REPORT: How to win the argument on climate change – a five-point plan
Simon Maxwell, Executive Chair of CDKN, offers a five-point plan on how to win the public and policy argument on climate change.
Maxwell argues that a plan is necessary because climate change policy is contested, and – like all policy – has winners and losers. The five points are:
- Find a simple way to tell the story. The key is to simplify high-level scientific analysis and find a way to make personal, emotional connections, using images and stories as well as facts and figures.
- Create a positive message on the transformational benefits of taking action. Actions can be taken to: avoid disasters; find new sources of growth in the green economy; exploit the potential of climate-induced changes in the world economy; find synergies and co-benefits from climate action, for example in terms of pollution or urban congestion. Emphasising the positive impacts, especially on poor people’s livelihoods, can create positive messages from these actions.
- Craft a policy package that aids transition and helps losers. This requires careful analysis of winners and losers, and of the sequencing of reform; packages should then be designed to protect the welfare of those affected by policy. Progress towards reform can be fragile, though, and needs to be sustained.
- Build a leadership group that will deliver a long-term consensus. Often, this can be done from parliament, for example via all-party parliamentary groups. Think tanks have an important part to play in building national policy communities and in forging consensus. There is also experience of climate-specific multi-stakeholder processes involving governments, the private sector and civil society.
- Focus relentlessly on implementation. Good planning but poor implementation is the bane of government action worldwide. But new lessons are emerging on how to set high-level objectives, monitor progress over time and set up processes that break bottlenecks. These are beginning to be applied in the field of climate policy.
It may be that irreversible ‘tipping points’ are reached and that the overt management of change becomes unnecessary. It is good to be optimistic on this but, at the same time, be like Madeline Albright: an optimist who nevertheless worries a lot.
Image: wind farm, India. Courtesy Shutterstock.