Activist News

Green Great Britain Week – how green was it really?

Greenpeace UK - Fri, 2018-10-19 16:06
Hot off the heels of the biggest climate change announcement from the UN in years that we have 12 years to reduce global carbon emissions by 45% – the government launched Green Great Britain Week. A week to “showcase ten years since UK’s world leading Climate Change Act” and “the latest UK innovations in low carbon technologies”. But, and this is crucial – the UK government hasn’t exactly been living up to its own hype. In fact, far from it.

We’ve seen some important announcements towards tackling climate change: the government has just asked the Committee on Climate Change for advice on reducing our carbon emissions, launched a £320 million scheme to help decarbonise heating in our homes and buildings, and Green Great Britain week has helped spark debate about things like onshore wind.

But at closer look at the government’s climate record, things aren’t looking quite so rosy. In the past three months alone we’ve seen a series of decisions with serious climate-destroying consequences. The government:

  • progressed plans for a third runway at Heathrow – something our national carbon budget simply can’t afford if we’re going to meet our climate targets
  • disincentivised people from buying solar panels in the latest attack on the solar industry. You can read more and sign the petition
  • railroaded communities and introduced new fossil fuels (as if the old ones weren’t bad enough) – fracking has just begun in Lancashire.

These aren’t the only actions that seem at odds with the government’s “green” pronouncements. Over the last few years, the government has effectively banned onshore wind despite strong public support, scrapped a plan for tighter energy efficiency standards of homes and talked about ending the support grant for new electric vehicles. Is this the behaviour of a government with a “world leading” attitude to climate change?

Whose fault is it anyway?

Green GB Week is doing a great job of pushing the responsibility for our environment onto individuals, asking people to consider what role they can play in saving the climate.

Undoubtedly we can all do more to decrease our carbon footprint and look after our environment. But the truth is, turning off light switches, flying less, and eating less meat alone – while really important steps – aren’t going to be enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The things that will really save our planet are actions and leadership from governments and big businesses.

Scared by that new report on climate change? Here’s what you can do to help:

• Seize the state

• Bring the fossil fuel industry under public ownership, rapidly scale down production

• Fund a massive jobs program to decarbonize every sector of the economy https://t.co/ZZ7lmunfVW

— Kate Scare-onoff (@KateAronoff) October 9, 2018

For instance, just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global carbon emissions. They are mostly made up of oil, gas and coal companies. And it’s governments that have the power to decide whether we get our energy from fossil fuels and nuclear or support clean, renewable green alternatives.

So how green was Green GB Week? Good on rhetoric; less good on action. While we’re all for an official week to promote green solutions, we expect stronger leadership from government to make the most of this. What we need from our government is real action including support for renewables, smart decisions about our homes, airports and transport, and defiance against the monied fossil fuel industries that are destroying our planet.

The post Green Great Britain Week – how green was it really? appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Hands off the Antarctic!

Greenpeace UK - Wed, 2018-10-17 09:40

Last night, Thom Yorke’s new song, written exclusively for Greenpeace’s campaign to Protect the Antarctic, boomed around central London, accompanying stunning projection that brought the Antarctic Ocean to Marble Arch.

This visual feast of penguins, whales and seals lit up this London landmark – and travelled all around the world, as Radiohead shared our live feed and the Antarctic-themed music video to their 11 million Facebook followers!

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This is an exciting display of the creativity and global reach movement of over 2 million people who are calling on governments to protect the Antarctic by creating an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary this month.

Next week, the Antarctic Ocean Commission will meet to discuss protection for the Antarctic Ocean. These 25 governments have an opportunity to create the largest protected area in the world: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. At 1.8 million square kilometres, it would be five times the size of Germany, or 200 times the size of Yellowstone National Park.

This sanctuary in the Weddell Sea would create a safe haven for marine wildlife like penguins and whales to recover from the pressures of climate change, pollution and industrial fishing. Creating a network of ocean sanctuaries around the world is also essential to help us all avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

To make this happen, we need 25 governments to agree – so we need to make the 2 million voices calling and mobilising for Antarctic protection visible to world leaders before they make this historic decision.

Greenpeace activists project an Antarctic-themed animation and stream music at Marble Arch in central London.

Bringing the Antarctic Ocean to London’s Marble Arch, and Radiohead’s millions-strong audience, marks an incredible year of campaigning. In the UK alone, Greenpeace supporters took to the streets in their thousands (along with thousands to of penguin masks!) to make news across the nation.

Together we called on Boots and Holland & Barrett to ditch krill oil fished from sensitive Antarctic waters. Not only did UK stores stop sourcing krill from areas that need protection, but the vast majority of the krill fishing industry agreed to support ocean sanctuaries and stop fishing in sensitive waters being proposed for protection.

After over 350,000 people signed our petition to the UK Government, we contacted almost every MP in the country to make sure they spoke out about protecting the Antarctic. Actor Gillian Anderson handed our petition in directly to the UK government, keeping the media spotlight on the government. British ministers, who weren’t being vocal about the Antarctic, are now strongly supporting our call for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary – and have committed to lead global effort to create sanctuaries that protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, in line with science.

As a global movement, Greenpeace undertook a groundbreaking three-month research expedition to the Antarctic at the start of this year. We revealed the presence of plastic pollution and hazardous chemicals in Antarctic waters and snow, and took Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem down to the Antarctic seafloor in a research submarine. By working with scientists, we discovered new vulnerable marine ecosystems on the Antarctic seafloor which will now receive local protection.

