle to stop deep sea mining. It saw talks on a Global Plastics Treaty keep gaining momentum.

Across our campaigns, defiant optimism got results. We’re not naïve. We know the scale of the threats we face. But the Greenpeace community remains defiant and optimistic because we keep achieving major victories for people and planet. Ours isn’t the kind of optimism that involves sitting back and quietly hoping things will improve. It’s the kind that comes from being part of a determined, unstoppable, outraged movement of people who are always willing to act.

This story of 2023 shows just how powerful that can be.

Areeba Hamid and Will McCallum
Joint executive directors, Greenpeace UK

Relaxed portrait of Areeba Hamid and Will McCallum standing in front of a rack of shelves piled with campaigning paraphernalia, smiling into the camera.

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UK climate

If the government won't act, we will.

In September, we commissioned a major survey to find out how much people in the UK really care about the climate crisis. The findings were indisputable. 20,000 people took part, and more than two-thirds said climate policies will influence how they vote at the next election.

The results made the government’s repeated green rollbacks in 2023 seem even more senseless. And they highlighted why Greenpeace has to keep creating impact.

Launching legal action

As Rishi Sunak stated his aim to ‘max out’ North Sea oil and gas, we took legal action to stop what would be a disaster for our climate. First we challenged ministers’ failure to properly check the environmental impact of greenlighting new oil and gas licences. Then we joined with campaigning group Uplift to take legal action against the development of Rosebank, the UK’s largest untapped North Sea oilfield. Our case will show how the government has disregarded Rosebank’s devastating potential impact on our climate, health and nature.

Away from the courts, we continued to shape political climate debates in 2023. Greenpeace was namechecked 17 times in the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry report, with some phrases from our submission used word for word.

And after we directly lobbied the Labour Party throughout the year, it doubled down on its commitments to block new North Sea oil and gas.

Spotlight on Sunak

We took action twice at the PM’s Yorkshire manor house. On our first visit, campaigners staged a pool party on the street outside to highlight the hypocrisy of Sunak privately upgrading his local grid to heat his swimming pool but failing to fix our National Grid.

The story was covered everywhere from The Guardian to The Telegraph, forcing grid upgrades onto the political agenda. Later in the year, the Energy Bill was amended so Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator, is now legally required to adopt net zero targets. Green energy upgrades to our grid will, at last, have to follow. The Shadow Energy Minister told us this was “absolutely no doubt” thanks to campaigning NGOs like Greenpeace.

And we also made front page news by covering Sunak’s mansion in oil black fabric to protest against new oil and gas. We know this peaceful action, carefully planned for when Sunak and family were on holiday, was controversial for some. But the subsequent debate provided opportunities for us to highlight ministers’ relentless pursuit of fossil fuels. The government responded by cutting links with Greenpeace, but ignoring the climate crisis won’t make it go away. The government’s refusal to engage shows how far it is from addressing the public’s concerns – and why we have to continue to act.

Now, as we approach a general election, we will be making sure the next government knows voters care about climate change, and that we will hold them to account to deliver the change we need.

Stop drilling, start paying

A thorn in Big Oil's side.

For 13 days in early 2023, four Greenpeace climbers occupied a floating oil platform contracted by Shell. They boarded it close to the Canary Islands, and by the time their peaceful occupation ended near Norway, the activists had travelled almost 4,000km. It was Greenpeace’s longest ever protest on a moving platform and drew global media attention, enabling us to get one message heard loud and clear. ‘Stop drilling. Start paying’.

Demanding climate justice

For decades, oil companies have lied about the existence of climate change, obscured the science and lobbied against climate action, all while making record profits. During our action, Shell announced it had made £32 billion in 2022.

But our protest left the oil giant rattled. First Shell tried to sue Greenpeace for damages during the action, then it launched a multimillion dollar intimidation lawsuit against us that continued into 2024. We will never be silenced, though, for holding companies to account as they hold our planet to ransom.

Supporters’ generous response to our Stop Shell Appeal showed how many people feel the same. It’s time for polluters to pay for the devastation they’ve caused and for the extreme weather that lies ahead.

