photo of bee on pink flower

Brilliant wins in 2017
Highlights of the year

Your support is helping us work for a better environment for future generations: a safer climate, flourishing nature, and healthy air, water and food.

Here are some of the things we've achieved in 2017. Thank you to everyone who’s helped.

And here’s to an even greater impact in 2018.

2017 in numbers

4,000
people used our Clean Air Kits to test air pollution near them.
1
El Salvador became the first country in the world to ban metal mining.
18,000
people called on Homebase to ditch neonicotinoid pesticides – it did.
250,000
people signed petitions against the threat of fracking in Sherwood Forest.
6
years with no fracking in the UK.

Bee-harming pesticides – could this be the end?

Our bees campaign celebrated big wins in 2017. We want a ban on bee-harming pesticides called neonicotinoids – or neonics – and we've seen progress among local authorities, retailers and government.

The year got off to a good start as we celebrated Cornwall council's decision to restrict neonic use in its parks, highways and other public land. Devon, Dorset and Somerset have also committed. Great news for the South West and huge thanks to our local groups and campaigners in their communities.

In May, after campaigning by our colleagues and supporters, B&Q became the first of the UK’s big 10 garden centres to commit to stop using neonics. And in November Homebase became the 10th: days after we'd handed over an 18,000-strong petition, the company said that by the end of 2018 it would stop using bee-harming pesticides on garden plants and in other garden products.

Also this year the UK government rejected the National Farmers’ Union's latest request to lift restrictions on neonics. Thousands of our supporters emailed their MPs to help bring about this win.

And in the biggest victory of all, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced in November that the government now backs tougher restrictions on neonics.

We'll be keeping up the pressure in 2018 to help our precious polinators.

Keeping the UK frack-free

Despite the government pledging to go “all out” for fracking back in 2012, it still hasn't started. Which means there's been no extraction of shale oil or gas in the UK for 6 years in a row.

In January 2017 we delivered more than 250,000 signatures to then-Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom, protesting at the threat by chemicals company INEOS to frack in Sherwood Forest.

We plan to keep up the pressure in 2018, working with communities in the area and our local groups to raise awareness that the UK government is increasingly isolated in pursuing a failing and hugely unpopular industry.

Fracking bans and moratoria have been put in place in Europe and around the world. In July, the Irish president passed a law to ban fracking, after pressure from Friends of the Earth Ireland and others.

In the UK only England is now open to fracking. In October, after more than 6 years of campaigning by Friends of the Earth Scotland and local communities, the Scottish government agreed to ban fracking.

Meanwhile we’ve continued working with communities still threatened by unconventional oil and gas, from North Yorkshire to West Sussex – where Cuadrilla aims to return to Balcombe, despite the locals saying no in 2013.

We’re helping to expose fracking as a dying, unviable industry, compared to the success of renewables – which have gone from providing 9% to almost 30% of UK electricity in just 6 years.

Coal, oil and gas: cutting off investment

We’re part of a growing global alliance persuading people to divest from fossil fuels – in other words, move their investments out of coal, oil and gas.

We want to prevent new coal extraction and stop coal being used to generate our electricity. It’s the dirtiest of fossil fuels. So 21 April 2017 was a landmark for Britain – it was the first day since the 1880s that we hadn't used any coal to produce electricity. The UK now gets more of its electricity from wind power than from coal.

But we're not resting easy. In June we took part in a public enquiry into a proposed opencast coal mine near beautiful Druridge Bay in Northumberland. We’d spent months focusing media attention on the contradiction between this huge new project and the government’s commitment to phasing out coal.

Our pressure, along with thousands of signatures from local communities and others, persuaded the government to call in the Druridge Bay coal project – the first time this has ever been done for climate reasons. A decision on the project is now the government's rather than the local council’s. And we’re hoping for good news around March 2018.

Also this year, Barclays Bank announced it will sell its investment in Third Energy, the company that wants to frack in Ryedale, Yorkshire. Barclays had faced increasing pressure from Friends of the Earth and our partners in the divestment movement.

And we had more reason to celebrate when oil company UKOG withdrew plans to drill 4 oil wells under the South Downs National Park. We’d been campaigning against the plans with local residents. Big environmental concerns included the company’s plans to pump chemicals into the wells, potentially endangering drinking water in the area.

Throughout 2017 more organisations have announced they’re moving away from dirty energy investments. Friends of the Earth local groups have played a big part in keeping up the pressure. The list now includes Hackney council – joining the likes of Waltham Forest, Southwark, Haringey and South Yorkshire – as well as over a third of our universities, the TUC, UNISON, and large parts of the Catholic church. Pressure is even growing within parliament to de-carbonise its own pension investments.

Shedding light on air pollution

In late 2016 we launched one of the biggest-ever nationwide citizen science experiments – and revealed the dirty truth about air pollution.

Since then more than 4,000 of you (including schoolchildren) have tested the air quality all around the UK using our unique Clean Air Kit. Many of the results have been alarming.

By uncovering hidden pollution hotspots you've helped put Britain’s dirty air firmly on the political agenda. Our National Air Pollution Map and groundbreaking report [pdf] show dirty air is a far wider problem than national and local government suggest.

