A LOT happened in 2021 – some good, some… not as good.
The fight to protect our planet can sometimes feel overwhelming, but we really believe change is possible. Around the world, people banded together to prove it. Read about some recent environmental wins that give us hope.
The Cambo oil field is on hold
After months of campaigning and outcry, the Cambo North Sea oil and gas development was put on hold in December.
A few months earlier, Greenpeace pressured Boris Johnson to cancel Cambo’s off-shore drilling plans by delivering an oil-drenched monument to his doorstep.
The firm behind the project, Siccar Point Energy, have paused Cambo after key partner Shell pulled out. Shell said potential delays (the kind caused by Greenpeace campaigns, for example 💅🏼) were a key reason for the decision. The economics of the Cambo oilfield were always shaky, and the climate maths never made sense. And now, Cambo plans look like they’re falling apart. This is a good sign for the eventual cancellation of the project.
Energy experts say we can’t afford any new coal, oil or gas projects if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. The government needs to end their support for new fossil fuels, and help workers and households with a just transition to clean energy.
We still need your help: tell the government to commit to no new oil or gas.
Scotland ends the era of coal
More good news for the end of coal: Scotland demolished its last remaining coal power station in December. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon pushed the button to demolish the Longannet chimney.
1/ The demolition of the Longannet chimney todays marks the definitive end of coal power in 🏴 – a transition that the rest of the world needs to accelerate for the sake of the planet and future generations pic.twitter.com/5qDBvzkdsB
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 9, 2021
Coal is by far the most harmful way to generate electricity. It’s time to swap it out for cleaner, safer options, and help fossil fuel workers move to green industries. The UK government promised to retire all remaining coal plants by 2024, so the rest of the country will soon be following in Scotland’s footsteps.
But the end of coal is only a win if we create a just transition to renewable energy, making sure no one is left behind. We don’t just want to see fossil fuel plants closing. We want to see renewable energy infrastructure opening in its place to create jobs and a fairer economy.
Europe’s biggest clean air zone
This October saw the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The expansion was announced in 2019 after a long campaign to reduce traffic pollution in the city centre.
The ULEZ campaign highlighted the major impact of air pollution on our health. In 2017 Greenpeace’s Unearthed and the Guardian found that thousands of children were exposed to illegal levels of air pollution. The health impacts of air pollution range from a rise of asthma in the population, to stunting the lung development of children.
The ULEZ is now 18 times larger than before, making it the biggest clean air zone of its kind in Europe. It’s already led to a huge decrease in the number of polluting vehicles inside the zone, which will save many lives.
The number of polluting vehicles coming into London (and pumping out toxic emissions into our air) has already hugely decreased since the ULEZ expansion was brought in one month ago.
This is a huge step forward as we tackle the invisible killer that is toxic air. pic.twitter.com/S64gdCmRu2
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) December 10, 2021
For the health of our people and planet, we must keep working to end toxic pollution from vehicles.
Global win: Sustainable environment is a human right
In October, the UN Human Rights Council recognised the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
This is a landmark ruling because it recognises that environmental action is connected to human rights. It protects climate activism because defending the environment is defending human rights. And it helps to hold those harming our environments accountable, because they are violating human rights.
For example, when the Dutch Supreme Court ordered Shell to cut its carbon emissions, they found that by contributing to climate change, Shell is violating human rights. That’s a huge deal!
Indonesia: more protection for forests & Indigenous peoples
An Indonesian court case upheld the rights of Indigenous groups by defending ancestral Indigenous land from palm oil companies.
Palm oil plantations cause major deforestation in Indonesia. And Greenpeace Indonesia found that one-fifth of the country’s palm oil plantations were illegally based on government-controlled land. This affects protected Indigenous lands, as well as conservation areas and national parks.
The court revoked permits from over a dozen palm oil companies. This is a positive step towards properly protecting these areas and protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Ending the expansion of palm oil plantations is essential to protecting biodiversity and the climate.
France: the trial of the Century
A groundbreaking court case in Paris this year acknowledged the French State’s responsibility for the climate crisis.
This is a historic decision for “L’Affaire du Siècle” (The Case of the Century) – a legal team formed by four NGOs, including Greenpeace France. The coalition took the French government to court for failing to act on the climate crisis.
The government now has until December to repair the damages of its climate inaction between 2015 and 2018. And they’re legally obliged to meet their targets for reducing emissions.
South Africa: Shell’s seismic survey stopped
Thanks to a court ruling in South Africa we managed to squeeze in one final victory before the year was out! On the 28th of December, a local judge ordered Shell to halt its seismic survey along South Africa’s eastern coast.
Shell had begun this survey in search of new oil or gas a few weeks prior. Seismic surveys involve blasting loud shockwaves into the ocean every 10 seconds, at great risk to the local sea life.
The survey threatened to disturb a key whale breeding ground along the Wild Coast, so local communities and campaigners challenged Shells plans in court.
The court found that Shell failed to meaningfully consult with the people who would be harmed by the seismic survey. It was helped by the strong evidence for the potential harm of seismic blasting on sea life and local fishing communities.