Later in the year, we continued our calls for reparations as we campaigned at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai. Much of what has already been lost can’t be repaid, but finance can pay for things like emergency relief and rebuilding infrastructure. Historically polluting countries must meet their funding promises to the countries that have created the least greenhouse gas emissions but are already paying the biggest price.

Shutting down Big Oil

Fossil fuel companies also saw how small numbers of campaigners can make a very big impact at a London oil industry summit in October. The week before the event, Greenpeace supporters inundated the host InterContinental Hotel with phone calls, asking for the event to be cancelled.

Our climbers then scaled the hotel on the day of the event, hanging banners reading ‘Make Big Oil Pay’ and ‘People Before Profit’. The summit was disrupted, Shell’s CEO had to give his keynote speech on Zoom and millions of people saw our social media coverage. The companies might have wanted to discuss ways to profiteer from the climate crisis, but we joined with allies to write a different headline – polluters need to pay now.

That is our message as we fight Shell’s lawsuit and build our campaign in 2024: big polluters must stop drilling, and start paying.

Oceans

A landmark treaty and deep-sea mining in deep trouble.

In the end, it came down to six words. As exhausted campaigners listened with baited breath, the head of the UN Global Ocean Treaty negotiations took to the stage in New York and simply said: “The ship has reached the shore”.

Cheers erupted. The Greenpeace team hugged. After two decades of campaigning by over 5.5 million Greenpeace supporters worldwide, we had a Global Ocean Treaty. It was confirmation that multinational talks – and multinational campaigning – still work, and it paves the way for a network of ocean sanctuaries that could allow our seas to survive, recover and thrive.

A worldwide win

This was a momentous victory for everyone who had donated to fund this work, lobbied politicians, shared social media posts and taken action on the streets. It was a victory for all the activists, researchers and scientists who joined our ocean voyages to show why iconic species from penguins to turtles need protection. It was a victory for every organisation and community we have campaigned with over the years.

Greenpeace published our first briefing on the need to increase ocean protection in 2005. Since then, we’ve used every tool we have to create progress – from political lobbying to groundbreaking research. We’ve been at every round of UN treaty negotiations, and our campaigners from 10 countries were right at the heart of the final round.

They met repeatedly with national and regional delegations and we saw our views being fed back to politicians. When it seemed progress was stalling, every Greenpeace office called for more urgency. And we teamed up with our partner the High Seas Alliance to ask the UN Secretary General to inject momentum into the talks. When he spoke on the issue, we knew we were getting heard.

We also arranged press conferences, projected giant images calling for action across New York and presented our petition of 5.5 million signatures from 157 countries. All that pressure told – and after the historic treaty was agreed in March, 82 countries signed it in September. The future of ocean protection starts here.

Protecting our deep sea

If the Global Ocean Treaty showed the value of persistence, the progress of our deep sea mining campaign showed how urgent action can also reap rapid rewards for our planet.

Deep sea mining corporations are desperate to sink their metallic teeth into the ocean floor. They’re targeting materials including nickel, copper and cobalt – even though companies from Samsung to BMW have said they will never use metals harvested from our fragile and largely unexplored seabed.

The industry was expecting to be given a greenlight to start deep sea mining at International Seabed Authority (ISA) talks in July. The CEO of key player The Metals Company (TMC) had said there was a ‘0.1 percent chance’ that mining would be blocked.

But then we raised the alarm. 800,000 people signed our petition in just a few weeks. 7,700 ocean scientists called for a delay. Campaigners from Pacific Indigenous communities joined us at the ISA, asking delegates one vital question: ‘Who gave you permission?’ As public anger grew, we saw negotiators getting calls from their governments, telling them to act. A growing number of countries called for a pause or ban on deep sea mining. And the result? Governments resisted commercial pressure to agree a ‘mining code’ and loudly opposed a rapid introduction of deep sea mining. Greenpeace supporters worldwide had made this a public issue and succeeded against the odds.

