Kyoto Ratified: Global Warming on Notice
In 2004, more than a decade of lobbying, scientific research, and direct non-violent action by Greenpeace and environmental groups around the world came to fruition as Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol, bringing to force the world's sole global effort to address the dangers of global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Protocol was negotiated in 1997 and binds a group of 37 industrialized countries to greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 5 percent by 2012 (compared to 1990 levels). It details how this aggregate reduction will be achieved by setting out legally binding individual targets for each of the countries.
The 1997 negotiation was a big achievement toward addressing global warming, as was the European Union ratifying the agreement in 2002. But it was not until Russia signed on that the Protocol became law. Noticeably absent from the signatories? The United States.
Global warming is the most urgent environmental crisis of our time, and we have the solutions - we just lack political will. Now that we have the Protocol in place, the only question which remains is whether politicians can act faster than the climate can change.
GreenFreeze is the Coolest
Refrigeration and cooling have an often-overlooked but nonetheless major impact on global warming. Nearly one-fifth of the cumulative global warming pollution in our atmosphere is F-gases - chemicals commonly used in refrigeration and cooling units.
Greenpeace first started campaigning against F-gases in 1986, when we started working to protect the ozone layer. We took part in the negotiations to establish the Montreal Protocol in 1987, a global treaty that regulates the use of chlorfluorocarbons (CFCs), which were depleting the ozone layer. In 1992, when HFCs were being promoted as the "environmental alternative" to CFCs, Greenpeace and many independent scientists warned of the high global warming impact of these new chemicals.
So we decided to prove that natural refrigeration and cooling solutions not only existed, but were also potentially viable as commodities. In 1992, we developed the GreenFreeze technology using a natural refrigerant, the hydrocarbon isobutene. It was one of Greenpeace's first direct market interventions. In 1997, Greenpeace collected the UNEP Ozone Award for our efforts.
Not only did we develop the GreenFreeze refrigerator, we prototyped it and solicited some 70,000 orders for them in three weeks, thereby convincing a German firm to manufacture and sell them. The more than 300 million GreenFreeze refrigerators in the world today make up approximately 40 percent of the 80 million refrigerators produced annually. Hydrocarbon technology dominates the domestic refrigeration markets of Europe and is prominent in the markets of Japan and China, but it is conspicuously absent in North American markets due to obsolete regulatory obstacles.
To bring further attention to the issue of HFCs' impact on global warming, Greenpeace challenged the major corporate sponsors of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, to refrain from using HFC-based cooling. This push for natural refrigerant solutions was so successful that in 2004 three of those sponsors -- Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Unilever -- launched the "Refrigerants, Naturally!" global initiative in cooperation with Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The goal of Refrigerants, Naturally! is to phase out the use of HFCs in the participating companies' extensive fleets of point-of-sale cooling equipment such as vending machines, display cabinets, and ice cream freezers.
Then, in 2003, McDonalds in Denmark opened its first restaurants that used no climate-killing chemicals for refrigeration.
Most recently, in 2008, Greenpeace teamed up with Ben & Jerry's, the popular ice cream makers, to bring climate-friendly freezers to the United States.
Greenpeace remains committed to phasing out these dangerous chemicals and is currently working with various businesses around the globe to transform all refrigeration, cooling, and air conditioning units in homes, cars, supermarkets, and vending machines.
No Dirty Energy Down Under
To secure a safe climate and healthy future, we must end our dependence on dirty energy sources like oil and coal. Greenpeace has had major clean energy successes on the other side of the world, with the cancellation of the Stuart Shale Oil Project in Australia and the closure of the Marsden B coal plant in New Zealand.
Stuart Shale Oil Project
In 2004, Queensland Energy Resources (QER) announced an end to the Stuart Shale Oil Project in Australia. Greenpeace had been campaigning to stop the development of shale oil, the most greenhouse intensive of all fossil fuels, since 1998.
The Stuart Shale oil project in Australia has been controversial since its inception over two decades ago. It has cost more than AU$ 360 million, including tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. What's worse, oil from Stuart would have had four times the greenhouse emission impact of oil extracted from the ground.
Marsden B Coal Plant
Not far away in New Zealand, after a four year struggle including a nine day occupation, high court challenges, protest marches, record numbers of public submissions, public meetings, the emergence of NGOs, bumper stickers, a demarcation and a pirate radio station, the government announced the cancellation of a proposed coal-burning power plant in 2007.
The demise of Marsden B is a huge win for the climate and for the thousands of New Zealanders who opposed re-firing the disused monster on coal. Local residents, local Iwi, Greenpeace and many other local and national environmental groups have been fighting the proposed station for over two years.
However, the work is far from over. They must now ensure that no new coal fired power station proposals are even entertained, phase out existing coal as soon as possible and commit to a 100 percent renewable electricity supply.
ExxonMobil Loses its Day in Court
While the rest of the world now accepts the reality of climate change, ExxonMobil continues to fund the think tanks and organizations that are running a campaign denying the urgency from climate scientists and attacking policies to solve global warming.
Greenpeace has been running a "Don't buy ExxonMobil" campaign against the oil giant since 2001 when President George Bush pulled the United States out of the international negotiations to tackle climate change.
As part of the campaign, we developed a parody of Esso's logo (Esso is the name under which ExxonMobil trades in many parts of the world outside North America) with a double dollar sign: E$$O.
ExxonMobil took us to court for copyright infringement. In 2003, we scored a small victory as a French court agreed to lift an injunction against us. A year later, on appeal, we scored a bigger victory when the court agreed our actions were protected speech.
Greenpeace continues to speak out against the number one climate criminal, ExxonMobil. We know that a major shift by ExxonMobil would send strong signals throughout the business world that we must act now to stop global warming.
Ireland Bans Energy Wasting Light Bulbs
In 2007, the Irish government announced what will be in effect the EU's first ban on energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs. Leading up to the announcement, a number of EU countries talked about similar bans, but Ireland was the first to act.
The UK has preferred to leave the question to retailers, seeking voluntary agreements to take wasteful incandescent bulbs off the shelves by 2011. French President Sarkozy, declared his support for a 2010 national ban but concrete proposals have not been published yet. The Dutch Environment Minister Cramer, a former Philips employee, announced initial support for a 2011 incandescent light bulb phase-out, but then reversed her opinion. Cramer now supports the manufacturers' call for a prolonged phase out lasting until 2019.
This is a simple but historic step to help tackle the global climate emergency. Hopefully Ireland's decision will light the way for the EU and the rest of the world.