During September last year, the UK Government announced its intention to launch a consultation on the banning of microbeads. These plastic beads which are toxic are added to washing powders, toothpastes, face washes and thousands of other products that wreak havoc on the environment. Once these microbeads are rinsed down the drain they end up in the oceans where they cause enormous damage to marine life and can even end up in seafood. The consultation has finally been launched which has given us a peek at what exactly it is the government is proposing. Unfortunately, it falls short of a full comprehensive ban that is needed but there is some good and bad news.
It’s important to stay positive so we should start off with the stuff that we can celebrate. The first thing we can cheer about is the Government is serious about making changes which will be implemented fairly quickly. We can expect products containing microbeads off the shop shelves by the middle of next year, which means the UK would beat the US in establishing a ban. With such an ambitious timeline, it shows just how serious the Government is about willing to act to protect our oceans. Greenpeace will be urging the Government to stick to its pledge.
The bad news is the government intends to limit its ban to just personal care and cosmetic products. This was expected, however Greenpeace did hope the ban would be extended to products such as washing powders, households and other items that a consultation document also proposed. Since we already know that the Government has indeed accepted the fact that microbeads are a threat to the marine environment, then the ban should be extended to all products that flow down our drains and end up in the ocean. Anything short of that means that ocean creatures are at risk. As a result Greenpeace will be challenging the government on its failure to propose a full comprehensive ban.
And the ???
The consultation produced a few unanswered questions. One such question was the lack of definition of what it means to be a “rinse-off personal care and cosmetic product”. There is no indication whether this also includes, moisturisers, heavy duty hand cleaners and make up. Arguably all these products fall within the ban’s remit but the consultation has not made this point clear. Greenpeace will be submitting its response to the consultation shortly and will be advocating for the best possible ban so that our oceans stay protected from unnecessary plastics which do nothing but pollute the sea.
Greenpeace is celebrating a massive victory with the creation of the world’s largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea which is off the coast of Antarctica. The Ross Sea is home to whales, penguins and toothfish so this is obviously a great decision. Greenpeace has been campaigning for the safety of the Ross Sea for many years. The Ross Sea consists of 1,550,000 square kilometres which is three times the size of Texas or twice the size of Spain. Almost 75 per cent of that area will be fully protected. The Ross Sea is often referred to as being ‘the Last Ocean’ and scientists have identified it as being the most pristine shallow ocean left on earth and it is truly stunning.
This year has already been a massive year for ocean protection.
The victory in the Ross Sea follows the decision by President Obama to expand the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument. Until now that had been the largest protected marine area in the world. Mr Obama also established the first National Marine Monument in the Atlantic and in the process made even more history. Other countries are also stepping up their game by protecting their national waters as well. For example, Chile is creating a huge marine park that covers Easter Island whilst the UK has committed to creating protected ‘Blue Belts’ surrounding its overseas territories.
The ocean is huge
Despite the size of theses sanctuaries, the ocean is still far larger. There was a pledge made at the World Conservation Congress this summer to protect as much as 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by the year 2030. There is clearly much to be done in order to achieve that goal and Greenpeace continues to push for more and wants the target to be increased to 40 per cent of the world’s oceans to be fully protected sanctuaries.
Protection is essential
The science speaks for itself. Ocean sanctuaries are critical for the protection of biodiversity and the ability to rebuild fish populations. Unfortunately, the problem is that long battles that lead to decisions such as the Ross Sea need more than science, they need millions of advocates all over the world lending their voice to speak for our oceans. Without the voices of individuals, even if the best scientific case is presented it still is not enough to stand up against short term interests and the commercial fishing lobby which is incredibly powerful.
The tide seems to be turning
Things seem to be changing for the better when it comes to marine conversation, however as the long battle to win protection for the Ross Sea show, getting governments to act in seas which are shared, beyond national jurisdiction is a huge challenge. This is why it is so important that we do much more to ensure the so called High Seas are protected which currently enjoy no protection at all. There is cause for optimism, we are slowly inching towards and agreed system that could protect them. Greenpeace is working towards ensuring the United Nations delivers a policy that would create sanctuaries on the high seas. With the help of people like you it will be able to do much more.
Greenpeace is disappointed that the UK government intends to force fracking in the country. Politicians in Westminster have overturned a decision by the Lancashire Council which sought to block fracking. Instead MP’s have decided that fracking firm Cuadrilla has been given permission to drill. Sajid Javid the minister who is responsible for local councils said he would allow drilling to take place at Cuadrilla’s drill site which is located at Preston New Road near Blackpool. Not satisfied with just one site, Mr Javid said he was also inclined to grant permission at a second proposed site as well.
