I started my career in the sustainable energy sector somewhat accidentally. I had next to no understanding of energy policy, it was impossible to keep track of all the different technologies and government departments, and I could hardly believe the list of acronyms. Everyone seemed to speak in kWh, be in regular contact with key stakeholders and to know all about systems and types of infrastructure I had never heard of: air source heat pumps, ground-source heat pumps, heat networks, biomass, hydrogen boilers and hydrogen cars. I spent the first week thinking that I had been hired by mistake before realising that my unfamiliarity was precisely the point.
I had been hired as a content developer, but I wasn’t there to make sense of the words everybody else seemed to already understand. I was there to find new words: words that speak to tradespeople who have not yet brought into the low carbon transition; homeowners and tenants who haven’t heard of low carbon solutions; policymakers who have the power to make a difference; and everyone else in between. The reality is that we all have a role to play in tackling climate change. But we don’t all speak the same language or soak up information in the same place.
Those working at the forefront of low carbon technology and climate policy are doing a fantastic job writing policy papers and making the case for interventions that will shape the low carbon future; however, many of these papers are talked about in roundtables or in working groups behind closed doors. Sure, it is often accompanied by a press release and posted on Twitter and LinkedIn, but the communication tends to target experts and stop there. Surely, it is not just a learned few that need to hear about the carbon emissions from fossil fuel heating or the health impact of our inefficient homes. These messages need to reach and influence people, regardless of where they live or who they are.
Policy drives the low carbon heat market, but the effectiveness of a policy isn’t determined exclusively by its design: it must also gain consumer trust and provide the supply chain with confidence. Businesses are often best placed to reach these audiences and they have never been more accessible. It is no longer – and arguably never has been – enough to simply drive change inside the policy arena. Voices must be used to convey the benefits of a policy to the groups on whom it is focused – tapping into the specific messages that matter to them the most in a way that makes sense. People are looking for leading commentators and market shapers. The leading voices don’t just shape climate policy: they engage the installer base, encourage industry collaboration, raise awareness and drive the debate.
Author: Christina Thompson-Yates
Contact Christina to find out more about the link between climate policy and communications.