Constructing public-facing campaigns around net zero ‘upwards’ from core center-right values, rather than ‘downwards’ from the technicalities of the policy target

This approach – connecting the policy with the more tangible and immediate concerns of people’s lives – will build broader and deeper understanding of the changes underway than could be achieved through facts and figures alone. Grounding the communications strategy in the
audience’s values, showing them what is at stake, and forging a bridge between the science-policy discourse and the everyday things that matter to people, will give people an investment in the strategy. This will make it more difficult for politicians to backtrack on the commitments made for
a decarbonised future.

Key themes, narratives, and strategic
communications recommendations
1 Highlight the shared agreement on the need to act
Although climate change is not their highest priority, this audience recognises the seriousness
of the environmental problems net zero is trying to address (especially reducing waste and
pollution), and their position is best characterised as ‘let’s get on with it.’ Climate scepticism is
becoming increasingly socially unacceptable, and net zero messaging should reflect this evolving
social norm. Use inclusive, collective pronouns (we/us etc): ‘this is something people like us are
worried about.’
2 Make net zero here and now
The net zero discourse needs a catchy public-facing name, that situates the idea in the ‘here and
now’. This means presenting net zero as a domestic challenge about taking steps now to safeguard
our future (contrary to existing public discourses which stress the importance of fulfilling our
international obligations – of limited interest to this audience). And it means speaking to the
present day (not 2050).
3 Focus messaging on a small number of tangible actions
Transparency and immediacy (letting people see that we have begun moving towards a net zero
future) will give people confidence in the strategy and a sense of momentum, that something
is being done. For example, the switch to electric cars or reforestation and conservation
programmes can be badged under a net zero approach – net zero should not be something
‘additional’ for people to get their heads around. Create a sense of momentum by highlighting
recent wins, intermediary measurable targets (e.g. area of land to be reforested by 2025, or
improvements in energy efficiency) and annual progress reports. Co-benefits need to be very
clearly connected to existing values and identities or they will be dismissed.
4 Connect the dots between net zero, climate change,
and centre-right values
Connect the net zero climate change message with the themes that matter for the centre-right:
reducing waste, a clean environment, fulfilling our responsibilities to the next generation and
protecting our countryside. The abhorrence of waste (a core centre-right issue) was made clear in
the workshop discussions. People immediately took the discussion of reducing meat consumption
into in-depth discussions about food waste and how difficult retailers made it to avoid waste.
Speaking to how net zero will tackle these problems is a sure-fire winner for centre-right
audiences. Conversely there was strong resistance to associating reducing meat consumption with
net zero objectives and a healthier population. The public (not just the centre-right) do not yet
associate a change in diet with environmental goals.4

5 Build trust by using familiar faces as trusted messengers
Use well known ‘folk’ experts from popular culture as messengers – trusted messengers
spontaneously named by workshop participants included Martin Lewis, Bear Grylls, Dr Michael
Moseley, and Gareth Southgate. Trusted messengers will communicate in the language of
‘common sense’ (a key centre-right theme). They will be people the target audience feel a shared
sense of identity with. This audience will react negatively if they feel they are being spoken down
to, do not identify with the messenger, or do not hear their concerns being addressed in the
6 Communicate net zero using examples that will be seen as realistic and feasible
The centre-right is a wary and pragmatic audience. They want to see targets that they believe
are achievable, and they want to know that there will be proper oversight. Fairness and balance
underpin centre-right attitudes to the world. They expect a level playing field where everyone
is playing by the same rules. The centre-right will quickly lose faith in net zero if they perceive
they are doing their bit but see others not holding up their end of the bargain and ‘getting away
with it.’ 5 Talk of reducing traffic in cities was a prime example of this need to follow through on
the practicalities – participants were dismissive of claims of a better cycle lane network in cities
to reduce car traffic because existing cycle lanes were not being policed effectively, and were
instead often used as car parking spaces by cars.
7 Supplement the results in this report with quantitative
and mixed-methods testing
Findings from this initial research have provided important insights on the net zero language that
will be most effective for connecting with centre-right audiences. A more formal, quantitative
or mixed-methods testing programme of titles for the policy, narratives and imagery should be
carried out to develop the net zero public communications strategy. This testing should also
include identifying trusted messengers for net zero communications.