Climate Communication for Local Governments

Five messaging guidelines to help local governments communicate about climate change science, impacts and solutions.

Effective climate communication is essential for the successful execution of municipal climate action plans. In a report written by Climate Access member Don Knapp for local governments, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA asserts that understanding an audience's core values and building relationships are key to improving climate communications.

The following is a summary of the five guidelines that ICLEI identifies as critical for engaging the public on climate change:

1. Know your audience

  • Identify the right stakeholder groups.
  • Understand their motivations for supporting climate action and speak their language.
  • Find credible messengers.
  • Be clear about what you're asking people to do.

2. Be aware of how values shape beliefs

  • Understand how Americans view climate change (i.e. Global Warming's Six Americas)
  • Know which messages may conflict or align with your audience's values.
  • Highlight climate action initiatives that appeal to a broad audience.

3. Make it personal and immediate

  • To increase salience, make climate change local, personal, urgent, visual and tangible.
  • Frame climate action as about protecting health, safety, local assets and natural resources.

4. Emphasize local solutions

  • Talk more about "no-brainer" climate solutions than climate problems.
  • Highlight low-cost, low-risk actions and benefits.
  • Build support for reducing emissions by first talking about the need to prepare and adapt.
  • Choose the most effective frame for your audience.

5. Talk about climate science in clear, simple terms

  • Avoid doom-and-gloom messages.
  • Begin with the bottom line: What is climate change? Why we should care?
  • Stress what scientists know
  • Show climate change visually.
  • Remember that in healthy discussion there is room for disagreement.

Learn more about ICLEI and their climate communications guidelines. 

Date: 2011
Authors: Don Knapp
Organization: ICLEI
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Framing, Other
Author: Don Knapp
Organization: ICLEI
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Framing, Other

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