Six years after global leaders adopted the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals, the development sector may finally be having an “aha” moment. We really cannot promote development without protecting the planet. And development efforts can only succeed if communities are able to deal with the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.
The COVID pandemic seems to have sped up this “coming together” of two global agendas. It has reminded us that our fortunes are linked, and that that we need global solidarity to solve global challenges. Policy makers have promised to “build back better” by investing in a green, just and sustainable recovery. Their promises have public support.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
|Aid flows to climate purposes increased from $20 billion in 2012, to $36 billion in 2017. (Hårsmar 2020)|
|Rich countries mobilized $79.6 billion in climate finance for developing countries in 2018, which remain $20 billion below the Paris Agreement target of $100 billion per year. (OECD 2021)|
|In 2019, climate finance to least developed countries rose strongly, up to 27%, but funding to Small Island Developing States fell back to 2017 levels (from $2.1 billion to 1.5 billion). (OECD 2021)|
|In 2016-18, climate adaptation finance increased by 20%, reaching $20.1 billion, but mitigation finance still represents two-thirds of total climate finance provided and mobilised by developed countries. (OECD 2021)|
|In 2016-18, private climate finance focused almost entirely on climate mitigation (93%) to middle-income countries (69%). (OECD 2020)|
Around the world, citizens have become more and more concerned about the climate. Several devastating natural disasters have had tangible effects and received widespread media coverage.
This year’s COP-26 Summit is an excellent opportunity for development organisations to show that their work matters, and to engage citizens on the global issues they care about. Indeed, their communications experts are already at work. Earlier this year in March, members and partners of the OECD DevCom Network – i.e. senior communications experts in development organisations – came together to share ideas on how to explain and frame their organisations’ work on environmental issues. They also discussed how to collaborate on upcoming events and campaigns.
Based on the expertise they shared, here are five ways to bring climate into development communications.
1. LINK COVID TO CLIMATE
At our DevCom event, 81 percent of participants said they were ready to message about climate issues in 2021, and 51 percent said that the COVID pandemic made that job easier.
In the wake of the pandemic, communicators can emphasis how:
- We are all connected. More and more citizens see that some crises are too big to solve alone. We can show that, like COVID-19, tackling the climate crisis needs international co-operation.
- A crisis can bring opportunities. The pandemic, unimaginable in its economic and human toll, has sparked the desire for a green, just, and sustainable recovery. As one of our participants said: “Once we’re done vaccinating humans, we vaccinate the planet.”
- We must deal with both crises in tandem. Mitigatingthe effects of a virus has been more difficult in when facing extreme weather – from deep freezes in Texas to sandstorms in Beijing. For example, despite a “COVID-19 dip” during the first months of 2020, climate issues regained considerable attention in the US media during the second half of the year (see graph).
Here are some examples of “Green Recovery” framing from the DevCom community:
2. BALANCE EMERGENCY AND OPPORTUNITY
When communicating about climate change, it is easy to resort to alarmism. After all, we need to highlight the urgency of the situation. However, negative slogans can also cripple people with fear. We can also frame climate action as an opportunity to change the way we live for the better, for example by helping protect biodiversity and cultural practices. We can highlight solutions rather than just problems, notably in the area of technological innovation.
Here are some examples of messages that highlight the urgency of the problem, but also seek to provide hope by focusing on solutions.
3. SHOWCASE ACTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
It is no longer enough for organisations to stress their values and commitments. They must also demonstrate their actions and achievements in the fight against climate change. Citizens want to know how their taxes are helping make a difference. Here are some examples from the DevCom community.
4. MOVE FROM INFORMATION TO ACTION
The roles of development communicators goes well beyond institutional communications. Facing climate change, we need to use our platforms and campaigns to mobilise citizens and stakeholders into action. In fact, raising awareness about climate change impacts are part of the SDG targets:
- SDG Goal 12 – Target 12.8: By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature
- SDG Goal 13 – Target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
A number of major UN campaigns seek to address individuals and different stakeholders. For example, the #ActNow Campaign has already logged more than 3.5 million climate actions with simple and practical messages that push people to change their daily habits.
Several members of the DevCom community are supporting alliances with a broader set of stakeholders.
- German Ministry for Economic and Development Cooperation: The Development and Climate Alliance is a partnership that seeks to link development co-operation and international climate protection. It connects private individuals, associations, institutions, and companies to promote climate protection projects in developing and emerging countries. In return, the supporters receive high-quality climate protection certifications.
- OPEC Fund: The September edition of the OPEC Fund’s Quarterly magazine focuses on “Inclusive and clean energy transitions”. It features stories on diverse organisations taking action for the climate.
- Global Affairs Canada: In 2017, Canada launched Climate Kids that focuses on empowering children and teens aged 8 to 15 years to take action on climate change.
- Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs: Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs partnered with the National Broadcasting Service to produce a children’s TV series on the SDGs, including an episode on Goal 13: Climate Action.
- European Investment Bank: The European Investment Bank’s award-winning “Climate Solutions” podcast is on its third season and provides a checklist of things one can do to stop climate change.
5. DROP THE JARGON AND TELL BETTER STORIES
This piece of advice needs no explaining. Millions of people know that climate action is urgent. To convince the others, we need to drop the jargon and produce more relatable content.
One first step is explaining work on environment and development cooperation in very simply language. Going further, we need to use more engaging and visual formats, and to blend scientific and emotive messages.
In the lead up to COP-26, please share your plans with the DevCom community. We can help amplify your campaigns and provide new ideas.
For a start, check out the following resources.
- UN Climate Change’s Climate Dialogues Trello board, which is full of materials for social media and education, and the #ClimateAction Trello board, a content hub geared towards mobilising governments and non-state actors.
- The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) is designing a pre-COP26 campaign on development and climate, find out more here and use the hashtag #All4Climate.
- DevCom’s SDG Communicator hub and toolkit, which brings together the best communications advice from members and partners of the OECD DevCom Network.
- DevCom’s LinkedIn group, where we share news, initiatives to get behind, and posts from our members.