2017: Looking back

2017 has been a tough year. We’ve witnessed increased anti-immigration sentiment, a shift toward populism, the rise of far right movements and burgeoning inequality.

But we also saw people standing up in solidarity with others for justice and peace. There was extreme weather that we’ve never seen before: wildfires ravaged southern Europe, hurricanes battered the Americas, and droughts spread around the world.

Civil society groups and non governmental organisations saw the biggest crackdown on human rights and civil liberties in a generation.

Despite the grim realities on the ground and in cyberspace, Greenpeace staff and supporters continued to find moments to speak truth to power.

We continued to fight for a future that is fair, sustainable and benefits everyone, not just a few.

We look to the new year with humility but confidence, resilience and hope.

These victories are made possible with the help of our supporters, volunteers, staff and communities around the globe. Our wins demonstrate the power of collaboration. They show that we are stronger together and together we can continue to grow the movement for a just, peaceful and sustainable future. 

Here is what we all achieved in 2017:


On Trump’s fifth day in office, Greenpeace US deployed a 70ft banner on a construction crane near the White House that read “RESIST” calling for those who want to resist Trump’s attacks on environmental, social, economic and educational justice to contribute to a better America. This one act received great media coverage and created momentum in the RESIST movement.


The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced it would cancel two illegal logging licenses following an investigation by Greenpeace Africa. The forest team probe exposed two logging licences that were given illegally to influential persons. They did this despite a direct threat to their lives.


Greenpeace Southeast Asia revealed HSBC – one of the biggest banks in the world – was funding destructive palm oil companies. We put pressure on HSBC to stop funding deforestation and contributing to human rights violations in Indonesia for palm oil. In March HSBC published a new “no deforestation” policy in a first step toward sustainable palm oil finance and saving the world’s tropical rainforests. HSBC revised its Agricultural Commodities Policy to include “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation” (NDPE) commitments in its financing of palm oil firms.

In Poland, after a more than 2-year campaign run by GP Poland/Central and Eastern Europe and the local community, the regional environmental authority RDOS issued a formal decision to not grant the environmental permit for the Ościsłowo open cast lignite mine (central Poland) planned by the lignite utility PAK. GP Poland was a formal party to the procedure and provided legal coordination, commissioned and coordinated expert input and ran the grassroots, media and political campaign. Though they won the fight, they expect an appeal.


With more than 170 peaceful protests, marches and festivals in more than 60 countries around the world, the growing movement to Break Free from fossil fuels showed it was tireless, unified and unstoppable. The demonstrations took place over three weeks, with more than 200 civil society groups, communities and more than 61,000 people calling for an end to fossil fuels. They called to limit global warming to 1.5°C and they demanded an immediate and just transition to renewable energy.

Greenpeace East Asia launched a campaign to extend the microplastic ban to all cosmetics and personal care products. 759 stores announced an immediate ban on all products containing microplastic.


In the Philippines, the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) took on the scaling up work of the climate resiliency project which was piloted by Greenpeace Philippines. In partnership with R1, the DA will pilot the implementation in 300 proposed municipalities. This work forms part of the DA’s proposed 2018 national budget allocation estimated at Php 450 million (US $ 9 million).


Thanks to the efforts of Greenpeace Switzerland, the cultivation of genetically modified crops (other than for research at secure site) is forbidden in Switzerland until the end of 2021. Working in coalition with beekeepers and the farmers union, we helped make Swiss agriculture a little safer.

South Korean announced a major shift towards renewables by phasing out nuclear and coal. In an ambitious speech, Moon promised to scrap existing plans for new nuclear plants and will not extend the life of old reactors; and promised to shut down 10 old coal power plants and cancel new coal projects.

In response to public pressure from the Rethink IT campaign, Samsung committed in February to refurbish its Note 7 instead of dumping 4.3 million phones with battery faults, and after the Make IT Last push in June, announced that it will start selling 400,000 of them


UNESCO adopted a decision on Białowieża Forest which showed the actions of the Polish Environment Minister threatened the forest’s World Heritage status. UNESCO urged Poland to stop logging in the Białowieża Forest. The decision is based on a report by independent UNESCO experts who visited Białowieża Forest last year. It happened despite pressure from the Polish Ministry of Environment and State Forest Holding, who tried to convince delegates to change their decision. This is a victory for Poland, the Białowieża Forest and the international community. The European Commission announced it will take Poland to the European Court of Justice over the illegal logging of the Bialowieza Forest.

Following a global Greenpeace Campaign, the Thai Union Group PCL (the largest canned tuna company in the world) committed to measures that will tackle illegal fishing and overfishing and improve the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the company’s supply chains. The move is progress for oceans and marine life and for the rights of people working in the seafood industry.  

Greenpeace Africa successfully crowdfunded with 249 backers to install solar street lights in an off-grid urban community in Johannesburg.

Greenpeace UK working with our allies helped to successfully lobby the UK government to enact a ban on microbeads sold in rinse-off cosmetics in the UK.  

In the Clyde River Case the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Inuit hamlet of Clyde River in a landmark ruling that will have far-reaching and lasting impacts across Canada in terms of Indigenous rights and resource extraction projects, including Arctic oil exploration, tar sands and pipelines.

Greenpeace Russia, Greenpeace Nordic and Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe successfully stopped the loading and testing of two nuclear reactors on board the floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) Akademik Lomonosov in the center of St Petersburg in Russia. A petition and targeted lobbying in Russia, as well as alerting countries around the Baltic Sea delivered a decision by Rosatom to tow the barge unloaded from St Petersburg to Murmansk for loading and testing.


