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How we're helping the Scottish Government - which has the world’s most ambitious climate change targets - encourage discussion about climate change among the Scottish public 

March 2018 update: the Climate Conversations model is included in the Scottish Government's 'Climate Change Plan - The Third Report on Proposals and Policies, 2018-2032'. The report highlights that "these climate conversations are continuing through local groups across Scotland, and the findings will inform the development of government policy".

September 2017 update: the Scottish Government has released a report outlining findings from 27 conversations held using our Public Climate Conversations methodology (see reports below) - these findings are being used to further develop the Scottish Government's draft Climate Change Plan. 

Download our 'How to' Guide on the Scottish Government's website.

Watch the recording of our webinar.

Read our piece in the Huffington Post about this project.

Scotland has the most ambitious climate change laws in the world, and they recognise that achieving their targets is dependent on the ongoing support of the Scottish public.

The Scottish Government initiated the Climate Change Public Conversation Series, and ClimateXChange (Scotland's centre of expertise on climate change) commissioned us to develop a package of resources which together make up a world first in public engagement with climate change: a comprehensive, evidence-based guide to holding public climate conversations. These resources will be of value to any organisation wishing to encourage discussion and action on climate change, in and beyond Scotland.  

The resources include:

  • 'How to Guide': an evidence-based practical guide to holding public conversations about climate change. Includes a script and supporting materials.
  • Three reports on the research behind the 'How to Guide':
    • ‘Desk review’: provides an overview of participatory climate change research in the UK and identifies best practice principles for running climate change workshops with the public
    • ‘Findings from the Workshops’: includes an in-depth account of the findings from this project’s research workshops
    • ‘Framework for Developing Conversations’: explains how the findings from the research workshops were used to design the 'How to' guide

Key recommendations:

A number of principles and recommendations emerged from this research project

  1. Keep it simple

A few resources are enough to spark conversation - basic visual prompts, accompanied with everyday language, allow participants to engage in discussions about climate change. The purpose is simply to create a space for a conversation. Whilst some knowledge of climate change and experience of hosting discussions is recommended, the instructions and resources provided in the guide means the organiser does not need to be a climate change expert or trained facilitator.

  1.  Don’t focus on discussing the science of climate change

People do not feel confident talking about the science of climate change, so steer away from the numbers, graphs and jargon. They do however generally have enough knowledge to talk about the implications of climate change. We encountered very little scepticism about climate change in the discussion groups, so moving on to discussions about what can be done about it avoids getting diverted into debates and questions about the science.

  1. Focus on the things that matter to people

It’s important to remember climate change is not front of mind for most people. Start, continue and end with where people are - their immediate concerns, hopes and lived experiences. People care about their families, their local environment and the near term future. Move from there into discussions of what climate change means for the things they love.

  1. People enjoy participating in climate conversations

People enjoy talking with their peers about climate change - they hear about the issue on the news but rarely get the chance to talk about how they feel about what they hear. It is important to root the conversation in people’s everyday experiences and common values. This approach can then open up a deeper engagement with the choices that need to be made. Avoid approaching conversations as a classroom in which to educate the public about climate change.

Download the 'How to' Guide on the Scottish Government's website.

Watch the recording of our webinar.

Read our piece in the Huffington Post about this project.


Photo: Foam

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