Greenpeace in the 2000s

A global treaty to eliminate persistant organic pollutants; the adoption of the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety; campaigns against Star Wars and the Iraq war; Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol; Brazil protects 2 million hectares of the Amazon forest; electronics companies including Apple agree to phase out the most hazardous chemicals; the Great Bear Rainforest is saved from destruction; the High Court rules that the UK government’s decision to back a programme of new nuclear power stations is unlawful; a moratorium on deforestation for new soya plantations; plans to build the Kingsnorth coal power plant are shelved after the acquittal of the Kingsnorth Six.


Greenpeace activist on the stem of a military supply vessel at Marchwood military port in Southampton in 2003 as part of a global campaign to prevent a military attack on Iraq. © Greenpeace / David Sims

2000: World governments finally agreed to sign the first global treaty to eliminate persistent organic pollutants (POPs) – some of the most dangerous chemicals on earth that have been building up in the environment for years and pose a serious threat to human health.

2000: China, the EU, Japan, the US and 24 other countries agreed to ban the import of Atlantic tuna routinely caught by some 300 industrial vessels operating outside international regulations, as a direct result of a Greenpeace Atlantic Ocean Expedition.

2000: The UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted by the extraordinary Conference of the Parties to the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Montreal. This identified the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a significant threat to the environment, human health and biodiversity and aimed to establish minimum rules for international transport and use of GMOs.

2001: An intensive global campaign by Greenpeace resulted in a historic pledge by the government of British Columbia – to preserve large areas of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest.

2001: The Deni Indians of the Brazilian Amazon won formal recognition of rights to their traditional land. And industrial exploitation, such as logging and mining, was prohibited.

2001: Over 100 Greenpeace volunteers invaded the Menwith Hill Spy base in North Yorkshire – to expose its proposed role in President Bush’s ‘Star Wars’ (National Missile Defence) system.

2001: Waste company Onyx UK agreed to close down Sheffield’s Bernard Road incinerator, following a Greenpeace occupation of the plant.

2001: Greenpeace UK and npower launched Juice – a new electricity product from renewable energy sources.

2001: Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and People and Planet joined forces against Esso – the number one global warming villain. Over 3000 volunteers boycotted garages around the UK, in a unique protest on Stop Esso Day.

2001: The Brazilian government banned all uncertified mahogany logging, following a two year investigation by Greenpeace, during which one campaigner received repeated death threats.

2001: Fifteen Greenpeace volunteers and two freelance journalists faced felony charges and up to six years in jail – for a peaceful protest that delayed a test of the Star Wars missile system at Vandenberg Airforce Base, California.

2002: Greenpeace volunteers shut down the SELCHP incinerator in South London for four days, in protest against the discharge of cancer-causing dioxin chemicals.

2002: Campaigners use dogs and sleds to visit isolated Greenlandic communities, collecting testimonies of their opposition to the use of the Thule radar base in the US Star Wars system.

2002: The ‘Star Wars 17’ walk free from court, with varying probationary periods, after pleading guilty to conspiring to trespass on the Vandenberg military base in California.

2002: Greenpeace investigations expose the use of destructively and illegally logged wood in the refurbishment of both the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace and the Cabinet Office in Whitehall.

2002: The ‘Save or Delete’ campaign inspires Britain’s top artists, clubs, comedians, designers and directors to donate their creative talents to save the world’s last remaining ancient forests.

2002: In one of a series of dramatic global actions, climbers board the ship MV Roxane Delmas, to stop wood from Central Africa’s threatened ‘great ape’ rainforest being unloaded at London’s Tilbury Docks.

2002: Thousands of people demonstrate outside Esso garages in the UK’s biggest global warming protest ever. And a MORI poll reveals that consumers are turning their backs on the global warming villain.

2002: The UK government blocks plans to turn North London’s Edmonton incinerator into Europe’s biggest – on environmental grounds – following a campaign by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Londoners Against Incineration.

2002: 100 activists from anti-incineration groups around the country join forces with Greenpeace, stopping the construction of a new incinerator at Basingstoke for three days.

2002: Greenpeace publishes the revolutionary new ‘Zero Waste’ report – showing how Britain could become rubbish-free.

2002: Greenpeace tours East Anglia with a mobile cinema, to launch the new Sea Wind East report, and publicise the massive offshore wind resource in the region.

2002: The Nuclear Free Irish Seas Flotilla of sailboats protests as BNFL’s armed plutonium shipment enters the Irish Sea. And Greenpeace evades pathetic security at the military port of Barrow-in-Furness, inflating a cartoon bomb.

