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Letter to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following decision to delay climate policies

By Rachael Orr on September 21, 2023

Dear Prime Minister,

In your speech on delivering our net zero goals on the 20th September you said that you and your fellow political leaders haven’t ‘looked people in the eye’ and explained the hard choices and trade-offs involved in delivering our ambitious climate policies. 

We agree. We think you urgently need to change that. 

Climate Outreach are experts in climate change communication. We have nearly 20 years of research and evidence on the social science of climate change communication and public engagement. We understand the importance of working with people with different perspectives on climate change and specialise in engaging people outside ‘the green bubble’.

And all of our research tells us that people want bold leadership on climate change, not backtracking. 

Of course people are worried about the cost of living. But support for the transition to net zero has remained stubbornly high, with support only rising for measures that can tackle emissions and save people money.  

And of course people want policies to feel fair. But absolutely key to this is people understanding and feeling involved in the design and roll out of our net zero policies. 

Where there are worries about the costs and benefits of net zero, this should be addressed not by backtracking but through proper public engagement: a combination of exciting and visionary communications, delivered by trusted messengers, and public involvement in how to make necessary policies feel fair. 

In fact, this public engagement, these honest conversations about climate change, should have started years ago. Yet in your government’s latest Public Attitudes Tracker on net zero, 48% of respondents felt they knew ‘only a little or hardly anything’ about the issue, and 11% said they had never heard of it. How is this possible for the greatest challenge of our time?

At the COP26 in Glasgow your government committed to publishing a public engagement strategy on net zero. We are now calling on you urgently to do this. If, as you say, you want to build the public’s consent and have honest conversations with them about net zero, an ambitious, clear public engagement strategy is crucial. 

We would welcome the opportunity to meet you and your team and assist you in designing a national public engagement strategy, having recently published an evidence-based, practical report on this very subject.


Rachael Orr
CEO, Climate Outreach

Reports & guides

Reports & guides

Towards a UK public engagement strategy on climate change

5 responses to Letter to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following decision to delay climate policies

  1. wani yonoma michael says: says:

    its really disappointing seeing the government of developed country like UK failing to implement the Paris Climate agreement

  2. judy seymour says: says:

    Rishi Sunak says politicians haven’t yet “had the courage to look people in the eye and explain what’s really involved”. I wish he had said what he means. As I understand it ‘what’s really involved’ is that even if we stopped using oil right now – – which we can’t – and even if we continued with business as usual but fuelled by green energy instead – we still would not stop climate and ecological breakdown because its already too late. Whats really involved is that whilst we have to accelerate a transition to cleaner energy, we have yet to harvest the fall out from the damage we’ve done over the last fifty years We are in climate debt if you will and every day we are adding still more to it. The situation is that more ‘Events’ are inevitable. There will be droughts, floods, food supply chains will break down, possibly the global finance system will collapse. That’s what’s involved. So what I need to see is a cross party strategy that puts the climate and ecological crises front and centre and does so by empowering us all to look to what measures we need to build the resilience our communities will require to navigate the difficult days ahead. Because if we care about our children and grandchildren, we all need to get thinking. We all need to be involved.

  3. Kath Sainsbury says: says:

    A national public engagement strategy is crucial if we are to build consensus – this generation will not be forgiven if we fail to confront those ‘hard choices’ now and government is allowed to prioritise short term interests over green policies and our children’s futures.

  4. Pam Cooper says: says:

    It is essential that we stick to our climate change goals, not weaken them. The high cost of living is related to excessive profits being made by many companies, not by green policies.

  5. Andrew Chafer says: says:

    It’s already sickening that the government has done nothing obvious since the Paris Climate Agreement whilst bragging about its “progress”. Its been obvious that the development of infrastructure for electric cars, batteries and heat pumps are insufficient to meet the demands necessary to hit the ner zero targets.

By Rachael Orr

Rachael is the CEO of Climate Outreach. She works closely with the board to ensure effective governance and growth of the organisation and with our senior leaders in defining and delivering the organisation’s overall strategy, goals and impact.

Rachael has spent her career in the voluntary sector in leadership roles combining a deep commitment to social justice and to public engagement. She has run campaigns for Shelter, led programme and campaigning work at Oxfam and currently serves as Chair of Trustees at the Refugee Council.

It was in her last role, leading a network of housing associations, that Rachael really appreciated the huge gap in public awareness and engagement on climate change – and the huge opportunity to fill this gap. Housing, like many sectors, is in a race to decarbonise, and the sector is still really developing its approach to community, resident and public engagement. Rachael firmly believes that Climate Outreach is uniquely placed to help many sectors fill this gap.

Rachael is a mum to two young children so most of her spare time is spent playing schools or superheroes – and tidying up. She spends any time she gets to herself running, cycling and going to the theatre.

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