History of The Big Ask

Here in a nutshell is a history of Friends of the Earth's Climate Change Law campaign (The Big Ask).

It's been a long journey - and we couldn't have done it without you.

7 April 2005
A draft Climate Change Bill

We draft a Bill which says the Government has to cut the amounts of carbon dioxide being released by us by 3% year on year. This would mean an 80% cut by 2050. 

The Bill is sent to Parliament by a cross party group of MPs.

25 May 2005
The Big Ask campaign is launched

Radiohead front man Thom Yorke teams up with us to launch the campaign. 

Thom Yorke and then Director of Friends of the Earth Tony Juniper launch The Big Ask

A Parliamentary petition (Early Day Motion 178) is opened calling for a new law requiring "annual cuts in carbon dioxide emissions of 3%".

13 July 2005
Stop Climate Chaos coalition formed

Stop Climate Chaos Coalition logo
Friends of the Earth helps form a new coalition - Stop Climate Chaos - calling for a new climate law with annual carbon dioxide cuts.

1st May 2006
The Big Ask Live concert

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke headlines The Big Ask Live concert in London.


This is one of a series of gigs organised in support of the campaign.

The event is attended by David Miliband – who later became Secretary of State for the Environment - and the Conservative leader David Cameron.

3/4 of the public say they support a new law requiring annual cuts in carbon emissions.

1 September 2006
David Cameron supports campaign

David Cameron adds his support to the campaign and calls for a Climate Change Bill to be included in the next Queen's Speech.

The Conservatives publish their own Climate Change Bill.


15 September 2006
MPs tackled by Big Ask Big Lobby

A month of lobbying by constituents means 620 (out of 646) MPs have been asked to support the campaign for a strong climate change law.

15 September 2006
Low carbon economy roadmap produced

We team up with the Coop bank to commission new research from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

The research sets out:

  • A carbon budget for the UK
  • What the Government must do
  • How the UK will change as a result.

12 October 2006
Hints of new climate law

Environment Secretary David Miliband indicates that the Government will introduce legislation to tackle climate change.

By now 412 out of 646 MPs have signed a parliamentary petition (Early Day Motion 178). 

Only three other Early Day Motions had ever been signed by more than 400 MPs.

15 November 2006
New climate law announced

The Government announces in the Queen’s Speech that it will introduce a new climate change law.

13 March 2007
Draft Climate Change Bill

The Government publishes its draft Climate Change Bill.

Friends of the Earth welcomes the move but calls for the Bill to be strengthened.

4 July 2007
The Big Ask online march launches

We launch The Big Ask online march so people can lobby their MP by video message.


The march is supported by Jude Law, James Blunt and Razorlight's Johnny Borrell.

24 September 2007
New PM asks for climate targets investigation

Gordon Brown announces that he will ask the Committee on Climate Change to report on whether the overall target for emissions reductions in the Bill should be increased to 80%.

By this stage 119 MPs, including:

  • David Miliband
  • David Cameron
  • Sir Menzies Campbell
  • Ken Livingstone

 had attended public meetings and events on the Climate Change Bill.

29 October 2007
Environment Minister asks about aviation and shipping

Hilary Benn says he'll ask the Committee on Climate Change to see if the Bill should cover emissions from international aviation and shipping.

14 November 2007
Bill debated in the Lords

The House of Lords debates the Climate Change Bill for the first time

18 February 2008
Annual milestones agreed

Hilary Benn announces that the Climate Change Bill will set annual milestones for emissions reductions. 

The Bill will also set 5 year carbon budgets outlining the maximum amount of carbon dioxide the UK can safely release.

This means the UK will stay on track to meet its long term target.

27 February 2008
The Big Ask goes to Europe

The Big Ask launches in 17 countries across Europe calling on governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions every year.

27 May 2008
Razorlight gig to highlight aviation and shipping

The Aviators
Razorlight play a one off gig in front of a jet at the Science Museum.

A cross party group of MPs form a band - The Aviators - and play in support.

9 June 2008
Labour MPs rebel in support of tougher Bill

The Bill begins its journey through the Commons.

More than 80 Labour MPs sign up for changes to:

  • Cut emissions by 80% by 2050
  • Include aviation and shipping emissions. 

23 September 2008
Gordon asks for 80% target report

Gordon Brown says he'll ask the Committee on Climate Change to report by October on whether the target for cutting emissions should be 80%.

7 October 2008
Committee calls for 80% cut by 2050

The Climate Change Committee advises an 80% cut in emissions. And says this should include international aviation and shipping.

68 Labour MPs sign an Early day Motion calling for the Government to implement the Climate Change Committee’s advice.

16 October 2008
Cuts target increased from 60 to 80%

New Minister Ed Miliband says the Government will increase the target for cutting emissions from 60 to 80%.

Another key win.

27 October 2008
Government says yes to aviation and shipping

Plane flying over roof
Under pressure from the public and MPs the Government announces it will include aviation and shipping emissions in the Bill.

The Bill now includes all three of our major demands.

28 October 2008
MPs vote yes

MPs vote in favour of a Climate Change Law that will cut greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050 and includes all UK emissions.

It's a massive victory for every one of you who took part.

Thank you!