2002: 150 volunteers enter Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk, occupying roof tops around the site in peaceful protest against the UK Government’s secret plan to build more nuclear power stations.

February 7, 2003: McDonalds in Denmark bows to pressure and takes a leadership position in opening its first restaurants that use no climate-killing chemicals for refrigeration. A campaign by Greenpeace cyberactivists three years ago had led to a similar decision by Coca Cola to phase out HFC/HCFCs and adopt Greenpeace’s innovative “Greenfreeze” technology. 

February 15, 2003: 30 million people worldwide create the largest anti-war protest in the history of humankind. 

February 26, 2003: A French court agrees to lift an injunction against Greenpeace for creating a parody version of the Esso logo. In July Greenpeace was ordered to remove the logo from its website. On appeal, the court agreed the depiction on a website branding the oil giant Environmental Enemy Number One was protected speech.

May 2003: Intense lobbying efforts by Greenpeace and Global Witness results in UN Sanctions on Liberia for illegal logging.

November 2003: Thanks to intensive lobbying by cyberactivists around the world, Greenpeace prevails against an attempt by Flag of Convenience States to remove the organisation from the International Maritime Organisation, the UN body charged with regulating shipping worldwide. Greenpeace action against unsafe oil tankers, such as the Prestige, had led to the failed attempt on purported “safety” grounds.

February 4, 2004: Esso loses its court case against Greenpeace in France. As part of our “Don’t buy Esso, Don’t buy Exxon/Mobil” campaign, we developed a parody of Esso’s logo with a double dollar sign: E$$O, which the oil giant (which trades under the name Exxon/Mobil in other parts of the world) attempted to censor. In a victory for freedom of expression on the web and for our campaign against the world’s number one environmental criminal, the French court defended the logo as an exercise in free speech.

February 18, 2004: The Stockholm Convention comes into forcefollowing years of lobbying by Greenpeace and other environmental organisations. A key feature of the Convention calls for the elimination of all Persistent Organic Pollutants. They include intentionally produced chemicals, such as pesticides and PCBs, as well as by-products such as cancer-causing dioxins that are released from industries that use chlorine and from waste incinerators.

April 2, 2004: The UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) designates the Baltic sea as a “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area”, a decision which Greenpeace has advocated for years. The IMO regulates shipping worldwide, and the new designation means tougher restrictions on oil tankers and other dangerous cargo vessels. The move was vehemently opposed by the shipping and oil industries.

May 11, 2004: Thanks to years of pressure from environmental groups, consumers, our cyberactivists and Greenpeace, we celebrate a victory for the environment following the announcement by Monsanto that it will suspend further development or open field trials of its genetically engineered, Roundup Ready wheat. Monsanto states that it was deferring all further efforts to introduce the crop and that it was discontinuing breeding and field-level research of the wheat. This follows a similar announcement in 2003 when the company announced its withdrawal from the development of pharmaceutical crops.

June 1, 2004: Iceland steps back from plans to kill 500 minke, sei, and fin whales over two years, announcing a quota of only 25 minkes for the year. Greenpeace web activists fuelled domestic opposition by gathering 50,000 worldwide signatures to a pledge to visit Iceland if the government would stop whaling. With a potential value of more than US$60 million in tourist spend, against a whaling programme which generated US$3-4 million in profits, the pledge dramatically illustrated that whales are worth more to Iceland alive than dead.

June 10, 2004: Publishers of 34 Canadian magazines pledge to shift away from paper containing tree fibre from Canada’s ancient forests thanks to ongoing pressure from the Markets Initiative coalition, of which Greenpeace Canada has a key role. The coalition has similar commitments from 71 Canadian book publishers including the Canadian publisher of Harry Potter, which printed the Order of the Phoenix on ancient forest friendly paper in June 2003. Greenpeace Canada’s work to protect its forests also encouraged Cascades, as the second largest producer of tissue products in Canada to commit to an ancient forest friendly purchasing policy.

June 17, 2004: Consumer power scores a victory following the announcement from electronics giant Samsung that it plans to phase out hazardous chemicals in its products. Seeing its brand-name products graded red – as containing hazardous chemicals – on the Greenpeace database, prompts the company to do the right thing on dangerous chemicals.

June 22, 2004: Unilever, Coca Cola and McDonalds promise to phase out climate-killing chemicals in their refrigeration equipment. In 1992, Greenpeace launched Greenfreeze with the help of two scientists who pointed out how to avoid HFC’s altogether. We found an old fridge factory, appealed to our supporters to pre-order enough units to finance a refit, helped build the market and Greenfreeze was born. Today there are over 100 million Greenfreeze refrigerators in the world, produced by all the major European, Chinese, Japanese and Indian manufacturers.

