Tips for developing an effective climate advocacy campaign

June 28, 2017

written by Trevor Anderson

According to recently released data from the Yale Program on Climate Communication, roughly 70 percent of the American public believes that global warming is happening and that carbon emissions should be scaled back. However, the other 30 percent, including some key elected leaders, still need a little convincing. This has left many in the U.S., including myself, wanting to advocate for climate progress.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps recently hosted a Climate Advocacy Workshop for a select group of Climate Corps alumni in Austin, Texas, and I was lucky enough to attend. EDF Climate Corps is a summer fellowship program that places trained graduate students inside leading organizations to accelerate sustainable energy projects and strategy. I was a Climate Corps Fellow in downtown Los Angeles in summer 2015, working for a commercial real estate company on green building, energy efficiency, and sustainability initiatives.

EDF Climate Corps Climate Advocacy Workshop Group Shot

At the advocacy workshop, Jared Carter of Vermont Law School detailed what it means to be a climate advocate, what others like us have done, and what actions we can take today, all while keeping our day jobs.

If you, too, want to advocate for climate progress, and may not be sure where to begin, here are some tips for developing an effective advocacy campaign:

  1. Identify the Issue and determine what specifically to work on
    e.g., carbon offsets
  2. Create an Entity (or find one), as it’s more effective to advocate on behalf of an organization than as an individual
    e.g. Southern Californians for Local Offset Projects (SCALLOP)
  3. Define big picture Goals and the clear, specific Objectives to move toward them
    e.g., Goal: The inclusion of carbon offsets in California state and local climate policy instruments to aid California’s goal of reducing GHG emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030
    Objective 1: Support the incorporation of carbon offsets in the California cap-and-trade program beyond 2020;
    Objective 2: Produce educational materials on the positive impacts of local level offsets and distribute to Southern California communities;
  4. Carry out a Behavior Gap Analysis and assess how best to mobilize public support
    e.g., Showcase the benefits – environmental, economic, and social – of developing offset projects in local Southern Californian communities and inform the public
  5. Identify your Primary – the people with the power to make decisions – and Secondary Audiences – supporters, opponents, and “persuadables”
    e.g., Primary – Elected officials, such as State Representatives;
    Secondary – Supporters, such as environmental nonprofits; Opponents, such as climate deniers; and Persuadables, such as Southern Californian residents
  6. Conduct a Power Analysis to understand the powers and weakness of all allies and opponents
    e.g., Local councilmembers have Positional Power – power by role; grassroots organizations have Collective Power – power in numbers; and nonprofits have Expert Power – power of knowledge and information
  7. Create a visual Action Map portraying and establishing the connections amongst stakeholders
    e.g., Draw a line connecting the grassroots organizations with environmental nonprofits, and write out the ways the two can work together
  8. Build a Platform of proposed solutions and Stand on It
    e.g., Offsets have proven to be a key policy mechanism that achieves numerous complementary and critical GHG policy goals, and rather than scaling back an already successful solution, the positive impacts of additional offset generation and usage should be evaluated
  9. Develop a Strategy of concrete actions to achieve specific outcomes;
    e.g., Attend town hall meetings to learn about local climate policy measures; call and/or email elected officials defending legislation for carbon offsets; etc.
    and
  10. Focus on what’s achievable in the Short-Term
    e.g., open public comment periods, upcoming policy decision deadlines and/or elections, etc.

All in all, what’s most important to being an effective advocate, is the need for a positive approach with affirmative solutions.