Campaigning against fracking for years
For five years Greenpeace has campaigned with thousands of people throughout the UK to prevent the fracking industry from drilling in UK towns or the countryside. Greenpeace has managed to raise awareness of the risks associated with the destructive fracking industry, especially to the environment and the climate. Greenpeace and ordinary citizens have used every democratic tool available to push back against the government which intends to pursue fracking at all costs. It would seem all that hard work paid off in Lancashire where last year city councillors paid attention to the concerns of local residents and voted against the plans of Cuadrilla. It was a massive win for the people and a huge moment for local democracy.
An affront to democracy
However, the move by Westminster to overturn that decision marks a turning point. In a single move, Mr Javid silenced elected council officials and ignored the opinion of more than 14,000 people who live in Lancashire and have said they don’t wont fracking where they live. He also rebuked a petition containing 180,000 signatures that demands that the Lancashire’s council decision be upheld. By overturning the local council decision, politicians in Westminster have essentially declared that profits from the fracking industry are more important than the concerns of the British people.
Greenpeace is thrilled that a very important UK government committee has backed its call for a complete ban on microbeads. It’s not often that MP’s from both sides of the aisle agree, however the Environment Committee MP’s were unanimous in their agreement that microbeads should be banned because of the harm they cause to our oceans. This represents a massive victory for the 330,000 people who signed the Greenpeace petition calling for a ban on these pollution causing bits being added to household products.
Microbeads bad for the environment
It appears that everyone seems to agree with what is completely obvious. We should not be adding tiny bits of plastic to products that are able to pass through sewage filtration systems and out to rivers and ultimately the sea where they are eaten by wildlife. There are some interesting statistics. One shower can cause 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean. Every year throughout Europe it is estimated that between 80,000 to 219,000 tonnes of microplastics enter the marine environment.
Voluntary commitments won’t work
The committee also rubbished the idea that a voluntary phase out by companies would work and instead a full legal ban is necessary. Greenpeace recently ranked the 30 biggest cosmetics companies by their commitment to eliminating microbeads and the results suggest whilst some companies are doing better than others, none are going as far as required. Companies use different definitions of microbeads and all have different time frames for phasing them out, whilst some are only phasing out microbeads from certain products. If there is a voluntary phase out in place, it is likely that plastic will continue entering the ocean.
The devil is in the detail
So whilst there is cause for celebration, the devil is in the detail. All of us need to continue working hard to get Theresa May to support the ban and make sure that companies cannot continue to attempt to limit the ban to specific products. Most people are aware that microbeads can be found in shower gels and face scrubs, but they are also contained in a wide range of products including deodorants, shaving foam, sunscreen, washing powder and household cleaners.
We need a complete ban
Where a plastic microbead originates from is completely irrelevant to the turtle or fish which commonly mistakes tiny pieces of plastic for food. This is why a total ban on microbeads being added to products is necessary if we are going to get rid of the problem or good.
Oil and gas are disastrous technologies that pollute the air, oceans land and are responsible for climate change. If we are to mitigate climate change, then these dirty fuels must stay in the ground instead of being extracted. However, the powerful energy lobby continue to try to tap dirtier and more expensive sources of fuel. They are now drilling in the Arctic and fracking shale oil and gas. Greenpeace is doing its best to fight back and to stand up for our environment, climate and communities.
It’s time to leave oil behind
We need to live in a world without oil. This is because its production causes damage to the environment, wildlife and people. When we use oil for transportation we are fuelling climate change, choking out cities and making people sick because of air pollution. The damage oil extraction causes gets worse as energy companies expand their search to include dirtier, costlier and riskier sources of the fuel such as Canada’s tar sands. The global oil companies are supported by billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies whilst polluting and profiting at our expense.
Drilling means spilling
It is no secret that wherever an oil company drills, oil spills and blowouts are simply a fact of life. Spill clean-up rates are terrible and when energy companies drill in the Arctic, the clean-up rate is even worse, producing unacceptable risk to a polar environment that until now has been pristine as well as the people who depend on it. It is no surprise that Greenpeace is strongly opposed to oil exploration in Arctic because of the threat posed to untouched ecosystems as well as the unique polar species supported such as polar bears.
