Climate Communication for Local Governments
Photo credit: FEMA
Five guidelines to help city and county staff and elected officials message climate solutions, science, and local impacts
The local one, too. Without constructive climate communication, local governments’ plans and initiatives would never get off the ground. And since we’ve got so much ground to cover, now is the time to take stock of the most effective communications approaches. What can we learn from the latest psychological and communications research, and the on-the-ground experience of municipal staff? A heck of a lot.
Good Communication Builds Relationships
“For local governments, climate communication should be thought of as a way to build relationships, not to win a debate or convince people to think the same way,” says Brian Holland, ICLEI USA’s Climate Programs Director. “You build relationships when you understand your audience and speak to their values and priorities.”
When you build better relationships, you make more progress. To help you improve your communication on climate action, ICLEI has compiled guidelines and tips from leading academic publications—as well as ICLEI’s own staff and our local government members—applicable to the situations like these:
- Engaging community members or municipal staff in the development of your energy or climate action plan
- “Selling” climate action to your elected officials
- Presenting your greenhouse gas inventory results at a city council meeting
- Writing text for your climate action plan or website
- Creating messaging for your mayor
Download the Five Guidelines
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Want the CliffsNotes version of our five guidelines? Download this summary sheet with a distillation of the key takeaways for each guideline.
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Distilling Climate Communication into Five Guidelines
We offer no magic bullets. Only five guidelines for how to engage more people in dialogue and solutions around climate action:
- Guideline #1: Know your audience so that you can target your messages to them.
- Guideline #2: Be aware of how Americans’ values shape their beliefs on climate change.
- Guideline #3: To capture your audience’s attention, talk about climate impacts in local, immediate terms.
- Guideline #4: Emphasize the power and practicality of local climate solutions, especially community preparedness.
- Guideline #5: Address climate science in a simple, compelling way, and stress the certainties of what we know.
For easy reference, the guide lists the big takeaways after each section, as well as relevant resources for those who want to dig into more details.