The Big Ask - questions & answers

Why is the campaign called the Big Ask?

The Big Ask is about people across Europe challenging whether their governments are doing enough to tackle climate change. The campaign's 'big ask' – or its demand - is that European governments commit to binding annual targets for reducing emissions.

What was the inspiration for the idea of a Europe-wide Big Ask campaign?

Friends of the Earth in the UK was the first to run Big Ask campaign. Through its Big Ask, almost 200,000 people contacted their member of parliament to demand a climate change law. This resulted in the groundbreaking climate change law - the first of its kind in the world - which will bind the current and future governments to reduce emissions on a year-on-year basis (averaged over five years).

Thom Yorke, the lead singer Radiohead, has been an advocate of the Big Ask campaign in the UK since its launch and supported the Europe-wide campaign as well.

What is the Big Ask campaign demanding at the European level?

Our Big Ask is that EU member states make legally binding commitments to cut emissions year-on-year. These cuts should be equal to at least 40% reduction of EU-wide domestic emissions by 2020 and 100% by 2050.

What is the Big Ask campaign demanding at the national level?

Across Europe, Friends of the Earth is demanding that national governments commit to legally binding annual cuts in greenhouse gas emissions which help to achieve a European target of at least 40% cuts within Europe.

In Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Slovenia and Spain Friends of the Earth groups are demanding a climate change law to enforce these annual emissions cuts. However, as the national political systems and contexts are different across Europe, not all groups are taking exactly the same approach. The grassroots structure of the Friends of the Earth network allows the campaign to be shaped to specific national circumstances.

Why is the Big Ask campaign calling for annual targets?

Short-term targets make today's politicians accountable for fulfilling these targets 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 short-term political popularity or of short-term economic impacts. With annual targets they are committed to delivering within their period in government and cannot blame previous administrations for failures in reaching targets.

What activities are taking place all over Europe?

The Big Ask focuses on individuals taking politically targeted action against climate change. People are urging politicians to act across Europe – at the levels of both national government and the European Union. The campaign is different in every country, but people can take action by visiting their local elected representatives, signing postcards and petitions, and organising local actions. Friends of the Earth groups have organised concerts, exhibitions, and other events, and have worked with national celebrities to inform people about, and engage people in, the campaign.

Who is taking part in the Big Ask campaign?

Eighteen Friends of the Earth groups have so far joined the campaign or have supported its demands: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, EWNI (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, The Netherlands.