Activist News

In Pictures: Celebrating the World's Plant and Animal Life on International Day for Biological Diversity

Greenpeace UK - Mon, 2017-05-22 11:09
All rights reserved. Credit: Kajsa Solander/ Greenpeace Puffins on the Isle of May Image caption:  Puffins on the Isle of May

Every year on the 22nd May the diversity of our natural world is celebrated. Whether you pay extra attention to the insects crawling in your garden or join a local group to help with a park or beach clean up, there are lots of ways to mark this special day!

Here in the UK we are currently on a scientific tour around Scotland, raising awareness about the impact plastic has on our oceans - you can see some recent photos below. But beautiful wildlife and natural beauty can be found around the world as our images show.

 

Gannets at Bass Rock in Scotland. Greenpeace is there working on the campaign to highlight the problem of ocean plastics. Studies have shown that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic.

© Kajsa Sjölander / Greenpeace 2017

Guillemot on the Isle of May in Scotland

© Kajsa Sjölander / Greenpeace 2017

Nordic forest in Sweden. Muddus National Park.

© Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace 2010

Close up of bumblebee on Phacelia flowers, bee friendly plant and used as green manure.

© Axel Kirchhof / Greenpeace 2013

North American Beaver in Alaska's Boreal Forest.

© Bernd Roemmelt / Greenpeace 2007

Kenogami forest of Northern Ontario - East of Thunder Bay between Terrace Bay and Geraldton, Canada

© Greenpeace / Andrew Male 2005

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). 

These short lived insects migrate to Mexico each year, but no single butterfly completes the return journey. Instead four different generations are born throughout the year and each completes a segment of the round trip. They can fly at between 20km and 40km an hour, and make use of updrafts of warm air called thermals to rise high into the air and slowly glide down. This endangered species has been negatively impacted by herbicides, human disturbances, and predation.

© Dave Taylor / Greenpeace 2015

Raccoon (Procyon lotor). 

These versatile omnivores are often found at the edge of the water using their dexterous paws to snare creatures in the water. These highly intelligent mammals have keen senses, particularly making use of their sense of touch. Related females form social strong groups, while unrelated males form smaller looser social groups.

© Dave Taylor / Greenpeace 2014

Sea anemones in British Columbia, Canada.

© Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace 2007

Camels in the steppe of Mongolia.

© Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace 2013

Fifteen year-old female orangutan, Ranesi, climbs a tree at Kaja island in Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation, Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan.

© Bjorn Vaugn / BOSF / Greenpeace 2013

Young seal pup in the snow in Svalbard.

© Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace 2016 

Categories: Activist News

Do the manifestos commit to end ocean plastics?

Greenpeace UK - Mon, 2017-05-22 09:50
All rights reserved. Credit: Kajsa Sjolander / Greenpeace

No matter which party possible MPs belong to, or which constituency they are campaigning to represent, they all have a responsibility to help end ocean plastics.

A rubbish truck’s worth of plastic is entering the ocean every single minute, with devastating impacts for marine life. 84% of the British public are now concerned about levels of plastic in the ocean. Before the election was called, the Prime Minister told Parliament, "I'm sure that together we can all work to bring an end to these harmful plastics clogging up our oceans."  

With most manifestos now published and electioneering hotting up, how’s the common ground between politicians holding over the need to protect our oceans from one of their greatest threats: plastic pollution?

In terms of recognising the problem, Labour highlighted the need to counter the current situation where “our oceans are used as dumping grounds” and the Conservative Party pledged to “continue our work to conserve the marine environment off the coast of the United Kingdom” as part of a broader commitment to leaving the environment in better condition than we inherited it”. It’s however clear that we’ve still got work to do to translate public concern and media coverage into greater political urgency over the scale of the ocean plastics challenge.

 But what about specific manifesto commitments to protect consumers and marine life from the harm plastic is causing in our oceans?

The good news is that Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party manifestos all support the introduction of deposit return schemes (at least, that’s what we can infer from Labour’s unclear wording to “set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes”…) Before calling the election, the Conservative government set up a task force to look at introducing a DRS in England - so we hope this process will continue after the election and can build broad support for a DRS that works in England. There’s enough wiggle room to do this as part of the Tories’ pledge to “do more to reduce litter, including by supporting comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling”.

This also includes “supporting better packaging”, which when linked with the Tories’ ambition for the UK to become “the most innovative country in the world” signals support for sustainable business models. We heard similar sounds from the Lib Dems, with their aim to “cut waste, increase recovery, reuse and recycling and move towards the so-called ‘circular economy’ in which resource use, waste and pollution are minimised and product lifetimes are extended”, as part of a strategy to give customers and businesses a good deal. This includes plans for a Zero Waste Act to boost resource efficiency, promoting better design so customers can repair, reuse and recycle products more easily, and a 5p levy on disposable coffee cups to reduce the 2.5 billion that thrown away every year across the UK.  

