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FEATURE: Insights from Climate Knowledge Brokers

Victoria Healey of the National Renewable Energy Lab and Sigmund Kluckner of the Climate Knowledge Brokers’ (CKB) Group explore the vital role that knowledge brokers play in catalysing debate on climate change – and they interview prolific U.S. colleague William Becker. The CKB Group has its public meeting and annual conference in Copenhagen from 22-24 June.

The Climate Knowledge Brokers Group (CKB) is writing its manifesto. It is a mammoth act, carried out by a dedicated group of 15 people connected with the CKB Group and with input from some 80 more. It is also a necessary one, for the process of creating it has unearthed difficult but fundamental questions of identity, of purpose, and of scope. It has also galvanised and mobilised the CKB toward a common purpose, and is generating some of the most compelling evidence available for why the field is more important than ever before.

Among the contributors to the CKB Manifesto is William (Bill) Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) and long-time policy advisor on climate and energy issues in the United States.

Vickie Healey of the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) interviewed Bill as part of a series to be published by the CKB Group in advance of the Manifesto’s publication. Bill provided tremendous insights into several key questions facing brokers of climate knowledge, not least among them the nature of “knowledge brokering” itself.

A climate knowledge broker is “someone who conveys objective information and conveys it effectively to other stakeholders in the climate and energy fields… good knowledge brokers do not simply serve as a pipeline through which information flows from one place to another. The “broker” role involves assimilating, interpreting, sorting, translating and integrating information to create new or derivative language,” he said.

Mr. Becker serves as a member of or policy consultant and advisor to several organisations: Natural Capitalism Solutions; the Environment & Energy Study institute; the Clean Energy Solutions Center; and Mikhail Gorbachev’s International Climate Change Task Force. In most cases, the relationships that led to these assignments developed in the course of his climate and energy work, which included serving as a senior official for 15 years in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. He laughs that in his various roles, he has to be an avid consumer of climate information: “I gather information that I may not use immediately, but that allows me to be “shovel ready” when the right moment for that information arises in the public or political conversation.”

Mr. Becker points out, “there is a narrow line between advocacy and information.” Locating that line and staying on the right (information) side of it is a key challenge for climate knowledge brokers, who are continually developing new techniques to bring critical information to users and audiences in need of that information – even those who are not necessarily interested in hearing it. “What I and others in the environmental arena have learned is how we convey information is as important as the information we convey,” says Mr. Becker. “There was a time when I and many of my colleagues went in search of moral victories by converting people to our points of view. The better part of knowledge brokering, however, is to communicate ideas in the language and in the value systems of the audience… One has to be multi-lingual in the cultural sense.”

To read the full interview, including Mr. Becker’s assessment of the gaps and limitations to climate knowledge systems today and ways to overcome them, visit the CKB website here. The CKB Group will be publishing more interviews with knowledge brokers and “power users” of climate knowledge like Mr. Becker in the weeks running up to the launch of the CKB Manifesto in mid-2015.

Follow the action at the CKB Group public event and annual conference next week via


Occasionally CDKN invites guest bloggers from around the world to share their opinions and analysis. These views do not necessarily represent the views of CDKN or the Alliance members that run the CDKN programme.

Image: COP20, Lima, courtesy Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

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