COP23 – let’s talk communication

Posted November 8, 2017

By Sally Stevens

Marketing & Communications Manager of the IEA

Through the music, colour, bustle and buzz of COP23, one message is already coming through loud and clear – unless we can have meaningful communication reaching all sections of society around climate science, we can change little.

COP23 opened in Bonn on Monday [Nov 6, 2017] with an atmosphere of genuine optimism and commitment, inviting all nations, all communities and all sectors to drive the determination to keep the global temperature rise as close as possible to 1.5 degrees C, and no more than 2C, through their national climate plans, thereby fulfilling the Paris Agreement signed in 2015.

Influencing actions at COP23

Taking on the Presidency of the conference, Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of co-hosts Fiji, delivered a passionate plea at the opening of the Bonn Zone on Monday evening. He said: “When people of goodwill come together to listen and share with a common purpose in mind, real progress can be made … The agreement must be converted to action, and it is our job – yours and mine – to influence those actions in the best sense of the term. We want to be sure that the experiences, practical solutions, and innovative technologies shared in this room is fuel that powers change.”

In the EU Pavilion on Tuesday afternoon [Nov 7] the IEA joined JPI Climate and the European Research Area for Climate for Services (ERA4CS) to host a debate showcasing four projects – SENSES and MEDSCOPE highlighting climate services and HOPE and EPCC focusing on societal transformation and followed by a panel discussion that I chaired.

The science and data behind the projects are impressive, bringing together experts across Europe in collaboration to engage widely-varying audiences – whether it be individual households changing behaviour in the HOPE project (Household preferences for reducing greenhouse gas emission in four European high income countries), policy makers taking up the results of surveys in the EPCC (European perceptions of climate change project), strategic planners and regional climate change scenario users benefiting from new climate data tools developed by SENSES (Climate change scenario services) and MEDSCOPE (Mediterranean services chain based on climate predictions) developing improved climate forecast capabilities and services on seasonal to decadal timescales.

Sharing challenge of communication

But the challenge they have in common with each other – and with COP23 – is effectively communicating the outcomes and their practical potential to each of their audiences effectively, and the size of the challenge increases when there are multiple audiences of widely ranging technical abilities.

The best climate services project in the world means little if its outcomes do not make a difference. It is not enough to understand that the messages need to adapt to each audience, climate services have to listen to each audience first and learn how they hear effectively, in order to engage effectively.

The music, colour and buzz of the Bonn Zone at COP23 is undoubtedly engaging. As Prof Dr Jürgen Kropp, co-founder and CEO of the Climate Media Factory, said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s session: “Communication depends on the recipients, the tools and communications style depends on the different groups.”

He finished on a note of optimism and aspiration: “I look to the future and see much more demand, with more expertise, for climate change communications, we are getting better – but we need to get MUCH better.”

COP23 panel
From left, Alina Herrmann, Katharine Steentjes, Frank McGovern, Elisabeth Worliczek, Dagmar Bley, Elmar Kriegler, Silvio Gualdi and Jürgen Kropp.
COP23 turbine