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has released a solo track in support of Greenpeace’s campaign for a vast Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. The haunting song, entitled Hands Off The Antarctic, is set to stark black-and-white footage of Antarctic landscapes and wildlife, gathered during a three-month Greenpeace research expedition earlier his year.

This breathtaking world of drifting icebergs, majestic whales and adorable penguins may feel like a world apart – but what happens in the Antarctic affects us all. Over the past year, over 2 million people worldwide have already joined the movement for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. Greenpeace volunteers and activists have brought the wonder of the Antarctic much closer to home – from Germany to Chile, Japan to Russia. This is where we have been building the political will to protect the Antarctic. Now it’s time to make it happen.

The post Hands off the Antarctic! appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

What does climate change mean for the Antarctic

Greenpeace UK - Mon, 2018-10-08 09:11

When we asked people what the Antarctic makes them think of, ‘climate change’ was one of the most common answers around the world.

If you Google news about the Antarctic it’s easy to see why – terrifying headlines warn about icebergs the size of Luxembourg breaking off, accompanied by slow-mo videos of ice crashing down into the ocean. But there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

To truly understand what climate change means for the Antarctic, we have to look at the Antarctic’s tallest glaciers and its deepest waters.

The Antarctic is also an important barometer for how climate change is impacting our planet. Scientists can read Antarctic ice cores like a record going back for hundreds of thousands of years, comparing levels of carbon dioxide in atmosphere from the past 800,000 years with today’s measurements. This sends us the important warning that carbon dioxide levels are higher now than they’ve ever been.

As a result, parts of the Antarctic are warming three times as fast as other parts of our planet. Scientists recently recorded its warmest day ever – a distinctly not-freezing 17.5°C.

False Bay glaciers, Livingston Island, Antarctica.

Changing ocean temperatures are also important, because they warm the massive Antarctic glaciers from below, making them less stable. Glaciers form on the Antarctic landmass as snowfall compresses into ice over time, and they flow under their own weight towards the ocean – like a very slow river. But as these glaciers feel the heat of a warmer ocean underneath them, they speed up their slow march to the coast, causing big chunks of ice to break off into the sea as icebergs at a faster speed.

The melting and break down of glaciers into the ocean raises sea levels all around the world. Antarctic glaciers are now losing ice faster than snow is falling to add new ice. The rate at which Antarctic ice sheets melt under increasing temperatures will affect coastal communities globally, whether living in small island states or mega-cities.

Warmer seas also impact the iconic wildlife living in the Antarctic. Scientists have warned that a warmer Antarctic could also attract new species of animals and plants, creating competition for Antarctic life that is specially adapted to icy temperatures. They are also investigating whether warmer temperatures are increasing the risk of disease for the Antarctic’s most plentiful starfish.

Closer to the surface, the amount of seawater that freezes as sea ice around Antarctica during winter – and how long it stays frozen – affects many Antarctic animals. Sea ice normally covers an area twice the size of the United States by October each year, but new lows were recorded last year.

Penguins take shelter on an iceberg, close to Trinity Island, in the Antarctic.

Emperor penguins that depend on sea ice for breeding could lose key areas of their home, while less sea ice could have massive implications for populations of krill, which particularly as youngsters cluster around sea ice for food and shelter. If we don’t take action to reduce warming, the biggest reductions in sea ice are unfortunately forecast for areas where most krill currently gather.

Scientists have also warned that tiny krill face challenges growing and reproducing in waters that are becoming more acidic from absorbing carbon. Carbon dissolves more easily in cold waters compared to warmer seas, so life in the polar regions is hit particularly hard by the ocean absorbing pollution caused by burning fossil fuels on land. Practically all Antarctic wildlife, from whales to penguins to seals, rely on krill as their main food source, so threats to krill will have knock-on effects throughout the Antarctic environment.

But the Antarctic – and the ocean worldwide – isn’t simply a victim of climate change. If we protect the ocean with a huge network of sanctuaries we will help sea life thrive. And thriving sea life can help slow climate change, benefitting us all.

How does this work?

Creating ocean sanctuaries provide a haven for marine life, safe from industrial activity. They not only give space for these creatures to recover from pressures facing our seas and build resilience to the impacts of a changing climate – but they allow this wildlife to keep storing carbon, helping all of us.

Carbon is absorbed and stored by marine plants and animals. Tiny plants at the surface of the sea absorb carbon for energy, which enters and travels up the ocean food chain. As that happens, scientists have suggested that krill poo, more glamorously known as carbon-rich fecal matter, moves carbon into deep waters where it remains over long periods – storing the same amount of carbon as all UK households combined emit each year.

We also find carbon in the bodies of much bigger ocean creatures like whales. In life, whale poo helps nourish those carbon-absorbing tiny plants near the sea surface, and in death, the carbon in whales’ bodies is buried along with them on the seabed. This can store carbon for thousands of years.

Humpback whale in Paradise Bay, Palmer Archipelago on the Antarctic Peninsula.

So we have a choice: a healthy Antarctic ecosystem can help us avoid the worst effects of climate change, but letting threats damage this icy wilderness would make climate change worse.

All this reinforces that we need to act now. Tackling the causes of climate change and protecting the ocean must go hand in hand. We need to transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, and we need to protect our oceans with vast ocean sanctuaries.

Scientists recently warned that decisions taken in the next decade will affect the future of the Antarctic – and, therefore, the whole planet. So we better make those decisions the right decisions. Call on governments to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary this October, giving wildlife the space to build resilience to a changing ocean and help us all avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The post What does climate change mean for the Antarctic appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News
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