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How to build climate narratives around national identity and cultural pride

By George Marshall on June 26, 2014

A new report by COIN argues that language built on people’s shared sense of national identity can create a common commitment to action, providing an important strategy for overcoming the political and attitudinal divides around climate change.

The report, Hearth and Hiraeth: Constructing Climate Change Narratives around National Identity draws on the findings of a major programme COIN led for the Welsh Government. This programme developed language and narratives that could work with all social groups and be applied in all its communications.

The two-year programme built on the latest research into climate change attitudes and a detailed analysis of cultural values. It conducted rigorous testing of messages in groups that had been recruited according to a values-based segmentation model. It is one of the first programmes in the world to apply the research into values-based climate communications across an entire country.
Key findings of the report found that:

  • an approach that starts with national identity markers and values can generate fresh, creative and more effective language;
  • national messaging can draw on the ‘intrinsic’ values of cultural belonging rather than the ‘extrinsic values’ of nationalistic superiority and competitive leadership;
  • some of the main narratives favoured by politicians and government have never been tested and actually speak very poorly to the values of the general public;
  • the programme provides a model that can be replicated in other countries – or in any large institution, business or network with a distinct cultural identity.

The Framework Report containing the main findings of The Welsh Narratives Programme can be found here.




By George Marshall

George is the co-founder of Climate Outreach and now works as an independent consultant. He has 35 years experience at all levels of communications and advocacy – from community level protest movements, to senior positions in Greenpeace and the Rainforest Foundation, to advisory roles for governments, businesses and international agencies. He is an award winning documentary maker and writes regularly on climate change issues including articles for The Guardian, The New Statesman, New Scientist and The Ecologist.

He is also the author of two books, Carbon Detox (Hamlyn Gaia, 2007) and Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, listed by Esquire as one of the ’15 essential books on climate change’. Go to George’s Wikipedia page for more information about him.

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