Summer 2020 Progress report

Dear Friend,

We are delighted to share our Summer Progress Report with you. What a past six months it has been. But, even with the rise of COVID-19 and financial uncertainty, our work has continued. Please read on for an update on recent achievements from our campaigns and a look forward to what is coming over the next few months. Your support makes all this vital work possible and is more important now than ever.

Thank you,

The Friends of the Earth team

Beat climate breakdown

Our planet has higher carbon dioxide levels than at any point in the past 800,000 years, and is heating up fast. We are in a climate emergency as well as a global pandemic, with limited time to make vital changes to the way we use the planet’s resources. Friends of the Earth is at the forefront of campaigning for a green and socially just future. 

Green and fair recovery

Friends of the Earth calls for a ‘green and fair recovery’ from COVID-19

2020 has brought with it a global crisis in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, upending our lives and our livelihoods. As with many crises, the pandemic is disproportionately affecting working-class and BAME communities, and we risk widening inequalities if we don’t put social justice at the heart of our recovery plans. So what does a "green” recovery look like?

Social justice must be at the heart of our recovery from the current pandemic. We have identified five requirements for a green and fair recovery:

  1. Prioritise health and wellbeing

  1. Put green jobs and livelihoods at the heart of the recovery

  1. Fix the broken economy, so that it works for all people and planet too

  1. Co-operate globally and act responsibly

  1. Empower communities to lead the recovery

The solutions identified above are better for people as well as planet. What's more, they're realistic. We have costed the plan and outlined specific actions for the government to take. Government can and must adopt these solutions. Over 110 MPs have already responded after 11,599 of you asked your MP to back a green and fair recovery plan. More than 22,000 people have demanded the Chancellor do the same and, with your help, we'll campaign hard to ensure that the government’s coronavirus Recovery Plan isn’t just green, but places social equality at its heart to ensure a fairer, more sustainable future for us all.

Green and fair recovery
Our lawyers Katie and Will outside Court after Heathrow

We won the battle against Heathrow

If you joined the recent webinar with our lawyers Will and Katie, you will have heard about a landmark victory for our legal team, our climate and future generations when, back in February 2020, we won our appeal against a third runway at Heathrow at the Court of Appeal. It was revealed that the government had accepted legal advice to ignore the Paris Climate Agreement when it gave its approval to the third runway which the court ruled had been illegal. This was a fantastic win in the fight to prevent climate breakdown and in striving for climate justice for communities in the UK and around the world.

Our expert legal team and young interns, who you have so generously supported, successfully argued at the Court of Appeal that the impact on the climate was not given due consideration (in line with legal requirements) when planning the expansion.

However, sadly the fight against Heathrow’s third runway isn’t over yet. On 6 May 2020, Heathrow Airport was granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. So, in October 2020 Friends of the Earth will be going to the highest court in the country to defend our victory. Our lawyers are working incredibly hard to ensure that we maintain our win for climate justice, which would not be possible without your backing.

Will Rundle, Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “We’ll resist the appeal brought by Heathrow Airport in the Supreme Court. Climate change must be front and centre in all planning and infrastructure decisions, and it is irresponsible for them to try and avoid the Court of Appeal’s verdict against them on climate change by this appeal.”

Thank you again for your continued support, which will help our legal team to put a stop to Heathrow’s third runway once and for all.

Our lawyers Katie and Will outside Court after Heathrow
Members of a local action group sit at a table with laptops talking

200+ Climate Action Groups (CAGs)

Grassroots campaigning is at the heart of all our work. We know it brings about tangible change, and we firmly believe we’re always stronger when we work together. This is why we are delighted to announce that we have reached our goal of registering 200 CAGs across the UK. Along with our 70 local groups, they form a huge network spanning the country. This is amazing news as the CAG programme was only launched in May 2019 and the swell of members shows just how passionate communities are about preventing climate breakdown in their local areas and beyond.

CAGs are made up of people like you and me, working together to make communities more climate-friendly, by pressuring local and national decision-makers to adopt climate solutions. Our wins on fracking and Heathrow would not have been possible without the support and leadership of our grassroots network, and for that we thank you all.

Members of a local action group sit at a table with laptops talking

What's next?

The next few months are critical for our Climate Action campaign as we keep the pressure on the government to deliver a genuine green and fair recovery, ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget. 

We will mobilise our supporters and 200 Climate Action groups for a moment of action, to push their MPs to advocate for a green and fair recovery in parliament. At the same time, we will be seeking the support of Councils and Mayors, asking them to leverage their local power in support of the national recovery. 

We will work to amplify the voices of allies across different sectors to show how, by building back better, we can rebuild the foundations of our society and economy so that they work for all of us. 

And finally, over the coming months we will continue our work to end the UK government’s funding of fossil fuels abroad. This will consist of exploring the potential legal opportunities to hold the UK government to account in the name of people and planet. 

This vital work takes much time and resources and with your support we will realise these aspirations for people and planet. Thank you so much. 

Double UK tree cover

As you may be aware, trees play an incredible role in combating climate breakdown by removing carbon emissions from the air. Despite their importance, just 13% of the UK’s total land area has woodland cover (compared to an EU average of 38%). 

We believe that doubling tree cover is a vital part of getting to net zero emissions (alongside radical cuts in carbon pollution). Sadly, we’ve seen government aspirations currently falling well short of this target, as shown in the recently proposed England Tree Strategy. That’s why we have been working hard to push the government and local councils to adopt this target and for detailed ambitious targets to be set in the England Trees Strategy. 