Now our Clean Air Schools Pack, endorsed by the National Union of Teachers, is helping to educate a generation of children on the dangers of air pollution – and what we can do about it.

In the run-up to the June General Election we produced a 6-point plan for tackling air pollution. It led to dramatically improved commitments from two of the main political parties, including a pledge by Labour to end illegal air pollution by 2018 – in line with Friends of the Earth’s position.

We’ve unmasked diesel as a dirty fuel of the past. By the end of 2017, diesel sales were in an unprecedented decline, with 8 consecutive months of reduced year-on-year sales.

And garages are no longer allowed to advertise the practice of removing vital air pollution filters from cars after we launched a complaint.

Legal action: keeping it affordable

This year we stopped the government from making it harder for ordinary citizens, charities and communities to challenge bad environmental decisions in court.

Previously the legal costs in these cases (called judicial reviews) were capped at £5,000 for individuals or £10,000 for an organisation, if they lost the case. The government wanted to loosen those rules. We felt that would deter everyone except the well-off from taking legal action.

With the RSPB and Client Earth we challenged the government in the High Court. And, thanks to our generous supporters funding a highly effective legal team, we won.

Wales

At the start of 2017, after pressure by Friends of the Earth Cymru and others, we welcomed the Welsh government’s commitment to move Wales away from coal and confirm its opposition to fracking. We’re now campaigning to turn this commitment into bans on fracking and opencast coal mining. And after pressure from Friends of the Earth Cymru and others, Wales has introduced renewable energy targets – including for community renewables and local ownership.

In February Conwy Council became the first local authority to gain Bee Friendly accreditation – part of an initiative by Friends of the Earth Cymru and the Welsh government. Others followed suit, including a health authority, schools, universities and community groups. Our local groups are key to these bee-friendly areas - including projects like the bee hotel in Conwy, pictured.

In March, thanks to the legally enforced recycling targets we campaigned for, Wales was named third best recycling country in the world (behind Germany and Taiwan).

We've also taken up the fight against air pollution in Wales. As part of the Healthy Air Cymru coalition, we’ve persuaded the Welsh government to commit to a Clean Air Plan for Wales.

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Northern Ireland

In July we won a crucial legal challenge over sand dredging in Lough Neagh – the UK’s biggest freshwater lake, and one of Europe’s most important wildlife sites. Check out our inspiring video stories of Nature’s Keepers – people standing up for the environment they care about.

In the same month, after years of campaigning, we persuaded the Northern Ireland Secretary to end secrecy around political donations. This means donors to political parties in Northern Ireland will have to be more transparent – as they are in the rest of the UK – so that we can see what potential influence they might have on environmental and other decision-making.

Europe

Spain

Friends of the Earth Spain (Amigos de la Tierra) celebrated this year when multinational Spanish company Ecoener Hidralia dropped its plans for a big hydroelectric project in Guatemala. It followed work with Friends of the Earth Guatemala and support from more than 23,000 Spanish citizens. A great victory against an environmentally damaging project.

Czech Republic

Some 55,000 people got behind the I Want Wilderness campaign run by Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí DUHA). And in April the Czech parliament finalised a new law to properly protect national parks from logging and construction.

Croatia

A huge victory in October: after more than 20 years campaigning against plans for a waste incinerator in Zagreb, Friends of the Earth Croatia (Zelena akcija) celebrated the city’s decision to scrap this damaging project.

France

In March a groundbreaking new law was passed in France requiring multinational companies – and their subsidiaries around the world – to have a duty of care to people and the environment. This is largely thanks to brilliant campaigning over many years by Friends of the Earth France (Les Amis de la Terre) despite huge resistance from corporations.

South Africa & Latin America

South Africa

It's been called South Africa’s first climate change court case. And it was ruled that the government should not have given permission for a new coal-fired power station without properly considering the impacts of its emissions on the climate.

It’s a great victory for everyone who’s been campaigning alongside Friends of the Earth South Africa and local partners GroundWork in their mission to speed up the move away from coal and into renewable energy.

El Salvador

Friends of the Earth El Salvador and other environmental campaigners were celebrating in March as El Salvador became the first country to ban metal mining. This follows a long and, at times dangerous, 10-year struggle. Waste from metal mining is believed to have polluted up to 90% of the country’s surface waters.

Australia & South East Asia

Australia

In March a ban on fracking in the state of Victoria was made permanent – the first Australian state to do this. It followed more than 5 years of pressure from Friends of the Earth Australia and other groups.

Sri Lanka

In July Sri Lanka banned the use, sale and production of disposable plastic items such as carrier bags and polystyrene plates, cups and spoons. As a member of a cabinet-appointed technical committee, Hemantha Withanage, the Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice (Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka) played a key role in this decision.

Indonesia

Friends of the Earth Indonesia and other environmentalists won a major court case against the Indonesian government in March. This was over the forest fires of 2015, which left at least 19 people dead and half a million needing treatment for respiratory problems. The fires are estimated to have caused 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Our campaigners won a public apology from the government. The government was also ordered to develop hospitals in the area, and a policy to prevent future fires.