The Big Ask - in depth

The scale of the climate challenge facing humanity cannot be underestimated. Large areas of our world are already experiencing man-made climate change, including in Europe.

Rich industrialised countries are responsible for the vast majority of climate-changing emissions already in the atmosphere. For this reason we believe they must be the ones to act first and fastest to combat climate change.

Developed countries must live up to their historical, moral and legal responsibility by making urgent and deep emission cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at home. For Europe this means cuts of at least 40 per cent by 2020 (based on 1990 levels), without offsetting. This is the minimum level science and historical responsibility tell us is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

They must also provide adequate and appropriate finances and transfer of clean technology for developing countries to repay their 'climate debt'.

Annual targets

We believe that the best way to achieve these urgently needed cuts in emissions is to set annual reduction targets, by law. Short-term targets make today's politicians accountable and put pressure on them to actually deliver. Often politicians at national level avoid legislation to combat climate change as they are fearful of the impact on their own political popularity or of short-term economic impacts. With annual targets they are committed to deliver within their period in government and cannot blame previous administrations for failures to cut emissions.

Annual targets make it easier to measure progress towards medium and long-term emission reductions. They ensure these cuts start happening rapidly enough. Annual targets also create a positive and stable context allowing long-term planning and investment.

A real, proven solution

The Big Ask campaign was launched in 18 countries across Europe in February 2008.

It was inspired by the United Kingdom, where, following a campaign by Friends of the Earth, the government adopted a Climate Change Law that will cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050. The law is a massive victory for everyone who took part and pressured the UK government to commit to legally binding emissions reductions.

This victory was followed by success for the Big Ask campaign in Scotland. In June 2009 the Scottish parliament adopted a climate change law with targets for 42 per cent emission cuts by 2020 – this is the toughest statutory target in the industrialised world.

People power

The success of the Big Ask campaign proves the difference individuals can make when they put pressure on politicians to act against climate change.

The Big Ask is engaging hundreds of thousands of people across Europe and empowering them to influence the climate policies of national governments and the European Union.