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Introducing Germany Talks Climate – deepening understanding on how to engage more diverse audiences on climate issues

By Julia Rawlins on January 25, 2022

June 2022 update: the German-language toolkit, Übers Klima reden, is now live.

How can German society be engaged more widely and deeply on issues relating to the climate crisis? Our new Germany Talks Climate project, in collaboration with local partners and based on More in Common’s Core Beliefs model, is designed to support a broader social mandate for climate action across the country – one that is key for global climate action. 

Fighting climate change with a city pop-up bike lane, Berlin Germany

As Germany’s new government settles into power, high on its priority list is the climate challenge. Indeed the issue was central to the recent election campaign, with record levels of public climate concern

Yet in many ways now the real challenge begins: how will the public be engaged to help achieve the country’s ambitious climate plans? How will Germans respond, in particular to the social impacts of the coal and nuclear phase-out, the renewables roll-out, and the decarbonisation of transport, industry and many other areas? 

People must be central to the societal transformations we know are needed – and that’s why we’ve launched our Germany Talks Climate project with local partners. Through an evidence-based and values-oriented approach, this 15-month project will provide insights and practical recommendations for civil society organisations to reach groups and communities not yet been part of the public conversation on the climate crisis.

Why Germany?

Following the success of Climate Outreach’s work in the UK – in particular Britain Talks Climate, one of the most significant audience-insights projects released in the climate sector –  we’ve been asked to roll out the model in many countries. 

Our theory of change sets out three types of nations in which we concentrate our support, including high-emitting nations like Germany in which political polarisation risks being a barrier to climate action. Germany is also a key country in influencing Europe’s, and often the world’s, approach to climate action. 

Over the past few years we’ve also established strong connections and partnerships with German organisation as well as the German arm of More in Common. They recognise the importance of progressing climate communications and public engagement as a key part of an effective climate strategy, and were keen to bring in our expertise and approach to support their plans. Thus Germany Talks Climate was born!


Initial research 

Together with our partners, Climate Outreach is adapting tried and tested methodologies to gain a better understanding of how the six segments of German society (as defined by More in Common’s research) respond to specific climate narratives, images and messengers. Building narratives that resonate with a diverse range of values and everyday concerns is critical for the long-term goal of deepening public engagement – and placing people at the heart of climate action. 

Our initial research (stakeholder interviews with civil society organisations and desk research) has highlighted several themes around public responses to the climate crisis in Germany. These include concerns around fairness given that climate impacts are hitting the poorest hardest, and that the efforts to mitigate and adapt to these impacts need to be developed in more socially just ways.

Climate activist holding up a stick at at an occupation of the Dannenroder Forest, Homberg, Germany

A second theme is a widespread view that one’s individual actions have very little impact given the scale of the challenges, or indeed that Germany’s efforts are negligible in comparison with other countries’ emissions. Experiencing a lack of personal efficacy can lead to feelings of hopelessness which comes across particularly in polling with younger generations. 

Finally, there is ‘a crisis of trust’ in democratic institutions, with a majority of citizens during the pandemic stating that politicians are not interested in their opinions. In the context of a new coalition government placing climate protection at the top of the agenda, we aim to highlight the potential of engaging the public in their endeavours. This requires clearly showing where people stand together and where there are key differences, so communications and engagement formats are tailored to their values and concerns. This will enable more inclusive and constructive dialogue on issues that matter to people, and inform new initiatives which harness the power of civil society through partnerships and collaboration. 


Next steps

Over the next 3 months, Germany Talks Climate will carry out qualitative research in focus groups, followed by quantitative research with a survey to test selected narratives, images and messengers. 

Once the data has been analysed, we’ll present the findings in a German-language online toolkit which will be launched in the summer, alongside an English-language summary. This will be accompanied by a series of webinars, and we will also offer bespoke support to organisations wishing to apply the learnings directly to their own contexts. In addition, the project will develop further recommendations based on the needs of civil society and public sector organisations for longer-term initiatives which support public engagement at local and national levels.

Many thanks to Stiftung Mercator and European Climate Foundation for supporting Germany Talks Climate. 

2 responses to Introducing Germany Talks Climate – deepening understanding on how to engage more diverse audiences on climate issues

  1. David Loesche says: says:

    Thank You for dealing with this subject! I am afraid that too many activists take action without thinking through how they are perceived by the general public or special target groups.
    Maybe your work provides a foundation on which to build a more effective form of activism.

  2. Adel Rizk says: says:

    Am interested in Climat Change Challenges.

By Julia Rawlins

Julia was our Engagement Lead for Germany Talks Climate from 2021 to 2023. She has a Masters of Science (Environmental Policy) and Masters of Arts (European Literature and History) and loves to bridge the gaps between disciplines, sectors and cultures. She has worked for a number of international organisations, including the British Council and Climate-KIC, and having focused on responses to climate change from diverse perspectives (culture, education, entrepreneurship and research), she is inspired by the many people, ideas and actions that are already working towards a just transition.

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