As ocean plastics are a global problem, it’s a good sign that all the major parties committed to greater international cooperation on the environment. The Tories’ vision for the UK that will “lead the world in environmental protection” is welcome, especially a government that “champions greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters”. We know that ocean plastic causes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of marine animals each year, and that there are plastic hotspots in all of the world’s major oceans, including seas within the Arctic circle.

Furthermore, the Conservatives’ restated 2015 commitment to “work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters” is a welcome sign. Especially on the week we found out that Henderson Island, an uninhabited British overseas territory in the South Pacific, has been proclaimed the most polluted place with plastic waste anywhere in the world, with 38 million pieces of plastic found on the island. The ocean around the Pitcairn islands was designated a fully protected marine reserve in 2015, but it's clear from the heartbreaking sight of crabs making their homes inside plastic bottle caps that much more needs to be done at source to protect biodiversity from the plastic threat. Engaging in international efforts is important, but global responsibility means standing that up with UK domestic action - like passing the microbeads ban announced last summer into law this autumn.

All in all: there could be lots more specifics on tackling ocean plastic, but we’re not facing any closed doors. While some areas of environmental protection remain hotly contested, protecting our oceans by tackling plastic pollution remains a shared concern. But there’s plenty of work to do to make tackling the issue a political priority that meets the scale of the challenge. If you’re game, why not sign our petition to governments across the UK supporting deposit return schemes to tackle the blight of single-use plastic bottles?

Categories: Activist News

Campaign groups under ‘permanent threat’ from Lobbying Act

Greenpeace UK - Sun, 2017-05-21 10:52
21 May, 2017

Greenpeace has warned that the Electoral Commission has turned the controversial Lobbying Act into a ‘permanent threat’ to civil society campaigning by failing to consider the special circumstances of a snap election in its guidance.

The warning comes after the Commission sent the environmental group an extraordinary letter threatening to shut down Greenpeace’s campaign activities.

The Lobbying Act, dubbed the ‘charity-gagging law’ when first introduced in 2014, was widely criticised for having a ‘chilling effect’ on civil society at the last general election because of its lack of clarity and overwhelming bureaucracy. A government-commissioned review called for it to be reformed, but no action has been taken.

The Act imposes restrictions on the amount of money charities and campaign groups can spend on loosely defined political activities in the lead-up to an election. But in an extraordinary letter to Greenpeace, the Commission now states that the regulated period when the spending limit applies kicked in as far back as June 9th last year - a whole ten months before a snap election was called.

Greenpeace is warning that the effect of the letter could be to put any sizeable campaign group in breach of the law if they campaigned in the past 12 months on issues that were relevant to the political debate.

The Commission has declared the start of the regulated period to be June 2016 despite the fact that the snap election was called out of the blue in mid-April. The announcement came after numerous reassurances from the Prime Minister herself that no vote would be held until 2020 in line with the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which the Conservative manifesto has now pledged to scrap.

The commission’s letter goes as far as threatening to shut down Greenpeace’s campaign activities unless the group complies with the legislation retrospectively - by registering under the Act and not spending more than a set amount on political campaigning since June 2016. 

Greenpeace has responded with a letter before action, threatening to take the matter to the High Court unless the Commission reconsiders its position on what can count as regulated expenditure during the period before the snap election.

“The Commission implies that since a snap election can be called at any time, there is now no fixed start or end date to the regulated period. It’s as if the Lobbying Act and its spending cap were now permanently in force, every day of every year.” says Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven.

He adds: “This absurd interpretation is bound to have a significant impact on civil society as it multiplies the uncertainty and confusion already created by the Lobbying Act. If you are a fairly large campaign group or a smaller charity working in a big coalition, you’re now under permanent threat of being fined and potentially even convicted for your normal campaign activities. All it takes is for a snap election to be called and a campaign like Make Poverty History could be in breach of the law. There's a real risk many charities will pull out of the political debate for fear of being caught up in this bureaucratic and legal quagmire.”

Under the Lobbying Act, charities are obliged to register with the election watchdog if they plan to spend over £20,000 in England - £10,000 in the rest of the UK - on so-called ‘regulated activities’. These activities are so loosely defined that they can include any issue on which political parties have a policy on. [1]

Charities working in large coalitions are particularly vulnerable since the law imposes a collective spending limit - of £390,000 - towards which expenses from every member organisation count. Some campaign groups who have worked in coalition to raise important issues over the last year could easily be in breach of the Lobbying Act since staff costs, overheads and any other operational expenditure may be taken into account.

The Electoral Commission recently fined Greenpeace £30,000 for refusing to register under the Lobbying Act at the last general election in an act of civil disobedience.  

Ministers had been warned about the potential consequences of the Lobbying Act by the government’s own review led by Lord Hodgson. The Conservative peer criticised the Act for failing to distinguish between activities in support of a specific political party and civil society campaigning on issues of public interest. He also called for the regulated period to be shortened from one year to four months, and presciently urged the government to clarify ‘the regulatory position in the event of an “unexpected” General Election’.

