The Big Ask: An Exercise in Effective Policy Entrepreneurship

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Elise Richter Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Neil CARTER, University of York, United Kingdom
Mike CHILDS, Friends of the Earth, United Kingdom
Friends of the Earth’s ‘Big Ask’ campaign is widely regarded as one of the most successful UK ENGO campaigns of recent years. It was launched in May 2005 as a response to the perceived failure of voluntary emissions reduction targets. FoE chose a simple but radical policy demand: a Climate Change Bill with statutory targets for annual emissions reductions. Remarkably, by  October 2006 the Labour Government announced it would be introducing a Climate Change Bill. The path-breaking legislation, the Climate Change Act (CCA), was eventually passed in 2008. Since then FoE Europe has campaigned to get similar legislation passed across Europe.

Although the Big Ask has been examined in the wider context of UK climate and energy policy there has been no detailed analysis of the campaign itself. Drawing on the inside knowledge of one of the authors (who was Head of Climate at FoE during the Big Ask campaign), interviews with key ENGO actors and politicians, and documentary evidence, this paper analyses how the campaign strategy evolved and its efforts to mobilise the wider public, so that FoE was able to exploit the window of opportunity that opened in climate politics during 2006-08, first to get cross-party support for the Bill and then to strengthen its content. The paper examines the attempts by FoE Europe to roll out the CCA to other countries.  The paper applies an analytical framework based on Kingdon’s multiple streams approach, focusing on the role of FoE as a policy entrepreneur in shaping the agenda-setting process. It argues that FoE exerted a major influence on the UK Government’s decision to introduce the CCA, but the conditions that FoE exploited domestically were not replicated in the later phases of the campaign.