Gas emissions and leaks fuel global warming
Just as is the case with oil, when we burn natural gas, the end result is greenhouse gas emissions which fuels climate change. The gas that escapes is also a big problem this is because natural gas is mainly made of methane which is a greenhouse gas that is just as bad as carbon dioxide. Leaks and releases take place throughout the entire natural gas supply chain. Whilst we cannot be certain how much natural gas is being released into the environment, where it is measured it would seem that leaks turn out to be much higher than government estimates.
What is Greenpeace doing?
Greenpeace is working hard globally to speed up the shift from dirty energy sources such as oil, gas and coal into renewable more climate friendly energy sources. The organisation is trying to advocate for the Arctic and is urging world leaders to put an end to offshore drilling in the Arctic once and for all. Greenpeace is blazing a trail towards a safer and more secure energy future. The agency has produced a number of reports which show how we can meet all our energy needs with 100 per cent renewable energy.
A recent study by researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden have found that fish larvae born in waters laden with microplastic were “smaller, slower and more stupid” then those larvae that were born in clean waters. What Greenpeace is most worried about is the study also suggests that the birth rate was as much as 15% lower. The study results also found that even when young fish had access to zooplankton which is incredibly nutritious, they preferred to eat the plastic instead.
“This is the first time an animal has been found to preferentially feed on plastic particles and is cause for concern”, said Prof Peter Eklöv, co-author of the study.
Greenpeace has warned several times that microplastics in the ocean are a huge problem. Last year a paper was published which estimated that every year approximately 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped in the ocean every year. Much of this waste comes from large items such as drink bottles and food containers. Over time, these items slowly break down in the ocean and turn into microplastics that can be consumed as food by plankton, fish and even whales. Some plastics are already very small when they enter the sea and given the fact that most marine life is found in coastal areas, these tiny plastic items are a major cause for concern.
Microplastics in a variety of products
Microbeads which are one form of microplastic can be found in personal care products such as shaving foam, face wash, toothpaste and deodorant. The authors of the latest study were very clear that products containing such microbeads should be banned. Greenpeace is campaigning to get products containing microbeads off store shelves and out of the ocean. June 8th was World Oceans Day which is when all over the world ocean lovers come together to celebrate everything fish. This year Greenpeace marked the occasion by handing in an anti-microbeads petition to Number 10.
Greenpeace has some excellent news to report. This year Iceland has decided it will not hunt the endangered blue fin whale. According to Greenpeace workers and news reports in the English language media, this summer, the country will not engage in hunting fin whales. The reason being cited is that it is not economically viable to export the whale meat which is fantastic news for both the species and everyone who opposed the senseless hunt.
Fin whales are earth’s second largest animal and can grow up to 27 metres in length. To put that in context that is about two and a half double-decker buses. The species can be found all over the world and are often called the greyhounds of the sea because they have a sleek and streamlined form which makes them swimming machines. The species is listed as being endangered because fin whales were the first targets of industrial whaling during the 20th century with their populations nearly being wiped out.
Iceland used to ignore public opinion
Over the last few years Iceland has ignored global public opinion and allowed one man, Kristian Loftsson to begin the hunt for the blue fin whale hunt again. It is simply indefensible to hunt a species which is internationally endangered. The hunt makes no sense for Iceland either in environmental terms or social or economic terms. In Iceland there is no market for fin whale meat. The blubber is typically discarded as being not unfit for human consumption. Selling the meat to Japan does not make any sense either because they have been hoarding unwanted whale meat and are worried about toxic pollution.
No economic reason
Greenpeace activists and other supporters from all over the world have played an important role in ensuring the blockade of illicit shipments have received a high profile. Activists have been instrumental in blocking ports in the Netherlands, Germany and mobilising supporters to call for an end to the whale meat trade through South Africa. There is no economic reason for hunting the blue fin whale and the species is supposed to be protected internationally. It has also been shown that whales and other marine life living in the North Sea contain toxins and people have been advised against eating blubber.
Commercial whaling must end today
Over the last few decades tourism has started to play a much more important role in Iceland’s economy than whaling could ever be. In fact one of the greatest success stories is the phenomenal rise of whale watching. Iceland is now a tourist destination that people visit for its scenery and wildlife. The tourism industry is in conflict with the idea of whale hunting and the practice should be banned altogether. There is simply no place for commercial whaling today. The remaining species of whales, porpoises and dolphins face several threats from humans that we are not facing up too. These include pollution, climate change and industrial fishing. This means the least we can do is end commercial whaling for good so we can deal with the other stuff.
Greenpeace says it is very bad news that UK MP’s have voted to allow fracking to take place under British national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The vote was contentious and did face opposition however those in favour won by a margin of 37 votes. This means if just 5 per cent of MP’s had decided against the motion things could have been very different.