“The government’s own review warned about these risks, yet ministers ignored them,” Sauven added. “If neither the commission nor the government are willing to sort out this mess, our only option left is to put the matter in front of a judge. We’re not going to stand idly by as Britain’s vibrant civil society is cowed into silence by this bureaucratic and legal nightmare.”

ENDS

Notes

1.    Regulated activities are regarded “as intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates, including political parties or categories of candidates who support or do not support particular policies or issues”. The Electoral Commission guidance also explains that: “Campaign activity can meet the purpose test even if it does not name a particular party or candidate. For example, campaigning for a policy that is closely and publicly associated with one or more political parties can meet the purpose test. Even if you intend your campaign activity to achieve something else, such as raising awareness of an issue, it can still meet the purpose test if it can also reasonably be regarded as intended to influence how people vote.”

Categories: Activist News

Onboard the Beluga II

Greenpeace UK - Fri, 2017-05-19 11:00
All rights reserved. Credit: Kajsa Sjölander / Greenpeace Marcela onboard the Beluga II Image caption:  Marcela onboard the Beluga II

Last week I had the privilege to sail along the east coast of Scotland on board Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II. This is the start of a two-month expedition documenting and investigating the impact of plastic in some of the most stunning and biodiverse areas of the UK.

It was almost eight years ago, during a voyage across the Marañon River in the Peruvian Amazon, that the contrast between the flowing beauty of nature and the polluting permanence of plastic struck me deeply, leading me to make a commitment to dedicate my life to the protection of this wonderful planet earth. 

The humbling sight of pink dolphins swimming alongside our ship and the sun rising and setting in tune with the continual dance of life, was shattered by the appearance of floating plastic bottles and other rubbish that, I realised then, would outlive not only us on that ship, but many generations to come.

Almost eight years later, though physically thousands of miles away from where this journey started for me, I am excited to be working for Greenpeace as it sets off on this expedition aiming to build evidence and understanding of the devastating impact plastic pollution is having on our oceans and marine life.

On this first leg of the journey, we were welcomed by the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Scottish Natural Heritage - to visit two spectacular islands. The Bass Rock is home to over 150,000 gannets and the Isle of May is a sanctuary for more than 40,000 puffins, as well as vast numbers of Razorbills, Guillemots and Shags. 

Such an astonishing number of birds gathered together, flying, swimming, nesting, feeding, is an enchanting image that will stay with me forever. At the same time, I won’t forget the sight of plastic bottles, plastic bags and other plastic packaging, again breaking the spectacle. Once more, I felt disheartened knowing that the birds will come and go, but those pieces of now useless plastic will remain there for centuries.

But this time, I don’t feel alone.

Today, I am part of a growing movement, alongside Greenpeace, made up of different organisations, groups and individuals standing up to the big corporations like Coca-Cola, who are creating these polluting and almost indestructible single-use plastics. 

Together, we are demanding that these companies take responsibility for the toxic legacy they are leaving behind, as well as asking governments to pass legislations that would help once and for all, stop the flow of plastics into the oceans.

Change can be achieved and we all have a role to play - I hope that you join us. Follow us in the next stages of the Beluga Expedition as we continue to shed light on this issue and help spread the word. #EndOceanPlastics

Categories: Activist News

What do we think - the Conservative party manifesto

Greenpeace UK - Fri, 2017-05-19 10:32
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

By Rebecca Newsom and Rosie Rogers

Yesterday, the Conservative Party launched their manifesto for the General Election on 8th June. Here is Greenpeace’s analysis of the good, the bad and the missing aspects of the manifesto in relation to the issues that are important to us and everyone who cares about a green and peaceful world. Please check our website for further analysis of other Party manifestos as they come out.

The good:

International climate leadership: It’s great to see that climate leadership is mentioned several times throughout the manifesto, including in the Global Britain chapter: “we are at the forefront of action against global climate change.” We are also pleased that the Party aims to lead the world in environmental protections. The manifesto also mentions the previous Conservative Government’s decision to ratify the Paris Agreement.Energy: The Conservatives have promised to maintain the UK’s global leadership in offshore wind, and have left the door open for further development of onshore wind in Scotland. This is a progression from the 2015 manifesto, which explicitly committed to clamp down on onshore wind. This is very positive - since onshore wind is now the cheapest form of power, and offshore wind prices are falling dramatically. It is notable that nuclear power is not mentioned once in the manifesto - a telling sign that the Party is starting to recognise the enormous financial and technical risks of the industry. The Party appears to be gearing up for a renewable transformation of the energy system, committing to “spend more on research and development” of battery storage, and promoting the smart grid. We’re pleased that the 2015 promise to upgrade all fuel-poor homes is reiterated in there too.

Oceans: Thankfully for our oceans, the manifesto states the Party will “champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters” as well as to uphold their 2015 manifesto commitment to create a Blue Belt of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast. This sends a strong signal for governments across the world that international cooperation on oceans protection is a priority for the Conservatives.

Sustainable transport: We welcome the commitment to “lead the world in electric vehicle technology and use.”

Oil: Positively, the manifesto states the Conservatives would “support the development of a world-leading decommissioning industry” in terms of oil, which sends a clear message to businesses and shareholders about the future wind down of the industry (hopefully).

