At COP26 in Glasgow, it was clear that businesses are increasingly focused on sustainability, that the youth voice is gaining more and more strength, and that activists are urging world leaders to switch from climate commitment to climate action.
Climate communicators have a key role to play in generating climate solutions and there is increasing pressure to act, but they need to adjust the way they communicate in their campaigns to show how businesses, governments and other organisations are not just talking about committing to climate change, but showing how they are taking real climate action.
The increased focus from climate commitment to climate action is being felt in every sector and industry:
- There is an estimated $26 trillion in economic gains at stake
- A growing number of young people are looking for green jobs as companies fight for highly skilled talent.
- More than 200 companies have pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2040 and that number will continue to grow.
Perceptions among global business leaders and decision makers back this up. According to Anne Kawalerski, chief marketing officer at Bloomberg Media, 99% of business leaders consider the ESG efforts and reputation of companies when they’re making decisions on behalf of their own company.
The implication for climate comms professionals is significant: demonstrating action matters. When an organisation’s messaging and activity are connected to measurable outcomes, it drives meaningful environmental impact and social value.
Here are some of the key trends to build into your sustainability communications strategies in 2022 and help make a real impact in tackling climate change.
In this article:
- 1. From climate commitments to climate action
- 2. Switch in focus to Africa
- 3. Climate adaptation and loss & damage
- 4. Increased representation of youth voices
- 5. Time for translation
- 6. Put the ‘S’ back in ESG
- 7. Following through on green finance
- 8. Accelerated phasing out of fossil fuels
- 9. A return to policy-focussed, in-person events
- 10. 2030 Planning
1. From climate commitments to climate action
Despite the increase in climate commitments, 2021 was dominated by COVID-19, a worsening climate crisis, and increased global inequality. 2022 will be defined by the need for action, rather than more pledges.
The most recent IPCC report has shown, time is not on our side, so in 2022 it is imperative to build on what was achieved and succeed where we have previously failed, by putting words into action.
As net zero pledges become fashionable, data disclosure has to follow. Many countries are currently looking at introducing climate-related disclosures to be made compulsory in sustainability reports.
Advances in regulation will also force companies to start getting serious about their net-zero goals, exposing those who are making empty promises.
As Alok Sharma said in his speech at Chatham House: “There is no more time to: ‘sit tight and assess’. We must deliver. Together. Now.”
2. Switch in focus to Africa
This year, COP27 will take place in Egypt and the climate vulnerabilities facing communities across the African continent will be on full display, including the ongoing drought in the Sahel and floods in the Nile Delta.
As electricity demand on the continent is predicted to double by 2030, Africa will need help transitioning to clean energy.
As such, we expect more and more demand for that money to stop flowing into fossil fuels and be used instead to scale the adoption of renewables and invest in nature.
In addition, comms teams need to rethink their strategy. Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform on the continent. However, the platform is notoriously slow to load because it pulls in photos, videos, posts and links each time you refresh the page, making it difficult to access in rural locations or areas where internet costs are out of reach for many people.
The solution: Facebook Lite. It uses less bandwidth as compared to the main app and will help users who live in remote areas where internet speed is very low.
3. Climate adaptation and loss & damage
The question now is will other countries follow their lead? Some people are hopeful that COP27 being held on African soil, a continent experiencing some of the worst impacts of the crisis, will mean a stronger push to address loss and damage.
Global cooperation is vital to tackling climate change and the risks of inaction and benefits of action extend far beyond the environment, our economies and global security will suffer if we do not enact our commitments.
4. Increased representation of youth voices
Last year revealed that globally, we are tired of dealing with significant issues in the same old ways and expecting radical improvements. This is a message that echoed loud and clear at last year’s COP26.
One of the highlights at last year’s Glasgow Conference Conference was 26-year-old Elizabeth Wathuti’s speech.
As such, we expect to see a strong increase in youth activism driven by the continued ‘Greta Thunberg effect’.