July 20, 2004: Queensland Energy Resources announces an end to the Stuart Shale Oil Project in Australia. Greenpeace campaigned against the project, which would have produced oil with four times the greenhouse impact as oil from the ground, since 1998. The project cost millions of dollars in government subsidies which should have been spent on renewable energy.

September 1, 2004: Ford Europe announces a reversal of the decision to scrap its fleet of fuel efficient electric Th!nK City cars, and instead investigate sending them to eager customers in Norway. Pressure applied by Greenpeace and web-based cyberactivists convinced Ford to Th!nk Again. When charged by electricity from renewable sources, these cars help fight the biggest threat to our planet: climate change.

September 30, 2004: Cyberactivists in Japan halt introduction of recycling-unfriendly and unreturnable plastic bottles when beer manufacture Asahi bows to citizen pressure.

October 22, 2004: A decade of lobbying, scientific research, and direct non-violent action by Greenpeace and environmental groups around the world comes to fruition as Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, bringing to force the world’s sole global effort to address the dangers of global warming.

October 29, 2004: Greenpeace efforts to achieve tighter controls on the notorious shipbreaking industry result in an international agreement to treat obsolete ships as waste. Treaty committments by 163 nations can be expected to increase demands for decontamination of ships prior to export to the principle shipbreaking countries of India, Bangladesh, and Turkey. It will also create new demand for the development of ‘green’ ship recycling capacity in developed countries.

October 29, 2004: MQ Publications (MQP) in the UK becomes the first UK publisher to publicly announce its collaboration with the Greenpeace Book Campaign. MQP has committed to phasing out paper that is not ‘ancient forest friendly’. Their next five books, including The Armchair Environmentalist will be printed on 100 per cent recycled paper. They have also publicly challenged all UK publishers to follow suit.

November 4, 2004: Bayer concedes to Greenpeace India that ALL its projects on genetically engineered (GE) crops have been “discontinued” in a letter sent by Aloke V. Pradhan, head of Bayer’s Corporate Communications in India. This announcement follows earlier actions by Greenpeace outside Bayer’s head office in Mumbai.

November 11, 2004: Following years of campaigning in the Amazon by Greenpeace and other environmental organisations, the Brazilian government stands up to the powerful forces of illegal loggers and greedy soya and beef barons by creating two massive protective reserves. The presidential decree protects 2 million hectares of the Amazon forest by creating the Verde Para Sempre and Riozinho do Anfrisio extractive reserves.

March 22, 2005: Photocopy giant Xerox agrees to stop buying timber pulp from StoraEnso, the Finnish national logging company which is cutting down one of Europe’s last remaining ancient forests. Following pressure by Greenpeace cyberactivists, the company agrees a new procurement policy, ensuring that suppliers do not source timber from “old-growth forests, conservation areas or other areas designated for protection”.

April 29, 2005: Sony Ericsson announces that it will be phasing toxic chemicals out of its products. This is the result of the thousands of participants in our online action to pressure electronics companies to come clean. Sony Ericsson joins Samsung, Nokia and Sony as electronics companies that are phasing toxic chemicals out of all their products.

July 5, 2005: Bad Barbies, toxic Teletubbies and rotten rubber ducks could have been slowly poisoning small children. The very chemicals that made these toys so soft and tempting to teething toddlers have been shown to damage organs in animals. But the European Parliament bans manufacturers from using six of these toxic chemicals, freeing Europe from many toxic toys for good.

August 17, 2005:
 Electronics giant LG announces that it is committing to eliminating toxic chemicals from its entire consumer electronics range.

October 4, 2005: Electronics giant Motorola and health and body care companies L’Occitane, Melvitacosm and Alqvimia are the latest companies to drop the most toxic chemicals from their products.

27 October, 2005: The intervention of some home-grown celebrities to finally tips the balance in favour of protecting the forests of northern Argentina after a long fight by Greenpeace and the indigenous Wichi people.

November 24, 2005:
 The city of Buenos Aires announces plans to implement a zero waste policy after a campaign by Greenpeace in Argentina. The plan aims to reduce dramatically the 4,000-5,000 tonnes of waste the city dumps every day. Buenos Aires is the largest city so far to announce a zero waste plan.

November 28, 2005: Swiss voters vote no in a referendum to determine whether genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals can be grown in the alpine nation during the next five years. Their verdict in each and every one of the three main languages was the same, nein, non, no, to GE.

