The last issue of Action Briefing introduced Friends of the Earth's 2005 climate campaign, The Big Ask. The campaign challenges the Government to pass a new piece of legislation, the Climate Change Bill, which would set legally binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3 per cent year on year.

Early Day Motion (EDM) 178, a parliamentary petition supporting the Climate Change Bill, has now been signed by 242 MPs and at least eleven more MPs have confirmed in writing that they too support the Bill. In other words, 253 MPs are now formally backing the Climate Change Bill. This is a really encouraging start to the Big Ask campaign, and it has only been achieved because thousands of people like you contacted their MPs about the issue. On behalf of FoE, a big thank you to each and everyone of you who took this action.

FoE hopes to raise the number of MPs' signatures to over 400 by this time next year and, even more importantly, consolidate the support we already have by getting MPs to commit more fully to the campaign. If in three or four years time these MPs come under pressure from their parties to vote against the Bill, the thought that they once signed an EDM is unlikely to be enough to make them resist the whips. If on the other hand they have publicly supported the Bill in lots of other ways, such as speaking at public meetings, working with local campaigners to publicise the Bill or raising the issue in Parliament, then they will be much less likely to do a u-turn at the last minute.

The Climate Change Bill is necessary if we are to keep on track to meet our long-term greenhouse gas-cutting goals. To avoid more than a 2 degrees C increase in global average temperature, global emissions must peak and decline within 10-15 years. After reaching a record low of 151.7 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) in 1999, UK carbon dioxide emissions have since been creeping upwards again, when they need to be falling by at least 1 per cent a year if we are to meet Labour's target of a 20 per cent cut in emissions by 2010 (based on 1990 levels). Emissions for this year look set to increase to 161.2 MtC, 4.7 per cent higher than when Labour came to power in 1997.

Annual emissions reduction targets, like those proposed in the Bill, are more effective than single long-term targets because they allow us to measure success or failure more easily and make adjustments in good time to policies which are failing to reduce emissions. Moreover, carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere for around a hundred years, so it would be unwise to carry on with business as usual in the hope that in 2045 a miraculous technological breakthrough will enable us to cut emissions by 80 per cent or more; by then, the cumulative effects of forty years of emissions will already be upon us and we will have committed the world to more warming than if we had begun taking action now.

It's a Big Ask, but who's got the right answer?
Birmingham Friends of the Earth Progress Report August 2005

Birmingham FoE has been lobbying local MPs to support the Climate Change Bill and sign EDM 178 since the beginning of June. Now that Parliament is in recess and no more names will be added to EDM 178 until October, it's time to take a look at how our elected members have responded.

Gold stars for Lynne Jones (Labour, Selly Oak), Richard Burden (Labour, Northfield), and Roger Godsiff (Labour, Sparkbrook and Small Heath) who were the first Birmingham MPs to sign EDM 178 (and without any prompting from us) followed by Clare Short (Labour, Ladywood), Lorely Burt (Liberal Democrat, Solihull) and John Hemming (Liberal Democrat, Yardley), who signed in June.

Extra homework, however, for Caroline Spelman (Conservative, Meriden), Liam Byrne (Labour, Hodge Hill), Andrew Mitchell (Conservative, Sutton Coldfield) and Gisela Stuart (Labour, Edgbaston) who have replied to us but are refusing to sign the EDM. Caroline said she supports the aims of the Climate Change Bill but prefers to await the results of the Conservative Party's own "climate change review process", which will develop a "framework for action" to achieve emissions reduction targets while maintaining UK growth and competitiveness. Liam is citing "Ministerial protocol" as his main reason for not signing. Granted, an unofficial convention does exist against Government Ministers like Liam signing EDMs but nothing in the rules of Parliament prevents them from doing so.

Finally, dunce caps for Khalid Mahmood (Labour, Perry Barr), Steve McCabe (Labour, Hall Green) and Sion Simon (Labour, Erdington) who have not signed the EDM and have yet even to reply to our letters after two months.

To find out whether your MP has signed EDM 178, visit http://edmi.parliament.uk/.