In a new twist in the ongoing anti-diesel saga, Greenpeace activists have shown how much they oppose diesel vehicles by storming a 23,000-tonne ship that was crossing the sea towards the UK to make a delivery of Volkswagen diesel cars. Their actions raise the question of how many more anti-diesel protests we might see, given the continuing negative publicity.

Anti-diesel activism

Travelling to the ship using boats and kayaks, the 25 activists attempted to climb the ship. Greenpeace has stated that it will not stop until Volkswagen commits to stop sending toxic cars to the UK and to stop using diesel for good.

Once on board, the volunteer activists attached themselves to the retractable loading ramps at the stern of the ship. They may have chosen September to strike due to the number of new cars being delivered with the latest registration plate.

Nor was it just the Volkswagen cargo ship that was in the activists’ sights. 41 volunteers also scaled fences at the Sheerness port in Kent, which is where the ship was heading. These individuals tried to confiscate the keys of thousands of diesel cars which were being held at the port.

They displayed banners at the port and at a nearby pier, highlighting the devastating impact that diesel vehicles have on the environment. The group hoped to highlight the environmental damage associated with diesel cars and with Volkswagen in particular.

Volkswagen has been at the top of many environmentalists’ hit list since the emissions scandal broke in 2015. The company was caught fitting software to its diesel vehicles, which manipulated emissions tests. Doing so meant that the firm was sending a multitude of toxic vehicles out into the market – with profits clearly being made at the expense of the environment.

In total, Volkswagen’s manipulation affected 11 million vehicles. 1.2 million of these were sold in the UK.

Volkswagen’s response

Following the incident, Volkswagen has revealed that there were actually more petrol than diesel cars on board the ship at the time of the protest. There were also 37 plug-in hybrids on board, which are definitely a more eco-friendly choice. In addition to this, Volkswagen stated that all of the diesel vehicles on board met with the strict Euro-6 standards that have been put in place.

It is unknown whether the actions of the Greenpeace activists has had an effect on getting deliveries to customers on time.

In another activism incident, Greenpeace also placed itself outside of the industry-leading Frankfurt Motor Show. The organisation’s installation included a Volkswagen Touareg, making another clear statement about its feelings towards this particular car manufacturer.

Protests on our streets?

It is easy to see why environmental activists would be unhappy with Volkswagen, and the use of diesel cars in general. Air pollution is now one of the most significant challenges facing London and many other large UK cities. Diesel vehicle fumes contain nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter that have adverse effects on human health. As such, getting these vehicles off the road would be a big step towards improving air quality.

However, it wasn’t long ago that people were being encouraged to buy diesel cars, as they produce less CO2 than petrol vehicles. It is only because the toxins being produced at a local level have been judged to be far worse that recommendations have now switched to suggesting people purchase alternatives to diesels.

If protests like this continue to grow and gain coverage in the media, the views from the public about diesel cars will surely become stronger too. Scrappage schemes and toxicity charges are highlighting how harmful diesel cars are. With activism incidents added into the mix, how long will it be before we see protests at the fuel pumps? Or on the forecourts of car dealerships? Only time will tell.


Would you take to the streets to protest against the damage that diesel vehicles are doing to our environment? Or are the government and car manufacturers already doing enough to address the issue? Let us know your views by leaving a comment below.  

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