14 successes for 2015

Phil Byrne

17 December 2015

What. A. Year. From keeping fossil fuels in the ground to protecting precious wildlife and nature sites - look at what we've achieved together in 2015.

Enjoy this round up - you deserve it.

1. Lancashire celebrates fracking decision

Lancashire County Council rejects Cuadrilla's application to frack in Little Plumpton.

There were ecstatic scenes on the streets of Preston in June.

Lancashire councillors rejected 2 fracking applications. Both were hugely unpopular with the local community.

Residents applauded the councillors for putting their interests ahead of an industry that poses risks to health, quality of life and the climate. The fracking company is trying to appeal the decision.

Campaigning to reduce the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels, Friends of the Earth has been supporting communities threatened by fracking. Our experts have been providing legal and campaign advice as well as helping with logistics. And tens of thousands of you have taken action with us. 

Stop fracking in Ryedale

2. Helping bees and other pollinators

Buff-tailed bee, Oxfordshire, UK

From the Scillies to Shetland, you've been supporting The Bee Cause and helping bees thrive.

In May we partnered with Buglife and Waitrose to bring you The Great British Bee Count 2015. You spotted over 100,000 bees. The data is giving experts a greater understanding of bee health in the UK. More than a quarter of our bee species are under threat.

On the back of the National Pollinator Strategy - which we successfully campaigned for in 2014 - our local groups have been holding Bee Summits to transform their cities for the good of both people and pollinators. Together with local communities around the country, we've created at least 185 Bee Worlds this year. These will provide much needed havens for bees and other wildlife to thrive.

I may have differences with Friends for the Earth about elements of the neonicotinoid debate... but I commend its work to raise awareness of the plight of our bees.

George Eustice MP, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Help bees

3. Record-breaking response to defend EU nature laws

Fallow stag, Sevenoaks, UK

During the summer over half a million people told the European Commission not to weaken laws that protect our nature sites and wildlife. It was the biggest ever response to a European consultation.

We joined forces with 100 UK voluntary organisations and European conservation organisations to enable as many people as possible to feed into the consultation.

We've also launched a nature map so you can tag your favourite nature sites with photos and memories. We’ll be sharing your stories with the Commission and UK politicians to remind them why nature really matters.

Add to our nature map

4. South Wales rejects opencast mining

Welsh locals celebrating rejection of opencast mine application

In South Wales there was high drama. An application for a new opencast coal mine near Merthyr Tydfil was unanimously thrown out by the local council. It was a testament to the community’s sustained campaigning, supported by Friends of the Earth. Thousands of our supporters signed a petition backing the local people.

The devastating effects of opencast mining include noise, lung-clogging coal dust and enormous visual impacts. Friends of the Earth Cymru Director, Gareth Clubb, presented the climate change impacts to councillors in advance of their landmark decision. The proposed coal mine would have released 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – more than the combined total of every planning application the council has ever approved.

We’re championing this success to urge the Welsh Government to introduce a moratorium on opencast coal, as they’ve done already on fracking.

5. The return of native beavers

Two beaver kits playing

Hunting once drove them to extinction. Now, thanks to you, beavers have made their home in the English countryside for the first time in hundreds of years.

A surprise colony was spotted in 2014 in Devon. Our campaign, against the Government’s plans to remove them, won widespread support. It was a huge victory for local people, and the public, who wanted the beavers to remain in the wild. Over 10,000 individuals took action on our website. Video footage of the beavers, on our Facebook page, received nearly 50,000 views.

After being tested and declared disease free, the beavers were returned to the wild. News that they’d given birth to kits broke in June. Beavers bring huge benefits to the countryside – boosting biodiversity and keeping the rivers clean.

6. Biofuel bubble bursts

Europe is finally turning its back on using biofuels in transport. In April, the EU committed to cut the crop-based biofuels target by a third.

It was a significant victory after a 6-year campaign during which we carried out joint advocacy work with RSPB and Greenpeace. Together we succeeded in getting the Department of Energy & Climate Change to publish its biomass carbon calculator, which confirmed our findings that burning whole trees for electricity creates more greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal. Significantly, the EU has also committed to ending member state aid for crop-based biofuels after 2020.

7. Observer Ethical Award winner

Anna Watson at Stoneydown Park Primary School

Campaigner Anna Watson won Green Briton of the Year in the Observer Ethical Awards. She was recognised for her groundbreaking work leading our Run on Sun campaign to make it easier for schools to get solar panels.

1,050 schools signed up to the campaign. It also inspired the creation of new community energy groups in Manchester, Liverpool, North Tyneside and Hull. We've reached an amazing 40,000 new people and 34% of schools in Northern Ireland now run on solar power.

8. Saving lives in Liberia

As part of a global network, we work closely with international groups defending human and environmental rights. So when the Ebola epidemic broke, we launched an emergency appeal to help Friends of the Earth Liberia carry out life-saving work in rural communities. Thanks to your donations they were able to reach thousands of vulnerable people – distributing prevention kits and raising awareness about the virus. By April, Liberia was well on the way to being classified Ebola free.

9. Legal action to protect Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland we’ve been fighting to protect bird and wetland habitats.

The unlawful dredging at Lough Neagh, probably the biggest unlawful quarry in Europe, takes place in the middle of a Special Protection Area. It has no planning permission. The Lough has seen a 75% decline in migratory bird populations and water quality is at breaking point. We’re taking the Northern Ireland Government to court for failing to protect the Lough.

10. Wales promises well-being for all

Wales could become a world leader in redefining economic success. In March, the Well-Being of Future Generations Act became law after 3 years of campaigning by Friends of the Earth Cymru and 30 other groups.

The Act puts the wellbeing of people, nature and future generations at the heart of decision making. It ties Wales into the UN's Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all – using its fair share of the world’s natural resources.

11. Helping people eat better

Our Meat Free May challenge inspired 1,000 people and several businesses, including Triodos Bank, to take part in 2015.

Eschewing meat for a month, participants posted tantalising photos of their meat-free meals on Twitter and Instagram. Most said they would eat less meat in the future.

Meat and dairy production causes at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Eat a planet-friendly diet

12. Launch of new book

In November we launched our new book, Why Women Will Save the Planet

The book is a collection of articles from women across the globe. It demonstrates that gender inequality is both a symptom and a cause of an unequal and environmentally damaging existence. We hope it will help to unite the environment, women's and social justice movements in their pursuit of a fair, equal and sustainable society.

Buy the book

13. New campaigners doing great things

Chayley Collis, receiving Campaigner of the Year award

We're extremely proud of the first intake of our accredited Campaign Organisers course. Our class of 2015 have already been doing great things in their communities, from reducing food waste and championing solar panels, to resisting fracking and helping vulnerable people like those struggling to heat their homes.

Chayley from Huddersfield launched one of the first campaigns in the country to persuade a local authority to pull its investments out of fossil fuels. She was named Friends of the Earth 'Campaigner of the Year'.

14. Local groups persuade council rethink on fossil fuels

Friends of the Earth local groups in Bradford, Calderdale and Manchester have built impressive cases to get councils - and pension funds - to pull investments out of the fossil fuel industry. Bradford Council, which controls the massive West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF), voted to review all WYPF fossil fuel holdings within 6 months.

I am delighted the council has taken this step to address climate change and consider divesting. Fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground. We will continue to raise awareness and campaign for full divestment.

Jane Thewlis of the Fossil Free WYPF campaign.

(Jane would like to thank their many supporters for the campaign's success)


Thank you :) We're only able to do all this because of you. Anything you can spare will help us do even more great things in 2016.


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