Tree in field

We now have 9 local councils signed up to our pledge to double tree cover locally and a further 2 local councils signed up to support doubling tree cover nationally, thanks to our incredible supporters contacting their councillors. Over 170,000 people have signed our petition to tell the UK government to commit to double tree cover by 2045.

Clearly, communities across our country want the government to make a lasting commitment to bring back our lost trees, and the England Trees Strategy must champion this. That is why we were so disappointed to see no target for tree cover in the draft strategy released last month.

Guy Shrubsole, Trees Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Friends of the Earth is calling on the government for nothing less than a doubling of UK tree cover. This is an unmissable opportunity to help fix the climate emergency and make more space for our rapidly declining nature.”

Tree in field
Trees in a forest

So far, more than 9,000 people have submitted their views to the government consultation supporting our efforts to set bold targets in the England Tree Strategy. The government simply cannot ignore the mass mobilisation behind this campaign for much longer.

Trees in a forest

What's next?

This Autumn, we're planning to hold a Tree Summit where we hope to showcase the ambitious tree pledges made over the course of the campaign by councils, water companies and landowners, and put pressure on ministers to follow suit. The Tree Summit is likely to coincide with National Tree Week, when people around the country will be doing their bit to plant trees. With public concern about the climate and ecological emergencies still riding high, we simply can't let ministers wriggle out of taking ambitious action to grow more trees and restore nature. 

We will continue to build on the momentum of our trees campaign, which as you have seen has mass public support, to call on the government to double UK tree cover. We're briefing our army of local groups to make more detailed submissions and encouraging allies, from councils to farmers and other environmental charities, to make their voices heard.  

Plastic and the environment

Plastic hangs around in the environment for hundreds of years. It doesn’t disappear − it just breaks down into tiny pieces that continue to pollute our lives. As well as the health concerns, wildlife can become entangled in it or ingest it. This cannot be allowed to continue. Friends of the Earth is fighting for solutions, from pushing for new laws to phase out plastic pollution to educating people on how to minimise their impact on the planet. 

Fish caught in ocean plastic

Plastics pollution bill

On 26 February, Friends of the Earth and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes delivered a petition signed by over 320,000 people calling for tougher government action on plastic pollution. The number of people signing the petition shows just how important this issue is for people, and makes it clear that the government needs to act. The hand-in coincided with the Second Reading of the government’s Environment Bill, when MPs debated its contents for the first time. We and our growing alliance of businesses, faith groups, NGOs and others are calling on the government to improve the Environment Bill by incorporating the best-practice principles demonstrated in our Plastic Pollution Bill.

Fish caught in ocean plastic

Get pointless plastic out of football

In February, Arsenal Football Club announced it had saved 500,000 disposable plastic cups from being thrown away following the introduction of a reusable cup scheme. We are proud to have been able to celebrate this important achievement with the club. We were on the cusp of announcing that another major Premier League Club would commit to our Plastics Pledge to give single-use plastic in football the boot, but sadly COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown prevented that work from continuing. Nevertheless, we hope that these successes will encourage more top clubs to take on this challenge once mass event spaces reopen again.

What's next?

In the coming months, we will be working with other NGOs to gain support from a diverse range of organisations for the plastic pollution legislation and/or specific amendments to the Environment Bill on plastics and waste targets. Our ultimate goal is to secure effective plastic pollution and waste targets in the Environment Bill and any subsequent legislation.  

Trade and climate

The decisions made by governments, businesses and individuals about which goods and services enter the country, our shops and our homes can mean the difference between sustainable, low-carbon production or increased damage to our planet and communities. That’s why it’s so important that the UK sets out a transparent and democratic system for entering into future trade deals and puts our climate at the heart of trade policy. 

Supporter outside Department for International Trade

Over the last six months we have:

  • Raised awareness about the possible impacts of rushed trade deals on the UK’s global footprint and domestic environmental standards through our media work, our policy website, and public events.

  • Worked with the Greener UK and Trade Justice Movement coalitions to analyse the possible environmental impacts of proposed trade deals with the EU and US, meeting regularly with the Department for International Trade and Defra officials to raise concerns, and supporting a number of amendments to the Trade and Agriculture bills designed to safeguard standards and improve scrutiny.

  • Delivered an open letter from our Co-CEOs and over 115,000 supporters to Liz Truss, asking her to halt trade negotiations with the US.

Supporter outside Department for International Trade

What's next?

We will be working with supporters like you and with MPs to resist any attempts to cut environmental, food or animal welfare standards as part of any coronavirus recovery plans or new trade deals. We’ll continue to demand a better system for scrutiny of trade deals. And Friends of the Earth will launch a new call for the UK to put the climate at the heart of our future trade policy, to pass a law to clean up business supply chains and take a lead in reforming the ways we trade internationally. 

The last word

We hope this report has given you a useful update on the impact of Friends of the Earth’s work over the last few months, which has only been possible thanks to all your incredible support.  

Hearing your views on Friends of the Earth is vital to us as it allows us to fight to protect the environment on matters that concern you. If you have any questions or comments, please do get in touch. 

Only by collectively pushing together for change can we meet the unprecedented challenges faced by people and planet alike. We cannot be successful alone, and we are incredibly grateful for your continued support. 

Your support makes our work possible. Thank you.