NEWSMAKER: A different shade of green - Tony Juniper, Director, Friends of the Earth


The walls are pale green, dotted with campaigning posters on deforestation and the reform of the World Trade Organisation. I'm occupying a small space between a fold-up bicycle and a potted plant that protests it is doing more to reduce CO2 emissions than world governments.

Juniper enters wearing, appropriately enough, a green jacket. He is one of the sector's most seasoned and successful campaigners, responsible for galvanising the public to boycott mahogany and stop the destruction of the rainforests. He led NGO opposition to Balfour Beattie's government-sweetened contract to build the Ilisu Dam in Turkey which would have displaced thousands of the country's Kurdish minority. And three years ago, he was named in The Observer's "power list" as one of the 300 most influential people in the UK.

This month,Juniper will take several strides up the list when he relinquishes the role he has held since 1996 as Friends of the Earth's policy and campaigns supremo to succeed Charles Secrett as director. Secrett bequeaths an organisation in good financial health - its income has grown from £5 million to £8 million in the past five years. The organisation has outgrown its parochial roots in the UK and developed international significance and influence.

It is now an international federation with a presence in 68 countries and a major player at global gatherings such as September's Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

It is this internationalisation of Friends of the Earth, says Juniper, that is changing its nature. Friends of the Earth's groups in southern hemisphere countries have pushed to add a social and economic dimension to its traditional environmental concerns. Clare Short may have argued at the Earth Summit that poverty reduction and environmental protection are separate but Juniper is staking the future of Friends of the Earth on their interdependence. He promises a "radical social justice" agenda for the organisation. "We've been campaigning on a social justice agenda for many years and the shift we are anticipating now is to make it much more obvious and much more strategic," he says. "You have 80 per cent of the world's energy and raw materials being used by 20 per cent of the world's population. It's already unsustainable. So to move from where we are now - a wasteful and unsustainable society - to a much more efficient, lean economy where environmental limits are respected, you have to look at the justice side. People in the south need development but, in order to create the space to do that, we have to massively reduce consumption.

If you are going to seek a long-term resolution between people's needs and the future of the planet you have to start talking about equity, fairness and justice as the mainstream part of the agenda and it's not really happening right now."

Friends of the Earth is just as likely to lobby the World Trade Organisation on international trade liberalisation as to oppose nuclear power or campaign on pensioner fuel poverty as on GM foods. It has already worked with Oxfam on climate change, the World Development Movement on trade issues, and Christian Aid on international debt. Juniper envisages more alliances.

"Creating crossovers and synergies is very much part of what we do and what we will do. And I think that supporters of all the voluntary groups want this."

He promises "new and perhaps surprising" coalitions with, for example, trade unions over the issue of the job creating potential of renewable energy.

But he also wants some reciprocity from development NGOs, an acknowledgement of the importance of the environment in the same way that Friends of the Earth has acknowledged the social justice agenda. "We have worked a lot over the years on development issues such as debt and trade but it would be welcome from our point of view to see development groups looking much more at environmental issues. Then we could get some more exciting coalitions moving forward."

Juniper has a reputation as a canny and thoughtful campaigner - Friends of the Earth was one of the first in the voluntary sector to utilise text messaging when it campaigned to convince Gordon Brown to pump more investment into the railways. But he will need to summon all his skills to influence a skittish government just as likely to bend the knee to big business as to listen to the concerns of an environmental pressure group. Juniper is not scathing about the Government's environmental record but neither is he complimentary. He says that the Government has made progress on the international front, particularly with the Kyoto protocols, but domestically its record is "patchy and uninspiring".

We speak as the Government has just announced the biggest road-widening programme in 20 years which Juniper condemns as a "partial capitulation" to the roads lobby. So what will be Juniper's campaign motif to gain the ear of New Labour? "One big element is to get people involved," he says.

"On the big questions, there are no scientific answers. If you want to create change in a policy discussion you have to have people visibly on your side, whether they are buying something, writing something, thinking something or saying something. Ultimately, not only is it the most effective way forward, it's the most legitimate way forward in terms of demonstrating that it's not about a bunch of activists with their own agenda but that they reflect the public concern behind them."


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