After this major setback, the deep sea mining industry lobbied harder than ever. When we staged a peaceful protest at sea in November and slowed deep sea mining tests by TMC, the company took legal action to stop us. But, in a landmark ruling, the judge said our actions were ‘understandable’, because of the ‘possibly very serious consequences’ of TMC’s plans. We will always defend our right to protest – and we’ll do all we can to stop deep sea mining before it starts.

Our global ship tour over the coming year will help us take this message to governments, as we demand they make ocean protection, and the Global Ocean Treaty, a reality.

Plastics

Thanks to the millions of supporters who have joined Greenpeace to demand an end to plastic pollution, we’re recognised as a leading voice on the issue – and that experience continued to drive impact in 2023.

Our campaigners were at the centre of UN talks towards a landmark Global Plastics Treaty, directly influencing delegates from Thailand and Malaysia to shift their positions. We also successfully lobbied other countries to include our campaign aims in their proposals for the treaty text.

And while oil producing countries, which profit from selling plastics as a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry, tried to stall progress throughout the talks, our involvement paid off – and we ended 2023 with the prospect of a strong, ambitious treaty still alive.

Dove in our sights

We also continued to target plastic producers directly, launching a campaign against one of the world’s biggest polluters – Unilever – and its beauty brand, Dove. Dove has spent years confronting toxic beauty myths but hiding the toxic plastic pollution behind its caring image. The company sold an estimated 1,700 plastic sachets every second in 2023, all of them practically impossible to recycle, and marketed relentlessly in countries including India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

To amplify our calls for an end to this torrent of single-use plastic pollution, we released new research showing the scale of Unilever’s plastic footprint, launched a petition that was rapidly signed by tens of thousands of supporters, and confronted Unilever’s leaders by delivering our message on a 10ft wooden Dove bottle to the company’s HQ. Our action cut through, and Unilever invited Greenpeace for talks.

Thanks to our unstoppable supporters, Greenpeace’s voice matters – and this is just the beginning. Together in 2024, we will ramp up pressure on Unilever globally.

Forests

When Brazil-based JBS, the world’s biggest meat producer, announced plans to list shares on the New York Stock Exchange, we targeted an audience with the power to stop JBS in its tracks – the global financial community. Greenpeace has campaigned against JBS since 2009, when our report Slaughtering the Amazon exposed the company’s links to illegal deforestation and modern-day slavery. We wanted to make sure potential investors in 2023 knew exactly who they would be dealing with.

By publishing a joint briefing with other NGOs, we laid out JBS’ links to Amazon destruction. The company had planned to list shares by the end of 2023 but, with pressure growing, this was delayed until 2024. We’ll do everything we can to make sure the listing never takes place, and to stop JBS raising extra capital to invest in deforestation.

Success from Hyundai to the Treasury

In other positive news for the Amazon, Hyundai moved fast after our new report and campaign, Stop the Excavators, revealed that the company’s heavy machinery was being used to tear down Indigenous lands and make way for gold mining. Just two weeks after our report was published, Hyundai agreed to stop selling and servicing its excavators in the region.

The UK Treasury also commissioned a review on preventing firms in the City providing funds that lead to deforestation, a reason for real optimism following concerted pressure from our allies and Greenpeace.

And, in late 2023, the UK government finally announced a ban on imports linked to deforestation. This has been a long time coming, but shows the power of persistence and determination to deliver groundbreaking impact.

With your support in 2024, we will continue to stand in solidarity with Indigenous and traditional communities protecting their rights and their land, and our climate-critical Amazon rainforest.

Science

Five ways research fuelled our campaigns

The Greenpeace Research Laboratories, based at Exeter University, bring together leading scientists and cutting edge technology, allowing us to do everything from air pollution analysis to plastic waste testing, to provide evidence to strengthen our demands. These are our scientists’ highlights of 2023.

Showing the human cost of fossil fuels

Ahead of the COP28 summit in Dubai, we published research estimating projected increases in heat-related deaths, based on emissions equivalent to those produced by major fossil fuel companies. We provided technical support to BBC journalists investigating air pollution caused by gas flaring when companies drill for oil.

