7 wins for the planet in 2021

A roundup of the best Greenpeace victories of the past year.


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

Two people in kayaks hold up a sign reading "Boris: Stop Cambo". Behind them is a massive ship with large equipment for an off-shore rig.

Greenpeace activists in kayaks confront a ship loading drilling infrastructure for the Cambo oil field outside Stavanger, Norway. © Espen Mills / Greenpeace

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.

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.

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

Indigenous Dayak people dressed in red hold hands to encircle the trunk of a giant tree. Facing outwards, they smile down into the camera.

Members of the Dayak Indigenous group encircle circle a giant tree inside Ngkulunk customary forest in Setawar village, West Kalimantan. © Afriadi Hikmal / Greenpeace

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 large group of people in front of the Eiffel Tower hold up blue and yellow signs spelling out 'Climat: la justice est avec nous'

Supporters of the Affaire du Siècle in Paris’ Trocadero Square. Their signs say “Climate: justice is with us!”. © Nicolas Chauveau / Greenpeace

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.

This ruling is part of a wave of over 200 climate-related cases around the globe. Hopefully we’ll see lots more governments and corporations taken to court over their role in the climate crisis.

South Africa: Shell’s seismic survey stopped

A crowd of protestors hold up signs criticising Shell. One at the front reads 'We shan't see Shell blast our seashore'. Another protestor is dressed as the Grim Reaper, with a black cape and Scythe, plus a Shell logo over their face.

A 500-strong crowd protests against Shell’s seismic blasting plans at Muizenberg, Cape Town. © Greenpeace / Fixerfilm

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.

“The voices of the voiceless have been heard. The voices of the directly affected people have at last been heard, and the constitutional rights of indigenous people have been upheld. ”
Sinegugu Zukulu, senior campaigner for Sustaining the Wild Coast Tweet this

This marks the end of an important chapter, but unfortunately it’s not the end of the story. It’s likely that Shell will challenge this decision, so we need you to keep up the pressure. Sign and share this petition to make sure Shell calls off its destructive blasting for good.

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