european groups: new laws protect forests and biodiversity
In 2009, for example, Friends of the Earth Norway celebrated its 95th anniversary, as well as the adoption of Norway’s new Nature Diversity Act. Friends of the Earth Norway has been working to strengthen the Norwegian legal system since 1914, and contributed to the development of this new Act, which will help to secure Norway’s natural environment and protect its biodiversity.
Friends of the Earth Switzerland celebrated a similar success in April 2009, after strong lobbying and the collection of 160,000 citizens’ signatures in support of its campaign. The Swiss Parliament responded to calls from environmental organizations for a new law to protect rivers, which favors a closer-to-nature form of river management and the restoration of destroyed riverine habitats, and prevents the highly damaging practices of hydropower plants. Friends of the Earth Switzerland also celebrated an important anniversary: its 100th!
A decision to build a shopping centre in a green recreation zone in one of the biggest industrial cities in Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk, was overturned after four years of campaigning, negotiating and demonstrating by Friends of the Earth Ukraine. The group worked closely with the local community, providing them with legal information that enabled them to defend their rights and freedoms. Local residents were thus able to reverse the local council’s decision, and save this rare urban green-space.
Plastic bags are also a major threat to wildlife. They take hundreds of years to decompose, and when they do they can release toxic particles into soils and water. They are also swallowed whole by marine animals such as turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish. The Spanish government promised to reduce the use of plastic bags by 50%, following a campaign by Friends of the Earth Spain, who worked with local businesses in Galicia, Sevilla, Mallorca and Eivissa to promote reusable cotton bags.
In coalition with CEE Bankwatch Network, FoE Europe also launched a new map of 55 environmentally destructive and economically unsound infrastructure projects, worth a total of €23 billion, in the ten new member states of central and eastern Europe.
Much of Friends of the Earth Europe’s efforts around forests and biodiversity are focused on mining, oil and gas, since these sectors have such devastating impacts both on people and their environment in Europe and elsewhere. Damaging activities include, for example, drilling (on- and offshore), platforms and artificial islands in the Niger River Delta, the Amazon River, Congo's rainforests, the Caspian Sea and the North Sea, and the undersea pipeline from Sakhalin Island to an offshore terminal, which is endangering the world's last 100 or so Western Pacific Grey Whales. Thousands of hectares of Canadian boreal forest are also being cut down to make way for oil sands exploitation in Alberta.