Nature: the manifesto gives a few promising nods to protecting our natural environment and biodiversity, such as continuing to keep public forests and woodlands in public ownership, planting 1 million more trees, “improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats,” and taking further action to improve animal welfare.

The bad:

Strengthened support for fracking:
Unlike Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, who have policies to ban fracking, Theresa May’s party has decided to double down on this industry. Planning permission would no longer be required for exploratory wells or other oil & gas drilling - stripping local councils of their power to decide, despite growing public resistance across the UK. This policy also pays no regard to our vital climate change commitments - as a brand new fossil fuel industry would only lock us into more carbon emissions for years to comeNo mention of the carbon plan: while the manifesto mentions the UK’s 2050 carbon reduction target, it does not mention the carbon plan, which should set out exactly how we are supposed to deliver CO2 reductions over the next 10-15 years and keep us in track with our legally binding climate commitments. Given the renewed push on shale gas, this could mean the Conservatives intend to de-prioritise UK emission reductions - which would call into question their true climate leadership.

Renewed commitment to Heathrow expansion: As you may know, Greenpeace supports no new runways. Expansion anywhere is incompatible with our climate change commitments. Expansion at Heathrow would also cause major air and noise pollution issues.Continue to promote North Sea oil and gas: of course we need a transition from oil and gas to sustainable energy, but this policy jars with the commitment to expanding onshore and offshore wind above, and the threat of climate change means there’s only so much fossil fuel we can exploit. The commitment to expand decommissioning however, is a sign that much of this industry has limited time left.

Retain the Trident weapon system: Greenpeace does not believe nuclear weapons are compatible with a green and peaceful world. There are 196 countries in this world and only 8 have nuclear weapons. We promised the international community we would negotiate ours away. It’s a promise we need to keep. See here for more info. 

The missing:

Fisheries:
There is a real lack of vision when it comes to fisheries. Although it is positive to see the Conservative Party is committed to working with relevant stakeholders “to introduce a new regime for commercial fishing that will preserve and increase fish stocks and help to ensure prosperity for a new generation of fishermen”, there is no detail whatsoever on how they intend to do this.  Withdrawing from the London Convention is only worth the hostile message it sends to our neighbours if it is coupled with a commitment to the development of a world-leading fisheries policy that goes far beyond the Common Fisheries Policy in its efforts to preserve and rebuild fish stocks and the local, sustainable fishing communities that depend on them.Plastic pollution and recycling:

Ocean plastic: the devil will be in the detail. That there is a commitment to tackling litter through supporting comprehensive recycling and better packaging is a good sign, but we will wait to see whether the commitment matches up to the scale of the fast emerging problem of plastics in the ocean.  A good first start would be a commitment to a nationwide bottle deposit return scheme.

Air pollution:
This was a glaring omission from the manifesto - apart from a fleeting comment that the Conservatives “will take action against poor air quality in urban areas.” After publishing a toothless national air quality plan, Theresa May’s Party has just missed another opportunity to show her government would be serious about tackling a major public health emergency that's harming our health and that of our children. This would mean focusing on the root of the problem: polluting cars and other vehicles.

A real plan for nature: despite the positive words about protecting nature above, the Conservative manifesto lacks real detail on what this actually means in practice. How can a Party so adamantly committed to leave the environment in a better state than they inherited it be so lacklustre in their vision for nature? The upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan had better be more convincing than anything on the topic in this manifesto - but sadly its delays so far have already undermined confidence in its ability to deliver. Furthermore, the manifesto contains some worrying language around the burden and costs of regulation, and a commitment to a ‘red tape challenge’ - which could open the door to a bonfire of some vital environmental protections. 

Overall, it’s great to see climate leadership recognised in this manifesto, alongside an appreciation of the enormous economic and environmental opportunities of the growing renewables and electric vehicles sectors. However, the Conservatives’ renewed commitment to fracking, alongside the absence of any substantial plans on air pollution, sustainable fishing, plastic pollution and nature protections, significantly undermines their environmental credentials. There is plenty of room for improvement. Stay tuned for a wrap-up blog next week looking at other parties’ manifestos.

Categories: Activist News

Annual Supporter Survey Results

Greenpeace UK - Thu, 2017-05-18 13:28

Nearly seventy thousand supporters took part in our annual supporter survey. It's been very inspiring to read how we all share similar values and feel the same way about environmental destruction. 

We'll be using your thoughts and comments to make our campaigns even more successful, and to motivate even more people to join the movement.Thanks to everyone who took part. 

Categories: Activist News

What do we think - the Labour party manifesto

Greenpeace UK - Wed, 2017-05-17 09:54
All rights reserved. Credit: Jiri Rezac | Greenpeace UK Greenpeace peaceful protest against Fracking Image caption:  Greenpeace peaceful protest against Fracking

By Rebecca Newsom and Rosie Rogers

Yesterday, the Labour Party launched their manifesto for the General Election on 8th June. Here is Greenpeace’s analysis of the good, the bad and the missing aspects of the manifesto in relation to the issues that are important to us and everyone who cares about a green and peaceful world. Please check our website for further analysis of other Party manifestos as they come out.

