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England, Wales and Nothern Ireland: world’s first climate change act

Friends of the Earth (England Wales & Northern Ireland) secured the introduction of the UK’s 2008 Climate Change act – a world first that commits the UK to legally binding cuts in greenhouse gases – as a result of its Big Ask campaign. Other countries are following the UK’s lead and introducing their own legislation.

EWNI campaign for local councils to cut emissions by 40%Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland campaign for local councils to cut emissions by 40%In 2009, the group delivered seminars with the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its Department of Energy and Climate Change to promote the act across Europe, complementing the campaigns of other Friends of the Earth groups. In 2011, new laws are expected to be agreed in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Ireland.

 

Friends of the Earth also focused on real change at the local level. Councils have a big say in UK climate emissions and the group’s campaign aims to persuade councils to commit to cuts in carbon dioxide emissions of at least 40 per cent by 2020. More than 70 Friends of the Earth local volunteer groups, in alliance with other organisations, have been gathering public support and inspiring councils to act.

 

The campaign is proving extremely successful. In Leeds, for example, it included packed public screenings of the climate change film, ‘The Age of Stupid’, attended by councillors and business leaders. The message hit home and Leeds City Council passed a motion to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020. More than five million people in England are now covered by strong local targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Other influential councils leading the way include Brighton, Bristol, Haringey, Manchester and York.

 

Momentum is building and in 2011 Friends of the Earth has been focusing on the introduction of a nationwide scheme of local carbon budgets, to limit the amount of carbon each council can emit. This will ensure emissions come down steeply in every single local authority area, not just the ones already signed up to targets.

 

“Working with Friends of the Earth is a very natural thing. It’s about grassroots campaigning, ordinary people putting pressure on politicians like me to do the right thing for the environment”

 

Neil Harrison, Local Councillor, Bristol

 

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