recently came across the work of a little known NGO named Climate Outreach. Climate Outreach describe themselves as “Europe’s leading experts in climate change communications, bridging the gap between theory and practice”. At the heart of their approach is the importance of ensuring that climate communications appeal to people’s values.
Their project on how to communicate climate change to centre right voters exemplifies their approach. As is well known climate change has become a polarised issue in which your political stance is by far the biggest influence on your attitude to climate change.
Climate Outreach point out that, unfortunately and almost without realising it, the dominant communicators, language and narratives on climate change speak almost exclusively to left wing values. And in so doing alienate conservatives, thus deepening the polarisation.
They argue that tackling climate change is not inherently at odds with conservative values. Far from it. Stewardship, protecting nature, shared responsibility, preserving local communities are all values embedded deeply within conservatism. But the narrative on climate change needs to be reworked so that it speaks to and validates such conservative values. Examples of effective conservative messaging in practice are:
- conserving energy is good old fashioned common sense
- Tackling climate change is the responsibility of us all and action begins at home. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act.
- Tackling climate change will preserve our traditional way of life. It is the sensible thing to do.
This values based approach, akin to that outlined by Rose, was put into practice through the “For the Love of” campaign led by the Climate Coalition in the run up to COP21 in 2015. The campaign sought to link that which people love and are passionate about, with the risks that climate change poses to them. For the London Climate March the campaign produced thousands of heart shaped placards emblazoned with “For the Love of..” and which had a gap for people to write what was important to them. I saw everything ranging from “..building a snowman” to “..a cup of coffee” (personally I put my wife’s name- cheesy I know). Seeing the thousands of placards marching in unison through the streets of London was an inspiring sight that helped to give a positive and motivational message. By linking climate change with everyday issues that people were passionate about the campaign helped climate change go beyond its environmental niche, and overcome the psychological distance that bedevils climate communications.
Obviously there is still a long way to go but I think this values based approach has a key role to play if we are to go beyond the committed few and engage and motivate new audiences of all political persuasions on the importance of climate action.