5. Time for translation
Internet users are frequently translating content into their native languages, as shown in these charts from the Digital 2022 Global Overview Report, so they will be looking to do the same for your content.
While there are 6 official UN languages (English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian) projects like Climate To are looking to translate climate change news into even more languages to help reach an even broader audience.
Taking the time to translate key documents into Arabic and French to reach a wider audience in Africa and beyond will be impactful for climate comms campaigns.
6. Put the ‘S’ back in ESG
There is no climate justice without social justice.
More and more countries are implementing regulations that strengthen the social factor in ESG, requiring companies to confront the impacts of their business not only on their employees and geographical neighbours but also on all involved in their value chains.
This means: no more ambitious-sounding headlines that lack substance just to please consumers. Instead, companies should focus more on honest and productive dialogue with activists and organisations to figure out together how they can meaningfully evolve their approach to climate change.
The pressure to change before it’s too late will largely fall to big businesses, which generate the majority of greenhouse gases on a global scale.
ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron, for example, were among the 100 companies named as responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions, according to a report by the Carbon Disclosure Project. What action they take to mitigate the effects of climate change is key.
NewClimate Institute’s Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022, which assesses the climate strategies of 25 major global companies, is a good critical analysis of the extent to which they demonstrate corporate climate leadership.
7. Following through on green finance
The climate crisis is an issue of global injustice. Global heating is increasing the severity and frequency of extreme weather events and vulnerable countries do not have the capacities and finance to mitigate and adapt to these impacts.
At COP26, African nations pushed heavily for more adaptation funding from wealthy countries who have contributed the most to the climate crisis. This pressure led to important developments. However, this is still a fraction of the billions required by the Global South to adapt to our changing climate.
In 2009, high-income countries that have historically produced most emissions, committed to provide US$100 billion of climate finance annually by 2020 to help developing countries deal with the impacts of the climate crisis. But this climate finance target was not met in 2020, nor in 2021.
This year will be crucial to fulfil this promise and provide funding for those most at risk, who are facing the consequences of a problem they did not cause.
At the other end of the scale, every corporation has to understand that easy money to invest into their operations is no longer going to be available, unless they can be proven, against solid CO2 disclosure criteria, to be sustainable. Communicating climate commitments must be part of 2022 comms planning for all businesses looking to access finance in the future.
8. Accelerated phasing out of fossil fuels
Many countries at COP26 were angered by a change to the text replacing the call to phase “out” the use of coal with a call to phase it “down”. 2022 will see further pushing on leveraging fossil fuels out of the global energy mix completely.
One of the challenges for the fossil fuel industry is to reduce fossil fuel production and capacity while replacing it with other lines of business.
Renewables are now the cheapest form of energy generation – a clear incentive to rapidly move away from burning fossil fuels, to a far more sustainable approach for the global energy sector.
However, the world’s 60 largest private sector banks have put more than $3.8 trillion into the oil, gas and coal sectors since the 2015 Paris agreement, according to NGO research. And a lot has gone to oil and gas companies with big expansion plans.
With no sign of rapid change, banks face a double difficulty in exposing their fossil financing to more scrutiny without showing how they might eventually wind it back.
9. A return to policy-focussed, in-person events
According to the UN’s event calendar, 10 key events, including COP27 in Egypt, Stockholm+50 and the new IPCC report, will shape critical conversations and influence public policy decisions around climate action.
Another major event will be the G20 meeting, being the group of the world’s largest economies accounting for around 80% of global emissions.
10. 2030 Planning
The clock is ticking and we are already well into this vital decade, the one in which we must deliver on the energy transition we need to make a difference to climate change.
While 2050 targets are necessary, it’s the plan for 2030 that will make a real difference, as it will be fundamentally easier to remove the first half of greenhouse gas emissions than the rest.
Want to find out more about how Empower can help you navigate the climate change sector in the year ahead?
Empower is a specialist sustainability communications agency, with comprehensive and in-depth expertise in digital strategy, digital transformation and digital innovation.