After nearly five years of tireless campaigning by Greenpeace Spain, the Santa Maria Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) was closed. The next steps will lead to dismantling the nuclear power plant which marks the beginning of the end for nuclear power in Spain.

In the wake of the so-called Monsanto Papers and huge media attention, Belgium will ban the sale of herbicides containing glyphosate and some other possible harmful pesticides. Though for private use only, it’s an important first step. Greenpeace Belgium has campaigned to remove Roundup and others from stores for two years. 

In March Greenpeace Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and the United Kingdom unveiled resistance art in the heart of the Belgian operation of Total, in the port of Antwerp. The peaceful protest called for a halt to Total’s plans to drill for oil in the mouth of the Amazon.


Greenpeace East Asia: Under strong pressure from its customers and civil society, Malaysian palm oil company FELDA Global Ventures (FGV) promised to restore over 1,000 hectares of the peat forest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. This is the first time that a palm oil company has been forced to restore rainforest and peatland to remain a supplier to the global market.


The $300m RICO lawsuit by logging giant, Resolute, which called Greenpeace and Stand.earth a “criminal enterprise”, was dismissed. Lawsuits like this are designed to stop civil society from campaigning by draining their time and resources into the case. This dismissal was a victory for those who dare to speak out against corporate abuse. Supporters including more than 200 authors spoke out for free speech, showing that our voices are vital.

Following a two-year campaign against the EU re-approval of glyphosate Greenpeace Austria achieved a massive win. On 3 October the Austrian Parliament passed a motion that firmly states that Austria will vote against any re-approval of glyphosate on EU-level. This is binding for any future government.

In October, Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace US launched a worldwide campaign demanding that Coca-Cola stop choking our oceans, rivers and communities with throw-away plastic bottles. More than 500,000 people have already signed a petition asking Coke CEO James Quincey to dramatically reduce Coke’s global plastic footprint and take responsibility for the end life of its products. The campaign is already reducing the social license of the worst single-use plastics and shifting mindsets from “disposable is normal” to “durable and reusable is normal”, and from “this is an individual’s littering problem” to “corporates are responsible and need to take action”.


Ten Greenpeace volunteers who took part in a peaceful protest outside Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Lancashire, England, in May and were arrested for Obstruction of the Highway. They were found not guilty. The judge concluded that because there was minimal disruption to the public, because the location of the protest was relevant, because our defendants were of excellent character, because they were polite and calm, and because they had a history of campaigning on this issue and clearly had deeply held beliefs, that they had established a “lawful excuse” for their actions. This is a great result for the anti-fracking community in the UK.      

Greenpeace exists because of people power. The Give the Congo Basin Forest a Chance Ship Tour was a great example of people working together to keep the Congo Basin Forest intact.

The Congo Basin Forest is the second largest rainforest in the world. The Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, began its four week journey in Douala, Cameroon and traveled to Boma and Matadi, Democratic Republic of Congo. The team worked with scientists who shared their findings on petlands which store 30 billion tonnes of carbon the equivalent to three years of global carbon emissions. During the journey, hundreds came to welcome the ship and join the call for forest protection. Thousands of people shared a wish for the Congo Basin Forest, petitioning global leaders to end forest destruction and keep it intact. Their wishes went to delegates at United Nations Climate Change Convention Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany.                               

The Norwegian government is being sued over a decision to open up areas of the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration, a move that endangers the lives of existing and future generations. The People vs Arctic Oilis a court case where Nature & Youth and Greenpeace Nordic took the Norwegian government to court for opening up new areas in the Arctic to oil and gas drilling. They argue the drilling violates the Norwegian constitution and contravens the Paris Agreement. Winning the case could set a precedent for future climate cases around the world. A verdict is expected in January 2018.


An international agreement to protect the Central Arctic Ocean against all commercial fishing was reached. The US, Canada, Norway, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China and the European Union all signed a 16 year moratorium on commercial fishing in international waters covering an area of 2.8 million square kilometers or roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea.

The University of Ghent decided to fully divest from fossil fuels. Though its investments of €230m does not come close to those of big universities, by excluding the entire fossil fuel industry (as well as the arms, gambling, fur, tobacco and porn industries) from its investments it sets a new standard for divestment. This victory is the result of a local students campaign including GP volunteers and supported by our divestment campaigner. 

After a lot of work with the Indigenous “Kawésqar” community in the south of Chile, the President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of new Marine Protected Area in Magallanes region. This is a huge step to stop the development of big threats like the intensive salmon farming (300 new concessions proposed here) but also mining and any other polluting project.

In Chile, the Hidroaysén dams project by ENEL and COLBUN in Patagonia Chile is finally over. Both companies have communicated that they (a) liquidate and terminate their joint venture and (b) renounce water rights, that is to say in practical terms, on the right they return the rivers to the public domain. This is the long-awaited formal cancellation of the project and return of the water rights to the people of Chile, the formal victory of one of the biggest and most-iconic environmental campaigns in the history of Chile.

To fight overconsumption and wasteful shopping during the holiday season, thousands of makers around the world joined Greenpeace and its partners Fashion Revolution and Shareable for the MAKE SMTHNG week of action. MAKE SMTHNG Week lasted from Dec 2-10 and saw more than 175 events in 32 countries on 6 continents, with an estimate of over 10,000 people attending workshops and talks on repairing, sharing, zero waste, veganism, upcycling and DIY techniques that breathe new life into already owned products.

(Adapated from the Year end letter to the Greenpeace International Board of Directors.) 

Leola Abraham is communications manager for the Executive Directors at Greenpeace International 

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