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Climate action brought to light!

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2021-08-02 Niina Nousiainen

Does it feel like climate work isn't getting the attention it deserves? Are everyday climate actions usually not communicated? Climate action is often invisible. For example, when a municipality switches to green electricity, the residents do not know it unless it is specifically reported and communicated, as the electricity that comes out of a wall socket works the same regardless of the source of the electricity.

Climate communication is therefore essential to present the effective measures. When actions are communicated and the municipality itself sets an example to the residents, businesses and other actors in the region, it can act as an impetus for others to act. Climate communication is like a snowball: it starts off small and collects more snow the wider you roll it. Reporting about good deeds can inspire more and more people to participate in climate action, thus speeding up the municipality's journey to achieve climate goals.

Small measures can have a wide impact

It is often thought that only great innovative acts deserve to be heard. A change of mindset is needed in order to understand the benefits and opportunities of climate communication.

Even small acts are big enough to be communicated. It is these everyday acts that form a bigger stream of actions, because they can be easily duplicated elsewhere on a low threshold. On the other hand, it is easy to be proud of big deeds and communicate about them, which in turn promotes development.

Credible climate communication based on actions

Climate communication can be considered to have three different levels. The first level consists of visible and concrete acts. These climate actions are therefore visible to local residents without the main purpose of being communicated. For example, charging points for electric cars, green city areas or, for example, city bikes and good cycling infrastructure tell residents and visitors that climate-friendly actions are valued in the municipality.

The second level is based on deliberate climate communication. It includes all communication from visual elements such as logos to newsletters and social media campaigns. It is important that climate communication claims are based on facts and on what has been done. The style of communication also influences how messages are received. For example, inspiring, solution-oriented and engaging messages get the readers interested and active.

The third level consists of verbal information. As many might recall from the Chinese whispers game, verbally transmitted information is difficult to influence. The easiest way is for the first two levels of climate communication to work, leaving people with the impression that the municipality is an active climate actor. For example, when residents are proud of what the municipality is doing, they are also more likely to speak positively about the municipality to others. News reported by the media also belongs to this group. The municipality can best influence media-related content by being active - for example, by sending newsletters and story ideas to local media.

Building climate brand

The municipality's climate communication plays another role in addition to disseminating information, namely building a climate brand. We're not talking about clothing brands; we're talking about a place brand. In this case, the brand helps municipalities to be more attractive to live, work and visit.

Climate change is literally a hot topic at the moment. In this way, climate values, responsibility and sustainability become increasingly important factors in the decision-making of residents and various actors in the municipality. The people and companies who are interested in climate issues are looking to municipalities where climate work is encouraged and well placed.

The Finnish Environment Institute is currently conducting research on climate communication in municipalities.

 

Assistant Researcher Niina Nousiainen, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, firstname.lastname@syke.fi

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