System Force Signs Up for 10:10

On March 15th 2009, at the premiere of the climate blockbuster The Age of Stupid, in a solar-powered cinema tent in London’s Leceister Square, actor Pete Postlethwaite ambushed the UK’s Minister for Climate Change, Ed Miliband, with a giant pledge. “If you commission a new dirty coal power station,” it read, “then I promise to never vote Labour again – and give back my OBE”. It worked: within a month Miliband had changed the UK coal policy.

This was the first time any of us had met Ed and, frankly, we thought it would be the last. But just a few days after the premiere, his office was on the phone: Ed would like to challenge Stupid director Franny Armstrong to a public head-to-head battle at the Tricycle Theatre later that week.

So it came to pass that Franny was walking through Regent’s Park two hours before the showdown, wondering how best to use this unparalleled opportunity to ask anything she liked of the most powerful climate man in Britain. Two things sprang to mind: a recent George Monbiot article had laid out the kind of policies we’d need to cut the UK’s emissions very quickly, none of which sounded impossible. And the Climate Safety report had identified a 10% cut in the UK’s emissions by the end of 2010 as the level of cuts we should be making if we are to maximise our chances of not triggering a climate catastrophe. As opposed to all the far-off targets (80% by 2050 et al) so beloved of policy makers who understand full well that they’ll be long since out of power – if not dead.

Trees, park, birds, climate change, urgency, short-term, 10% in 2010…

A campaign to cut 10% of the UK’s emissions in 2010.

Franny called up her Team Stupid comrades, each of whom said “That’s it!”.

Being an impetuous type, Franny foolishly chucked the 10:10 idea into that evening’s debate with Miliband, but he barely noticed (though quite a few people from the audience emailed later asking about it). Following the debate, a Team Stupid brainstorming session was quickly convened at Franny’s dad’s house in the countryside. As well as planning the launch of the film at huge live events around the world, the team were there to decide how best to use the opportunities the film had opened up to effectively campaign for action on climate change. Everyone immediately saw that a 10% cut in 2010 was perfect for the kind of mass-engagement with this issue that had been missing up to now. Simple, catchy, meaningful and something that everyone in the UK, from big brands to schools and families, would be able to get involved in. Team Stupid were agreed: 10:10 was the best idea yet to land on the climate change table.

Within weeks, the 10:10 idea had rippled out across the nation, picking up support wherever it went. 10:10 seemed to have some kind of magic touch: local authorities; power companies; economists; celebrities; faith leaders; primary schools; hospitals; high street banks; everyone who heard the plan immediately said this was the idea that Britain has been waiting for.

10:10 was born.