Putting science at the heart of plastics negotiations

Science was at the heart of Greenpeace’s global efforts to cut plastic production. We delivered research on microplastics in Alpine lakes and on chemical pollution at a plastics recycling site, while helping draw the links between plastics and fossil fuels.

Revealing how oil and gas would harm marine wildlife

The fossil fuel industry poses many threats to underwater ecosystems, during exploration and production. To highlight the potential for noise impacts in the Mediterranean Sea, we used our ships to collect data on the distribution of whales and dolphins near Israel and over the Hellenic Trench – areas being explored for oil and gas.

Exposing deep sea mining’s threat to whales and dolphins

In February, we published a peer-reviewed paper showing how noise pollution from deep sea mining could affect whales and dolphins, including endangered blue whales. The research is being considered by the International Whaling Commission.

Building our influence in ocean sanctuary debates

As well as contributing to new publications on marine biodiversity in the Sargasso Sea, the Antarctic and the Indian Ocean, we played an active role in the expansion of the north east Atlantic’s biggest Marine Protected Area.

Unearthed investigations

Stories that reshape our world

In 2023 we exposed European exports to the Global South of thousands of tonnes of pesticides that are banned in Europe because they pose unacceptable risks, including toxicity to bees, groundwater contamination and child brain damage. The release of these investigations was followed by bans on some of these chemicals in Costa Rica and Tunisia, and a comprehensive export ban in Belgium.

In August, Unearthed had its biggest media impact of the year when we revealed that UK water companies had discharged untreated sewage into England and Wales’ most important wildlife and conservation sites for more than 300,000 hours in 2022. ITV News gave the story high profile coverage throughout the day, and our interactive map allowing readers to search for spills near them became the most-visited Unearthed webpage of the year.

Another major investigation led to questions in the Irish parliament, after we revealed the influence of livestock industry groups on a high-profile paper, purportedly by scientists, which was used to lobby against EU policies on reducing meat consumption. The exposé implicated the Irish agricultural agency, and led the paper’s authors to formally acknowledge industry links.

The ripples of older Unearthed stories also continued to spread. A 40-year methane leak in Algeria, which we covered in a 2022 exposé, finally appeared to have been resolved.

And the findings of our 2020 story documenting the government’s failure to regulate sewage sludge pollution were heavily cited by campaigners, led by George Monbiot, who took legal action to make ministers get this scandal under control.

Allyship and anti-racism

Focusing on community and inclusivity

Last year we welcomed more activists than ever through our Open Workshop initiative, which gives grassroots groups the chance to use our London community space. Climate justice groups, human rights groups and LGBTQA+ justice groups all came through our doors to share, build and collaborate.

Our Movement Support Fund also delivered three times as much funding in 2023 as in 2022. It provides financial support for campaigns, research and events that advocate for social, racial and environmental justice, often with a focus on how people are affected by multiple types of inequality. Last year the fund helped groups train community leaders and pay for community spaces.

And we made more changes at Greenpeace to help create an inclusive organisational culture. This included running anti-oppression training for all staff and improving our recruitment policies, our campaigns and our allyship work. We linked with the RACE Report – Racial Action for the Climate Emergency – to help us be transparent about how the diversity of our staff needs to improve. We sharpened our focus on exposing the links between racism and our campaigns. And we made progress with an internal inclusion project designed to help all staff feel a genuine sense of belonging.

Global impact

Across the world in 2023, 25 Greenpeace affiliates – backed up by millions of determined supporters – took action to safeguard our planet and our future. Here’s just a taste of what they achieved together.

Mexico

In November, Mexico became the twenty-fourth nation to call for a moratorium on deep sea mining. The announcement came while our campaigners staged a peaceful protest off the Mexican coast against deep sea mining corporation The Metals Company. Mexico had previously supported fast-tracking deep sea mining, but now acknowledged it could ‘put biodiversity and therefore our future at risk’.

Brazil

In a massive victory for Indigenous People, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that the controversial Marco Temporal legal theory was unconstitutional. Marco Temporal would have imposed a cut-off date on Indigenous People’s claims to their ancestral lands, opening up territories to extractive industries. We worked alongside the Indigenous movement, lobbying behind the scenes and making sure public resistance was heard.

