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Interview: Ollie Hayes, Lead Climate Change Campaigner at Friends of the Earth

Interview: Ollie Hayes, Lead Climate Change Campaigner at Friends of the Earth

This month our focus is climate change. As part of our #climate matters series, we wanted to showcase those organisations fighting the corner for planet earth. So we caught up with Ollie Hayes, Lead Climate Change Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

Along with his colleagues, Ollie works to make sure that the UK government takes its fair share of action to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees, in line with the Paris Agreement. Right now, this means stopping climate-wrecking infrastructure projects, such as the Heathrow expansion. We wanted to find out a bit more about the Big Ask, a Friends of the Earth campaign for climate protection. Ollie explained how the campaign, set up in 2005, had the aim of getting a law passed which committed future governments to cut the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions year on year, in line with independent scientific advice. 

The main success of the campaign was securing the world’s first law to cut greenhouse emissions. 

'A real success of the campaign was the ripple effect of securing the world’s first law to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Soon after it was passed, the Climate Change Act was used as a template across the world.

Another of the campaign’s successes was the diversity of support it garnered from environmentalists, musicians, celebrities, MPs, companies, charities and ‘normal’ people. This was a real strength of the campaign: people from all backgrounds uniting around one ask was vital to our win. The result was unprecedented political support: just 3 out of 650 MPs voted against the final version of the Act.’

It’s now ten years on from the Climate Change Act and the Big Ask, and Friends of the Earth have been busy with all sorts of campaigning since then. 

‘A highlight was winning our Bee Cause campaign by securing a ban on bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides being used on all crops across Europe earlier this year. We also launched a brand-new campaign on plastic pollution at the end of 2017 to put a stop to the tsunami of plastic pouring into our oceans – with nearly 200,000 people having so far signed our key petition calling for government action.’

In the next ten years climate change will still be a key focus for campaigning. 

‘According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have just twelve years to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C; so, we’ll be doing all we can in the next ten years to prevent a climate catastrophe from happening.’
‘It’s clear that the public are ready for a sustainable world.. but the government isn’t making it easy for people to be as environmentally-friendly as they can. The government needs to stop backing fossil fuel industries and shift its focus to renewables…’

Finally, I asked what we, the public can do at home to make a difference. In his own words 

there are lots of ways people can make a difference at home… making individual changes at home is important and shows leaders that we’re ready for a more sustainable world.’
  • For a climate-friendly diet – try cutting down on meat and dairy and where possible, eat more locally sourced, seasonal or organic foods
  • Travel – swap your car or taxi for your bike or the bus
  • Switch to a green energy provider – an easy change that wont impact your day-to-day life in any way. Switching is super easy, check out Friends of the Earth’s greener lifestyle content to find out how.

To join the conversation, please follow us at @PaperRound using the hashtag #climatematters.

Jessica Parrilla

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