The good:

 

Energy and climate: there is loads of good stuff in the manifesto that if it happens will transform our current energy system to one that works for jobs, green growth and our planet. Some highlights include “aiming for 60% of the UK’s energy to come from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030”, “insulating 4 million homes” to make them more energy efficient and banning fracking. 

Air pollution and transport: we are very pleased to see a commitment to a Clean Air Act, electrifying our railways and investing in electric vehicles. 

Oceans: it’s great to see the manifesto prioritise money for farming and fishing that is small scale and sustainable as well as the promise to safeguard the habitats and species in the seas and oceans in a ‘blue belt’ around the UK and its overseas territories.  

Nature: luckily for our bees, there is a clear policy from Labour to “protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids”. There are also strong statements to protect our environment by promising to “plant a million trees” and promote and protect animal welfare. 

International climate leadership: As we speak, Trump is deciding whether or not to pull out of the Paris Agreement (sign our petition here to stop him!) and so we welcome the Labour Party stating they will confirm their commitment to the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement. 

Peace: as the name suggests, GreenPEACE cares about peace! So it’s good to see policies in the manifesto such as “publish a strategy for protecting civilians in conflict” and “lead multilateral efforts with international partners and the UN to create a nuclear-free world.”

Overall, the manifesto paints a good picture of what issues matter to Labour - ranging from sustainable fishing, to tackling plastic pollution, a sustainable energy system, air pollution and committing to global leadership by defending the Paris Agreement. If Labour do find themselves in power in June, then action on these issues would be very welcome.

As with every manifesto, there is room for improvement. Here in our view, are the bits of the manifesto we wish weren’t in there.

The bad:

 

Continue to promote North Sea oil and gas: of course we need a transition from oil and gas to sustainable energy, but this policy sends the wrong signals to the industries. Labour should be moving away from dirty, old fossil fuels towards backing the thriving offshore wind and smart technology, which could deliver thousands of new skilled jobs.

Continue to support further nuclear projects across the UK: to us, this makes no environmental or economic sense, given the absurdly expensive costs of nuclear technology, in contrast to the dramatically falling costs of safe and secure renewable alternatives. To read more, see here.   

Cautious support for expanded airport capacity in the South East: As you may know, Greenpeace supports no new runways. Expansion anywhere is incompatible with our climate change commitments. It is promising, however, that Labour has guaranteed that any airport expansion must adhere to tests on noise pollution, air quality and climate change

Support the renewal of the Trident weapon system - Greenpeace does not believe nuclear weapons are compatible with a green and peaceful world. There are 196 countries in this world and only 8 have nuclear weapons. We promised the international community we would negotiate ours away. It’s a promise we need to keep. See here for more info. 

The missing:

 

Devil in the detail: what’s really missing from the manifesto is proper detail on the policies Labour would adopt to deliver their environmental vision. Some of this detail is clearer for energy, which is fantastic. However, it’s not quite clear how Labour plans to do things like “invest in rural and coastal communities” and “safeguard habitats and marine species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and ocean. More detail on how Labour plan to do things like this could make or break their policies on our natural world and the creatures in it. For example, does “guiding targets for plastic bottle schemes” mean introducing a deposit return scheme with ambitious targets; does safeguarding habitats mean matching the current Government’s commitments to 127 marine protected areas, or even going beyond? For more information on how the next Government can protect our oceans, check out this blog we did last week.

Equally, it’s great that Labour promise to “guarantee the protection and advancement of environmental quality standards”, however it’s unclear how they will do this, especially in a post Brexit world. 

Diesel: when it comes to air pollution, Labour’s manifesto is disappointingly weak on plans to tackle the root of the problem: diesel. We know that toxic emissions from diesel vehicles are a large cause of the air pollution on our roads, but the manifesto fails to recognise this, or outline substantial measures to address it, like revising Vehicle Excise Duty for new diesel cars. While more investment in electric vehicles is vital, it is also unclear how much Labour is prepared to put into this. 

Overall, the manifesto paints a compelling vision of for a new energy and environmental future - including action on sustainable fishing, tackling plastic pollution, a sustainable energy system, air pollution and committing to global leadership by defending the Paris Agreement. However, there are some important areas for improvement and more detail is required to be confident that Labour could actually deliver in key areas. It will be interesting to see what comes out in the Conservative, and other parties’ manifestos later this week.   

Categories: Activist News

An uninhabited island deep in the South Pacific falls prey to a plague - of plastic.

Greenpeace UK - Tue, 2017-05-16 11:42
by-nc. Credit: Jennifer Lavers / The Guardian One of many hundreds of crabs that now make their homes out of plastic debris washed up on Henderson Island. Photograph: Jennifer Lavers / The Guardian Image caption:  One of many hundreds of crabs that now make their homes out of plastic debris washed up on Henderson Island. Photograph: Jennifer Lavers / The Guardian

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A truly shocking 38 million pieces of plastic have been found on Henderson Island, one of the Pitcairn Islands that make up one of the UK’s last remaining overseas territories.

