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You are here: Home / Who we are / focus on groups / focus on friends of the earth england wales and northern ireland

focus on friends of the earth england wales and northern ireland

Meet Friends of the Earth England, Wales and northern ireland
ame: Ali Abbas
Age: 33
Job at Friends of the Earth: Joint-Coordinator, Manchester Friends of the Earth and Lead Climate Campaigner
Job outside Friends of the Earth: Business Analyst for a software company
Qualifications: PhD in Organic Chemistry
Joined Friends of the Earth because: I wanted to do something useful. I liked the interesting, enthusiastic people I met at Friends of the Earth

One of the attractions of Friends of the Earth is that you're using different skills in this work and it's so much more rewarding than just sitting in front of a desk. As joint coordinator of the Manchester Group, I spend one day a week doing volunteer work here, in addition to four days a week as a business analyst for a software company. When you add in all the evenings and weekends, though, it actually works out as far more than that. I once calculated that I do effectively four days a week at work and five days a week at Friends of the Earth - in other words, a nine day week!

Right now, it's my job to help organise meetings, keep contacts going with other groups and support volunteers. Much of the coordination role is management, which is slightly ironic as I was a manager in a previous job elsewhere and ended up opting for a non-managerial position!

Ali (right) at the Manchester launch the Real Food Guide

In many ways, it's more difficult than normal management because you don't have the same amount of time to get to know people and you are all working together on a voluntary basis. You have to scale back your expectations. The distances and communication issues can make it hard to keep the momentum going sometimes. But it's also much more rewarding than most other work. You're supporting people in doing something they enjoy and which is useful, rather than just helping a company and its shareholders to make money.

Can I count on your vote?

My other role at Manchester Friends of the Earth is Lead Climate Campaigner, working to promote Friends of the Earth's Climate Change Campaign, the BIG ASK . The idea is to canvass as much political and public support as possible to push for new legislation to be introduced in the UK requiring annual cuts in greenhouse gases. An Early Day Motion (a form of parliamentary poll) was introduced in the House of Commons (the seat of Government in the UK) last summer by three Members of Parliament. We were aiming for 250 signatures by the autumn and already have over 350 MPs who have pledged their support - more than half of all MPs. We're hoping to get a legally-binding Bill through Parliament this autumn, either as a Private Member's Bill (where an individual MP proposes the new legislation) or, preferably, as a Government-supported Bill in the Queen's Speech at the opening of Parliament.

We're actively lobbying around 30 MPs in the Greater Manchester area, as well as ensuring we have a strong presence at local events, running stalls with postcards for people to sign and send off as part of the campaign. It's important to really get out there and talk to people.

the big ask

The UK Government has set a target to cut CO2 emissions by at least 60% by 2050 based on 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and by 20% by 2010.

Friends of the Earth wants a legally-binding annual target of at least 3% each year, with penalties for non-compliance. If targets are missed by a large margin, the Prime Minister and responsible Ministers would also have their pay docked.

Friends of the Earth is also suggesting that the issue is centralised within one area of Government and that an annual carbon budget is introduced, as part of a formal environmental reporting process.

My goal is to visit all our local MPs in person in order to secure their support. I get a mixture of responses, but most of them have been positive.

the highs...
"You realise that you can influence decision-makers and really help to make a difference"
and the lows...
"You have to scale back your expectations of time scales and what people can do. Things can take four or five times longer to be achieved than they would in an office job"

Influencing the decision-makers

Before 2005, I'd never done any kind of lobbying work before. My first visit was to my own local MP. It gives you a fascinating insight because you get to see that MPs are 'real people' and that we know a lot more about environmental issues than they do. We're helping them to find out more about the issues and they, as our elected representatives, have a duty to listen. You realise that you can make a real difference by influencing them and their vote in Parliament. That's very uplifting. I even had the chance to lobby Prime Minister Tony Blair in person at the annual Labour Party Conference.

Politicians in power are often afraid of being pinned down and held to account. They're thinking about the next election, when they should be thinking long term. Climate change is a mainstream issue - people know and care about it - but some radical measures need to be taken. We're now on the final push to persuade decision-makers that introducing these changes are in the best interests of themselves as politicians and their constituents across the UK, as well as the long-term future of the planet.

Support the work of Friends of the Earth England Wales & Northern Ireland by making a donation or joining a group near you
Get involved with the work of Manchester Friends of the Earth



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