Bulgaria

After the Bulgarian government gave the biggest coal plant in the Balkans permission to pollute beyond EU-approved limits, we took legal action – and won. The Court of Justice at the European Union ruled that the government acted illegally, in a verdict that should be a warning for politicians and fossil fuel companies everywhere who see themselves as above the law.

Netherlands

After years of campaigning by Greenpeace supporters in collaboration with XR, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam announced a ban on private jets, likely to come into force in 2025. The airport has also scrapped plans for a new runway. In a statement, the airport said it chose to target private jets because they cause a ‘disproportionate amount of noise nuisance and CO2 emissions per passenger’.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC government had attempted to auction off 30 oil and gas fields in the Congo Basin forest – the world’s largest tropical peatland. But exploiting these lands would release immense stores of carbon, as Greenpeace activists and communities made clear protesting at the world’s biggest insurance conference in Monte Carlo. The message succeeded in putting off potential buyers, and the DRC failed in its attempt to sell off the lungs of Africa for oil.

India

The Delhi Heatwave Action Plan was finally implemented, following long-term advocacy and campaigning by Greenpeace India and our partners. The plan includes a range of measures to keep people safe during extreme heat. Greenpeace India had staged a demonstration in Delhi and written to the city’s chief minister to call for a comprehensive plan to be urgently introduced.

West Papua

Awyu Indigenous landowners celebrated a Jakarta court ruling against two palm oil companies seeking to clear ancient rainforest to create palm plantations. The verdict could save an area of pristine rainforest six times the size of Paris. Greenpeace campaigned alongside Indigenous groups and supported the court case, as well as documenting the scale of land grabbing by plantation companies in our report Licence to Clear.

Funding our mission

I’ve been hugely inspired by the generosity of Greenpeace supporters, and by the incredible impact we’ve achieved together, says new Fundraising Director Melanie McNeill.

I want to start with a heartfelt thank you to Greenpeace supporters. You’ll know that we don’t accept money from either governments or corporations, so we rely on your donations. None of the powerful and impactful campaigns we delivered this year would have been possible without you by our side. From donating, to signing petitions, writing to your MP, counting your household plastic, or any of the other ways you’ve got involved to help protect our planet, the victories in this report are as much yours as ours.

Following a challenging year last year, in 2023 we were able to grow our income, although the difficult external environment, including the rising cost of living, means we haven’t been able to inspire as many new supporters in recent years as we have in the past. So now, more than ever, we are reliant on ongoing donations and subscriptions from our closest supporters and funders.

We are so grateful to every single one of you for standing with us to defend the natural environment, halt the climate crisis and protect biodiversity.

Where our money came from (£,000)

2023 2022
Subscriptions and donations from supporters 26,493 25,803
Grants 3,805 3,379
Legacies 4,015 2,251
Events 668 499
Other 464 323
Total income 35,443 32,254

What we spent it on (£,000)

2023 2022
Campaigning 13,869 13,056
Campaign and supporter communications 6,272 6,253
Actions, investigations, outreach and events 5,022 4,224
Grants for international projects 6,377 5,574
Fundraising 5,817 5,214
Total expenditure 37,357 34,321

Protecting our world together

Greenpeace donor Julia Davies is an investor, lawyer, environmental campaigner and founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK. We asked her to share a few words on why she chooses to support Greenpeace.

“I’ve been a Greenpeace supporter since I first had a bank account. So since I became wealthy relatively recently, I’ve been making my money work hard to tackle the crisis with our life systems on earth. I want every pound I invest to have maximum and imminent impact on tackling the multi-layered crisis. I invest in companies offering circular, renewable and regenerative solutions and provide loans to catalyse nature restoration, community energy and food production.

Supporting Greenpeace is a key part of that strategy as they carry out the in-depth investigations and research upon which the whole environmental sector campaigns and impact businesses deliver solutions. With their painstakingly compiled facts and stats, Greenpeace highlights the links between over consumption (from food, to energy, to clothing) and exploitation of both our natural world and those struggling in all parts of the world.