January 13, 2006: Our Argentine Ocean Defenders hit Nissui in their pockets. Nissui owns about one third of Kyodo Senpaku – the people who run the Japanese whaling fleet. Our cyberactivists convinced a major Nissui client in Argentina not to buy from a corporation involved in the killing of whales.

February 7, 2006: Take ten years of difficult, dangerous, and at times, heartbreaking work. Add thousands of activists from around the world – some who sent emails, some who stood on the blockades, some who voted against destruction with their wallets. Some who were beaten, some who were sued, some who were arrested. But eventually common sense prevails and one of the world’s treasures, the Great Bear Rainforest, is saved from destruction.

February 14, 2006: An area twice the size of Belgium is given greater protection in the Amazon after a presidential decree. The decree by President Lula of Brazil to create the 6.4 million hectare (around 16 million acres) conservation area is a great victory for the people of the Amazon battling landgrabbers, cattle ranchers and loggers. The decree calls for around 1.6 million hectares to be permanently protected and totally off limits to logging and deforestation.

February 16, 2006: French President Chirac announces the dramatic recall of the asbestos-laden warship Clemenceau – it turns around and heads back to France. Our actions, emails to Chirac and an embarrassing international scandal left France with little choice but to abandon the misguided attempt to dump its own toxic mess on India.

March 9, 2006: Electronics giant Hewlett Packard commits to a phase out plan for a range of hazardous chemicals in its products.

April 3, 2006: After months of pressure, consumer actions, online activism and more than 100,000 emails from Ocean Defenders everywhere, seafood suppliers Gorton’s, Sealord and parent company Nissui withdraw their active support for Japanese whaling. Whalers announce that the 32 per cent share in whaling operations owned by these commercial corporations will be transferred to a “public interest entity”. The retreat isolates whaling economically and probably scuppers plans to find new markets for whale products.

May 31, 2006: Despite heavy lobbying by the nuclear power industry, Spain confirms that the country’s eight operating plants will be phased out in favour of clean, renewable energy. Spain joins Sweden, Germany, Italy and Belgium as the fifth European country to abandon nuclear power.

June 26, 2006: Dell becomes the latest company to promise to remove the worst toxic chemicals from its products, closely following the move of its rival Hewlett Packard. Both companies have been pressured by us to make their products greener and help tackle the growing mountain of toxic e-waste.

July 25, 2006: McVictory! McDonald’s agrees to stop selling chicken fed on soya grown in newly deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest, then becomes instrumental in getting other food companies and supermarkets, such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Waitrose, to sign up to a zero deforestation policy as well. But it goes even further than that, and pressure from all these companies forces their suppliers, the big multinational soya companies such as Cargill, to agree a two-year moratorium on buying soya from newly deforested areas.

September 27, 2006: Estonia launches an investigation into the toxic tanker Probo Koala following three days of blockade by the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise. It is the first official action against the ship, which poisoned thousands and killed eight in the Ivory Coast when it dumped a cargo of toxic waste that had been refused by the Netherlands. After dumping its deadly cargo, the ship simply sailed to Estonia unhindered until Greenpeace took action.

February 15, 2007: In a major blow to the UK government’s plans to reinvigorate nuclear power, the High Court rules their decision to back a programme of new nuclear power stations was unlawful on the basis that they had failed to adequately consult citizens and groups who oppose nuclear power as a dangerous distraction from real solutions to climate change.

March 7, 2007: The New Zealand government announces cancellation of proposed coal-burning power plant Marsden B. Greenpeace and local activists had mounted a four-year struggle which involved a nine-day occupation, high court challenges, protest marches, a record numbers of public submissions, Surfers Against Sulphur, public meetings, and a pirate radio station. More.

May 2, 2007: Apple announces a phase-out of the most dangerous chemicals in its product line in response to a Webby-award winning online campaign by Greenpeace and Apple fans worldwide. The campaign challenged Apple to become a green leader in addressing the electronic waste problem. More

July 18, 2007: The success of our sustainable seafood campaign means that many UK supermarkets now source most of their cod from Icelandic waters – which are the healthiest when compared to the battered state of other European stocks (in the North, Baltic and Barents seas, for example). More.

September 27, 2007: After being emailed by thousands of their customers eager to see them take a lead on energy efficiency, Woolworths respond by agreeing to  phase out incandescent light bulbs by the end of 2010. They also cut the price of their efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). More

November 16, 2007: Hachette Livre, the largest book publisher in the UK, finally produces an environmental policy which includes some great commitments to making sure the paper they use will be forest-friendly. With imprints such as Hodder & Stoughton, Orion and Little Brown, they publish nearly one-fifth of all books sold in this country, so it’s a very big deal.  

