Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 1: Communicating Climate Change with the Centre-Right

Briony Latter, 8th November 2018

Briony Latter

Briony Latter

This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this first post, we share some potential ways to communicate about climate change with people on the centre-right of the political spectrum who tend to hold conservative values such as the importance of family, continuity and cultural heritage.

This graph from Carbon Brief illustrates the political divide on climate change in the UK.

Climate change is an issue often associated with those on the political left, but it’s important to engage people from across the political spectrum. With 315 Conservative MPs currently in the House of Commons, it’s likely that many of you reading this will have a Conservative MP. With climate change scepticism usually higher amongst those on the political right, it can feel like a challenge to discuss the topic if you have different political viewpoints.

Just last week, the government budget was announced by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. There was no mention of climate change. So how can you talk to your Conservative MP about climate change in a way that will interest them? Climate Outreach, Europe’s leading climate change communicators, have produced a number of resources about how to communicate climate change to those on the centre-right. Their research has identified 11 core centre-right principles that can be used in conversations about climate change.

One of the announcements from the budget was that fuel duty would be frozen, saving car drivers money. One way of talking to them about climate change in relation to this topic could be to discuss the impact of cars on air quality and how this affects children. This links to two of the core centre-right principles identified by Climate Outreach: ‘intergenerational duty’ and ‘the good life’ – “an aspiration to happiness, good health, and wellbeing”. There has been plenty of recent news coverage about air pollution and how this has a negative impact on children, particularly during the school run and whilst outside at school. Framing this in a way that emphasises the impact on children’s health and the responsibility we have for younger generations may be a suitable approach to take with your MP. For further information about air pollution, read our air pollution resource.

Torrential rainfall in South Yorkshire on the 25th June 2007 led to the beck flooding in the afternoon. Photograph by Wendy North.

Torrential rainfall in South Yorkshire on the 25th June 2007 led to the beck flooding in the afternoon. Photograph by Wendy North.

Bright Blue, a think tank for ‘liberal conservatism’ published a response to the budget last Tuesday. In it they state that “the Chancellor was wrong to bring forward tax cuts for higher-paid workers whilst the poorest are still being squeezed”. This is a good example of another key centre-right principle identified by Climate Outreach: 'fairness'. By framing climate change issues in a way that reflects this, you are more likely to connect to your MP’s values. For example, you could talk about how unfair it is that people living in certain areas have to bear the brunt of flooding.

As we note in our tips for preparing for a difficult conversation with your MP, your overall aim should be to find a way to work together despite any disagreements you might have. For more information, see our page about working with Conservative MPs or contact us about getting a tailored strategy for your MP.

Hope for the Future Case Study

We worked with Philip Davies MP, one of the 5 MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008. Tapping into the centre-right values of ‘common sense’ and ‘fairness’, we decided to raise with him the high levels of fuel poverty in his constituency and the common-sense solution of improving housing efficiency. Following the meeting, Mr Davies submitted three written questions on improving housing efficiency in the UK, and in March this year we held an event in his constituency on the role of renewable energy in alleviating fuel poverty.