This island has no one living on it, yet its beaches are now home to 18 tonnes of plastic waste that have washed up from the surrounding ocean. This makes it the highest density of human-made debris found anywhere in the world.

The island is situated in the middle of a giant garbage patch, where pieces of plastic that have entered the ocean are carried by sea currents and accumulate. There are now plastic hotspots like this in all of the major oceans. Last month, scientists warned of the staggering amount of plastic debris accumulating in seas within the Arctic Circle. It's clear that even the most remote corners of the planet aren't safe from the blight of plastic pollution.

Closer to home, Greenpeace's boat the Beluga II is currently on an expedition around the coast of Scotland to investigate the impact of plastic on some of the UK's most iconic wildlife, like gannets, puffins and basking sharks.

On its first day after setting sail, Greenpeace found plastic waste on the internationally renowned seabird colony of the Bass Rock - home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets. Plastic is a choking and entangling hazard for many sea creatures, with studies showing 90% of seabirds and one in three turtles have now eaten plastic. As plastic enters every level of the food chain, it can also travel back to our plates in seafood. Scientists have urgently called for more research into the possible risks for human health.

But we can already see far too starkly that in both UK-governed waters close to home and on the other side of the planet, plastic pollution is mounting up. A rubbish truck’s worth of plastic enters the oceans globally every minute, with researchers estimating about 13,000 pieces of debris are washing up on Henderson Island daily. This is a global problem, requiring global solutions, but the responsibility of the UK government is clear. Whichever party wins the election, the next UK government must take concrete action to reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean and causing such harm to marine life.

The government designated the ocean around the Pitcairn Islands as a fully protected marine reserve in 2015, vowing to protect the precious biodiversity that inhabit the surrounding ocean, but it's clear much more needs to be done at source to protect these creatures from the plastic threat. 

This can take the form of targeting particularly polluting plastic items, like throwaway plastic packaging. We know plastic bottles are a huge part of the problem, with 16 million ending up in the environment every single day in the UK alone. To stem this flow, we need to see action from major soft drink companies like Coca-Cola, which produces a whopping 3,400 single-use plastic bottles a second, to ditch throwaway plastic and embrace reusable packaging (call on the company to do so here!). Governments can also help by introducing deposit Return Schemes to increase the number of bottles which are collected, and we can all try to reduce our plastic footprint – stopping plastic from ending up in the ocean in the first place.

The sight of plastic overwhelming some of the most precious and remote parts of the world must act as a huge wake up call. We must urgently bring to an end the era of throwaway plastic, because our oceans simply cannot stomach any more plastic.

Categories: Activist News

Labour manifesto: Strong on vision but thin on detail

Greenpeace UK - Tue, 2017-05-16 11:20
16 May, 2017

Commenting on the environmental and energy policies outlined in the Labour manifesto, Greenpeace UK's Head of public affairs Rosie Rogers said:

"The Labour manifesto paints in broad strokes a compelling vision of our energy and environmental future, but there's little detail on how we can actually get there. If Labour can make good on their pledge to source 60% of our energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030, Britain could be mostly powered by cutting-edge clean technologies that would also provide skilled jobs, fairer bills, and cleaner air. Backing community-owned energy projects and ditching the top-down imposition of unpopular fracking is a smart move, and a new drive to insulate millions of homes will help cut energy bills too. But setting targets is one thing: hitting them quite another. The jury will be out until the actual policies come in.

“The promise to retain our vital environmental safeguards after Brexit will be welcomed by many, including Conservative voters, as will more support for small-scale sustainable fishermen and the proposed Clean Air Act. Helping the UK become a leader in the manufacture and use of electric cars will have huge benefits, but to really tackle air pollution we must get to the root of the problem, diesel, and the manifesto has little to say about it. 

"It all sounds promising, but to convince voters this is more than just a wishlist of popular measures, Labour will need to show they have sound policies to enact them."

Categories: Activist News

5 reasons why Trump can’t tear up the Paris Agreement

Greenpeace UK - Fri, 2017-05-12 15:46

Since his inauguration in November last year, Donald Trump’s attack on the environment has been relentless. He’s approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, he’s put more than 2.7 million acres of iconic US landscape at risk from fossil fuel exploration and he’s proposing a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, effectively eliminating its climate change programs.

Now, Trump is threatening to pull out of the Paris Agreement, a landmark commitment struck by nearly 200 nations aimed at limiting global warming to well below 2°C. As the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the U.S. plays a massive role in achieving this. It’s hard to imagine how we’ll do it without them.

But there’s still hope. Here’s 5 reasons why Trump can’t tear up the Paris Agreement, even if he tries to.

  1. U.S. momentum is bigger than Trump

71% of American people support the Paris Agreement. That’s seven in ten people. Not only that but there’s resounding support for renewable energy, with a whopping 89% of Americans supporting solar farm expansion and 83% supporting wind.