December 6th, 2007: The Irish government announces that, as part of its national Carbon budget, old-style power hungry bulbs will be banned from 2009. Greenpeace congratulates the Ireland on its decision to lead the world in this simple but essential step in tackling climate change.

March 2008: After a campaign in Argentina, the Government announces a ban on energy wasting incandescent light bulbs.

May 2008: Eight Pacific Island nations sign an agreement to stop foreign fishing fleets taking their threatened Pacific tuna. Our ship the Esperanza was in the Pacific for the previous seven weeks, confronting unscrupulous foreign fleets that take 90 per cent of the fish.

May 2008: After just three weeks of actions, a hugely popular spoof advert and 115,000 online signatures, Unilever changes its position to support a moratorium on cutting down trees in Indonesia for palm oil plantations.

June 2008: A moratorium on deforestation for new soya plantations and the use of forced labour – the result of our earlier McDonald’s campaign – was extended for another year.

July 2008: Ferrero (famous for its Nutella brand) becomes the latest large palm oil user to changes its position to support a moratorium on cutting down trees in Indonesia for palm oil plantations.

August 2008: After our campaign in the 1990’s against toxic PVC, the US Congress somewhat belatedly follows Europe’s lead of outlawing toxic PVC in children’s toys.

September 2008: Six Greenpeace UK volunteers are acquitted of criminal damage by a Crown Court jury in a case that centred on the contribution made to climate change by burning coal. The charges arose after the six attempted to shut down the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent in 2007 by scaling the chimney and painting the Prime Minister’s name down the side. The defendants pleaded ‘not guilty’ and relied in court on the defence of ‘lawful excuse’ – claiming they shut the power station in order to defend property of a greater value from the global impact of climate change. The landmark case marks the first victory of the ‘lawful excuse’ defense in a climate change case in Britain.

February 2009: Electronics giant Philips bows to pressure from Greenpeace and consumers and becomes a leader in environmentally friendly take-back policies for electronic waste. An ambitious policy of global take-back exceeds legal requirements in many countries.

February 2009: Following a six-month long Quit Coal campaign by Greenpeace, the Greek Minister of Development states that the government is not considering coal or nuclear power as part of Greece’s energy future. Instead the Greek government will be rewriting its Long-Term Energy Plan to exclude coal and promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

March 2009: The construction of an open-pit coal mine in Poland, where Greenpeace set up a Climate Rescue Station in December 2008, is suspended, stopping around 50 million tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

March 2009: The Great Bear Rainforest protection agreement comes into force in Canada, capping one of Greenpeace’s longest running campaigns by protecting an area half the size of Switzerland from logging. The campaign was won with direct non-violent action on the ground, consumer pressure, stockholder actions, and thousands of online activists worldwide.

April 2009: Germany announces that it will become the sixth EU country to ban the cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) maize MON810 – the only GE crop that can be commercially grown in the region.

August 2009: In a tremendous victory for ancient forests, Kimberly-Clark, the company known for its popular brands like Kleenex, Scott, and Cottonelle announces a policy that places it among the industry leaders in sustainability. The announcement brings the five-year Greenpeace Kleercut campaign to a successful completion.

August 2009: Clarks join Nike, Adidas, Timberland and major cattle companies to help prevent Amazon destruction after Greenpeace’s Slaughtering the Amazon report.

August 2009: After seven years of Greenpeace pressure, Finnish government-owned logging company Metsähallitus agrees to leave the tall trees of the old-growth forests of northern Lapland standing, and with them, the livelihood of the Sámi people.

October 2009: In a significant victory in the fight to save the Amazon, four of the largest cattle companies in the world join forces to ban the purchase of cattle from areas of cleared rainforest in Brazil.

October 2009: Plans to build the Kingsnorth coal power plant are shelved, following a three-year campaign by Greenpeace to stop the first new coal-plant build in 20 years in the UK. A landmark court case in 2008 acquitted six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage on the grounds of “lawful excuse” – ie their actions against were justified to prevent greater damage from climate change.

October 2009: Apple clears the last hurdle to removing toxic PVC plastic in its new Macbook and iMac, capping the “Green my Apple” campaign with a win and making Apple products safer, easier to recycle and causing less pollution at the end of their life.

November 2009:  Household chemical giant Clorox announces a phase out of the use and transport of dangerous chlorine gas in the US, bowing to years of pressure on the industry from Greenpeace.

Greenpeace in the 2010s »