As a founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, I stand alongside Greenpeace in highlighting the urgent need to tackle extreme wealth inequality. We must tax wealth to provide the urgently needed investment for a transition to a cleaner, fairer, higher welfare economy.”

Sincere thanks to Julia for her support for Greenpeace and for showing how wealth can be used as a tool to unlock the changes urgently needed to protect and restore safe living conditions for all life on earth.

A special thank you

We can’t thank you enough for your support. As the pressures on our planet keep on growing, your support makes all of the progress in this report possible. We would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organisations for their generous contributions in 2023:

Adam & Jessica Sweidan
Birthday House Trust
Brian Mercer Trust
Carl Freedman
Clare Milne
Dave Roberts
Dr Jack Barker
Edward & Sally Benthall
Edward Joseph Adams
Emily Feldberg & Elizabeth Atkinson
Energy Transition Fund
European Climate Foundation Fondation VRM
Graeme Brooks
Henocq Law Trust
James Arnell
James McGrane
Jamma International
Jeremy Lloyd & family
John Bannister
John Peck & Bindy Saywood Joseph O’Brien
Julia Davies – We Have The POWER K. Roper
Keith Clarke CBE
König Family
Levine Family Foundation
Maria Uhlmann
Matthew & Audrey Lawfield
Mick Braddick
Miel de Botton
Montpelier Foundation
Once A Year Foundation P. Marsh
People’s Postcode Lottery
Peter & Valerie King
Philip Breeze Will Trust
Reed Family Foundation
Richard Coates
Roger de Freitas
Roger Ross & all at Lots Road
Stella Reeves
Stephen Brenninkmeijer
Susan Cooper
Tahir Sharif
The Adlard Family Charitable Trust
The James Gibson Charitable Trust
The Laura Kinsella Foundation
The Lister Charitable Trust
The Moondance Foundation
The Orr Mackintosh Foundation Ltd
The Peter Smith Charitable Trust for Nature
The Ridgeback Trust
The Sheepdrove Trust
The Sunrise Project
The Underwood Trust
The Waterloo Foundation
The WFH Trust
Tim Yetman & Catherine Bryan
Tinsley Charitable Trust
Tristan Ramus
Victoria Ash
Wendy Thomas
William Chalmers

Gifts in Wills

Every year we are honoured to receive gifts from supporters who include Greenpeace in their Will. We would like to pay tribute to the compassion and generosity of the following people:
David John Allen
Dr Ian Thompson Barnish
Sheila Cameron
Kristiina Marjo Sylvia Castren George Kenneth Cook
John Council
Donald Francis Richard Edgerton Eileen Edmondson
Paula Farrier
Violet May Finney
Brenda Elizabeth Gibson
Tessa Anne Green
Herbert Colin Greenhalgh
Brian Philip Griffin
Ronne De Grenier Guy
Michael Morden Hall
Rev Peter Edward Harding
Beryl Daphne Hibbs
Cynthia Anne Hill
Philip Hill
James Stuart Hurd
Evelyn Joyce Hurt
Margaret Susan Jarvis
Madeline Patricia Kinder
Nicholas Stephen King
John King
Timothy James Linehan
Joyce Betty Luckock
Marion Wylie Mainwaring
Ronald Frederick Mardell
Jane Anne Mendoza
Paul Messerschmidt
Ingeborg Elinor Middleton
Joyce Mills
Katharine Shirley Mitchell
Valerie Jean Mitchell
Marian Catherine
Anne Montieth
Mary Bernadette Moores
Mary Lavinia Morbidelli
Michael Murray
Margaret Packer
Glyn Price
Andreas Ramlingum
Joan Dorothy Ramsden
Stewart Richard
Andrew Rayson
Carole Anne Russell
Roy Schama
Thomas Charles Sissons
David Edward Smith
Barbara Teresa Stanton
Diana Mary Steel
Albert Still
Sharon Kate Turner
Raymond Frederick Tyler
Ian Keith Westwell
Maureen Sylvia Woodfull
William John Worrall
Timothy John Wright
John Robert Yates
and 85 other supporters

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Download 2023 impact report as a PDF.
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