Protected areas will be polluted
What the vote essentially means is that previously protected areas such as national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), World Heritage Sites and Groundwater Protection Zones could end up becoming surrounded by drilling rigs as companies seek to extract gas from underneath by drilling horizontally.
There should be more protection not less
Some of the areas at risk include the Bowland Forest, the South Downs, the Peak District and the North Yorkshire Moors. Fracking poses a number of risks that have been well documented but there are extremely good reasons why previously protected areas deserve more protection not less. In many cases they are the homes of endangered wildlife or consist of an ecosystem that is extremely fragile. When people visit these areas they don’t expect to hear noise from compressors or see lots of heavy goods vehicles driving by. The activity takes place 24 hours a day 7 days a week and will make industrial scale noise.
Fracking incompatible with fighting against climate change
The result of the vote is even more surprising given the fact it comes not long after a historic climate agreement was reached in Paris. The agreement was celebrated globally and is seen as a clear signal that the fossil fuel era is going to come to an end sooner rather later. If the UK holds up its end of the climate agreement then the idea of supporting fracking in the UK is completely incompatible.
End of the fossil fuel era
Greenpeace is shocked that the conservative government wants to introduce fracking in the UK instead of focusing on safe, cheap and clean energy. It is incredibly distressing that the government is prepared to water down existing regulation that currently protects some of the most ecologically important areas in the country. There is however some hope because there is a ground swell of anti fracking support which is growing stronger than ever. There are hundreds of groups across the UK working to oppose the vote.
It is important to maintain the fight
Whilst the vote is indeed a blow, it is increasingly obvious that the fossil fuel industry days are numbered. We cannot be quite sure how many years we will continue to depend on fossil fuels, however it is critical that people stay determined and groups such as Greenpeace maintain the pressure.
The most important meeting to address climate change COP21 is finally taking place. Leaders from all over the world converged in Pairs where they have the opportunity to come together and devise a plan that will help us mitigate the worst effects of climate change. If you turned your televisions on at the end of November you would most certainly have heard news reporters mention COP21. The reason for that is hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have demonstrated to leaders and the media that we cannot afford to ignore the climate any more.
What is happening in Paris will have important ramifications for the Arctic, our oceans and forests. All species and humans the world over will feel the consequences. This is not the first time world leaders have had the opportunity to take firm action for our planet and its people. For many communities all over the world, the consequences of climate change are a daily reality and not some far off nightmare. Our failure to act has already led to lives being lost.
The message hopefully has been received
It is with those people that are already been suffering from the effects of climate change that many of us including Greenpeace marched in the hopes that a solid agreement would be reached. Something extraordinary happened at the end of November; the largest ever climate change march ever took place. As many as 720,000 people participated from 175 countries and it is hoped that world leaders received the message loud and clear. The time for doing nothing has finished, the world is watching and a deal is a necessary.
World leaders will be gathering in Paris this December for COP 21 which is a UN sponsored conference to address climate change. As political leaders begin to negotiate how best to deal with climate change, ordinary people will also be gathering around the world to make their voices are heard on this important issue. You can join Greenpeace on Sunday the 29th November in London for a march to express your views.
Show David Cameron we care
The conference will see leaders from nearly 200 countries come together to hopefully produce a significant agreement to tackle climate change. While not everyone can make it to Paris, demonstrations will be taking place all over the world, including in the UK. Greenpeace will be showing its solidarity with other organisations and individuals across the UK to express to Prime Minister David Cameron that we all want strong action on climate change.
Many organisations joining the march
The idea is to ensure that when Mr. Cameron does sit down to negotiate in Paris he has the image of thousands of people marching through London’s streets for the climate. Greenpeace will be participating in the People’s March for Climate Justice and Jobs in London along with a variety of organisations and is inviting your to come along too.
Save the polar bear
Regardless of whether this is your first demonstration or 100th, this is an opportunity to come together with fellow supporters of Greenpeace and take a stand for strong and effective climate change action. Greenpeace will be taking part in the main event with the ‘March of the Polar Bears’ which will include a carnival filled with puppets music and paw prints. The polar bear is the symbol of climate change and a species we would all love to protect.
This year is important
In 2014 hundreds of thousands of people took part in marches across major cities as part of the People’s Climate March. This year there is added significance because the demonstration takes place on the eve of crucial climate change talks so Greenpeace needs as many people as possible to come together and tell political leaders we care.