This passion for renewables is reflected in state governments, too. Last year, mayors from 71 U.S. cities (representing over 38 million people!) urged Trump to retain his Paris commitments and 15 U.S. states threatened Trump with legal action should he try to leave.

If the worst happens, 34 of 50 U.S. states already have climate action plans and are prepared to forge ahead with the terms of the agreement without federal support. 27 U.S. cities have even gone so far as to commit to using 100% renewables by 2035.

2. Businesses around the world are pledging their support

Perhaps most persuasive of all for a businessman like Trump, there’s resounding economic support for the Paris Agreement.

Last week, more than a thousand U.S. companies, including Google, Microsoft and Walmart, signed the ‘Business Backs Low-Carbon USA’ statement, urging Trump to stay in the agreement. If Trump does the opposite, the companies have pledged to ‘do our part, in our own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.’

Major stock market investors are echoing those sentiments, too. This week, a group of investors from all over the world, managing more than $15 trillion in assets, sent a letter to Trump imploring him to fight climate change by keeping his commitments.

Astoundingly, even oil companies like Shell are on board, a sign if ever there was one that the renewable age has arrived and Trump’s dated ideology is simply bad for business.

3. World leaders are overwhelmingly in favour of the agreement


In the face of Trump’s threats, world leaders are speaking out. The prime minister of Fiji told Trump: “Climate change is not a hoax… don’t let the whole side down.” Chinese President Xi Jinping reminded him that “There is only one earth in the universe and we mankind have only one homeland.” And on Monday, French President-elect Emmanuel Macron used his first phone call with Trump to vow that he and the people of France will defend the agreement at all costs.

So, far from destabilising the commitments of other countries, Trump’s threats to abandon the agreement are only strengthening the world’s resolve to tackle climate change. That means that even without U.S. participation, 196 countries are committed to a sustainable future. That accounts for 87% of global emissions.

4. Even Trump can’t stop the renewable energy boom

Whether Donald Trump likes it or not, renewable energy is taking over. Both the solar and wind industries are creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy and energy capacity for these two sources has increased almost fivefold since 2008. This against a backdrop of renewable energy success stories the world over.

Last year, China added more than 34 gigawatts of solar capacity - nearly 1.5 times the amount the U.S. has installed in its entire history-  and Portugal ran entirely on renewable energy for four days straight. And at one point in 2015 Denmark generated a whopping 140% of their electricity demand from renewables, enough to share with Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Renewable energy is not only working, it’s thriving, and there’s nothing Trump can do about it.

5. We won’t let him get away with it


Right now, Theresa May is one of the few world leaders Trump will actually listen to. Their relationship is so special that they’re coordinating outfits and holding hands. So a clear signal from our PM that the UK’s commitment to the Paris deal is non-negotiable could give Trump pause.

After all, the UK played a key role in securing the Paris Agreement and May herself said that the Conservative government is determined to “play our part in the international effort against climate change.” Now it’s time to put those words into action.

But what can we do to help? So far, Greenpeace UK has joined forces with Oxfam, the RSPB, WWF, Christian Aid, Cafod and others urging the PM to defend the agreement. Greenpeace offices around the world are mobilising their supporters and allies to lobby their leaders to speak out and Greenpeace USA is coordinating the resistance movement on the ground.

Here in the UK, almost 150,000 of us have signed a petition asking Theresa May to pick up the phone and tell Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement.

If you agree, please sign to petition too.

Categories: Activist News

Bon Voyage! The Beluga II Sets Sail!

Greenpeace UK - Fri, 2017-05-12 08:50


Ocean plastic crisis

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats that our oceans face. Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. That is the equivalent of a rubbish truck's worth a minute.

Once the plastic is in the ocean it becomes a danger to wildlife. They can become entangled in the plastic or choke on it. Larger pieces of plastic will eventually  break down into smaller pieces called microplastics which  animals then ingest.

Studies show  that 90% of seabirds and 1 in 3 sea turtles have ingested plastic. Those are shocking statistics. We need to take action now to stop the flow of plastic pollution into our oceans.

Expedition launch

That is why on Friday we launched a scientific expedition around the shores of Scotland to study the impacts of plastic pollution on iconic wildlife like gannets, puffins and basking sharks.

We will be sailing on our ship the Beluga II on a two month expedition. On board will be a team of scientists, campaigners and crew who will be taking sea surface samples - in particular where key marine species feed - to analyse for the presence of microplastics.  We will be visiting bird nesting sites on the Bass Rock and the Shiant Isles  to document any plastic pollution we see. . We will also be conducting surveys on remote beaches to catalog the presence of plastic pollution. We’ll do this to  shine a light on the impact that plastic pollution is having on our seas and wildlife.

Launch reception

Friday’s event featured a host of speakers introduced by our Executive Director John Sauven. They included Richard Lochhead, former Scottish cabinet secretary for the environment and MSP for Moray Tom Brock, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre and Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer from the Marine Conservation Society.

