Will climate action be impacted in the fight against COVID-19?
In a very short space of time, the impact of COVID-19 has sent shockwaves reverberating around the world, causing the greatest possible disruption to the economy and to life as we know it. With global attention focused on fighting the impact of the virus, what does this mean for the fight against climate change? With air traffic brought to a standstill, motorways cleared, and factories closed, we are seeing a glimpse of what the world might look like with reduced carbon emissions. The spread of COVID-19 has led to a mass shutdown of economic activity and an extreme reduction in CO2 emissions. In China alone, measures to contain the virus between early February and mid-March yielded a drop in carbon emissions of an estimated 25% .
While acknowledging the huge challenges many governments face as a result of the pandemic, we cannot afford to lose sight of the climate crisis. The COVID-19 response has opened a window of opportunity to scale up urgently needed climate action. As countries across the world strive to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 spread, climate action needs to be kept at the forefront of communication strategies, business continuity plans and stakeholder engagements – with permanent consideration of how the recovery phase of the pandemic, when it comes, can be implemented in a way that supports a green transition. If not, once we overcome this period, we’ll be back where we were, facing an impending climate crisis with potentially catastrophic effects for the human environment and global biodiversity. These are challenges that, in the coming months, will require concerted and collaborative effort among and within nations to be overcome.
Communications can be the solution
For climate change policy to be effective, it must go hand in hand with effective communication about its impacts. Now is a great time for climate communicators to scale up messaging relating to climate change. As climate change is a global problem with wide-ranging impacts, it is essential that climate change messages are communicated successfully. More than ever, communications need to be tailored for different audiences, keeping in consideration many different groups, including partners, opinion leaders, and stakeholders. Initiating regular, often daily communication with stakeholders is critical, as the COVID-19 landscape is fast-evolving. What is true today may not be true tomorrow.
It’s important to be consistent, talk about risk rather than uncertainty, use visuals, tell human stories and maintain the top-line message. Use social media frequently, as it has increasingly become an important tool within climate change communication. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram encourage greater knowledge and engagement for discussions with communities, thought leaders, media representatives and other stakeholder groups.
Communications professionals play a pivotal role in climate action, providing clear, concise and strategic communication. As conscious collaborators and catalysts, communications professionals must understand their role in relaying the urgency of climate change and embrace the power of communications technology to make a real difference and build a resilient future together.
Recommended best-practice approaches that brands can deploy to help climate communication be fully absorbed by audiences include the following:
1. Communicate with clear and appropriate language – Always communicate what you know, not what you don’t know
2. Combine with narrative storytelling – Communicate effectively about climate impacts
3. Create visual imagery and experiential scenarios – Most people respond to content through stories and images, not lists of numbers, probability statements or technical graphs
4. Balance narrative with scientific research and data – What do we know about the current climate as a result of COVID-19?
5. Deliver through communication channels – Which channels of communication are the most effective for your business and in your industry?
 Climate crisis: in coronavirus lockdown, nature bounces back – but for how long? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/09/climate-crisis-amid-coronavirus-lockdown-nature-bounces-back-but-for-how-long