The Scottish Seabird Centre do amazing conservation work and educate the public about Scotland’s wildlife including organising trips to the Bass Rock to visit the world’s biggest northern gannet colony.

The Marine Conservation Society have been running a successful nationwide beach clean  project called ‘Beachwatch’ for many years. The project is integral for not only cleaning our beaches but also measuring how much rubbish is ending up on them as well as cataloging the most commonly found item.

We are delighted to be working with both organisations during our ocean plastic expedition, together with many others.

Our keynote speaker was Richard Lochhead and he spoke passionately about the wonder of Scotland’s wildlife and the need to protect its rich waters, as well as Scotland’s leadership tackling the problem of marine plastic.

He spoke of the need to enact a deposit return scheme (DRS) in Scotland, recognising it as one of the many ways that we can tackle marine plastic pollution.  It works by placing a small extra charge on the price of a bottled drink, which you get back when it’s returned.

The schemes have been operating successfully in several countries around the world  including Germany where it is credited with a 98% collection rate for bottles in the scheme. Similar legislation is being considered in Scotland - where 80% of Scots back such a scheme - and possibly the rest of the UK.

The Bass Rock’s gannets

On Tuesday, the Beluga II travelled to the Bass Rock which is home to over 150,000 northern gannets, for the first major moment in the expedition. These seabirds are the largest in the North Atlantic and about two thirds of the world’s population reside in the United Kingdom, making it the largest colony globally, and part of the reason Scotland’s wildlife and scenery is the envy of the world

Northern gannets are so synonymous with the Bass Rock that their scientific name is Morus bassanus. It was a lovely sunny day and we were guided to the Rock by the Scottish Seabird Centre’s expert guide Maggie Sheddon.

Around the Bass Rock, where the birds feed, our scientists took seawater samples to analyze for the presence of microplastics. Our campaign team also landed ashore where they inspected some bird nests for plastic.

There we discovered plastic bags, packaging, bits of old fishing gear and even crisp packets strewn across the island and even sitting next to eggs in nests. Marine pollution is clearly a threat to our iconic wildlife - and one that’s becoming more acute.

There is much more to come, with the Beluga II now heading north to Inverness to make it’s way down the Caledonian Canal. Follow it’s progress on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In the meantime you can take action by calling fora deposit return scheme in your area, and emailing Coca-Cola to demand they reduce their plastic footprint.

Categories: Activist News

Iconic seabird colony polluted with ocean plastic, Greenpeace expedition finds

Greenpeace UK - Thu, 2017-05-11 11:26
11 May, 2017

A research expedition by the crew of Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II has revealed high levels of plastic pollution on the iconic Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.

With studies showing that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic, these shocking images reveal plastic around eggs in nests and strewn across the island, and even in the beaks of seabirds.

The findings come on the first day of research during the Beluga II’s scientific voyage around Scotland, which runs until the end of June, documenting the impact of plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most precious wildlife like puffins, gannets and basking sharks. 

See images from the expedition here.

This week scientists aboard the Beluga II conducted sea surface sampling for microplastics around the Bass Rock, finding suspected plastics in the water which will undergo further analysis on board and at Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories at Exeter University. The Beluga II’s crew then accessed the Bass Rock, accompanied by experts from the Scottish Seabird Centre, and investigated nests and surrounding areas for plastic.

“Being surrounded by tens of thousands of gannets on the Bass Rock is a stunning spectacle – but it’s seabirds like these which are acutely threatened by ocean plastic pollution,” said Willie Mackenzie, oceans expert at Greenpeace UK. “We found plastic bags, packaging, bits of old fishing gear and even crisp packets strewn across the island and surrounding eggs in nests. It’s no wonder that studies have shown that 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic.”

“A truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute and 16 million plastic bottles end up in our environment every day in the UK. We need urgent action from major soft drinks companies, like Coca-Cola which produces over 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year, to reduce their plastic footprint, and we need governments to deliver initiatives like bottle deposit return schemes which can reduce the amount of plastic ending up on our beaches and in the sea.”

Notes to editors

For images from Bass Rock and the expedition, see: http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJJ5PVHW

For a reel of video clips from the Bass Rock, download here: https://we.tl/pyBZ1SHtxt

For general images of ocean plastic pollution, see: http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJJAYYJJ

About the expedition:

Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II is on a two-month scientific voyage around Scotland’s coastlines, investigating the impact of ocean plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes and iconic wildlife.

Throughout May and June, the crew and scientists from Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories, based at Exeter University, will be aboard the Beluga II to carry out sea surface sampling for microplastics, survey remote beaches for pollution and investigate seabird nests for plastic during hatching season.

The expedition will take in sites of stunning beauty and biodiversity, including the Bass Rock, Gunna Sound, Mull, Rùm, Eigg, Skye, and the Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides. Along the way Greenpeace will work in collaboration with organisations such as the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Marine Conservation Society and others.

For more information on the expedition, interviews and comments, contact:

Luke Massey, Press & Communications Officer at Greenpeace UK, [email protected], 07973 873 155

Categories: Activist News
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