Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change

Paper Summary

The RSE has submitted a response to a consultation by the Scottish Government on its Draft Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change.

Although the response expresses support for the Strategy overall, it advocates for a deeper and more meaningful level of engagement than is currently evidenced, founded on the co-development of policies and a strong grasp of the factors that contribute to lasting behaviour and culture change. These include promoting science capital and refraining from moralism.

An effective public engagement strategy must also prioritise enabling action over communication, making the best use of digital technologies and the civic infrastructure that already exists in Scotland. However, effective communication of science and policy is still an important step in bringing the public on board and keeping them informed. Traditional media and trusted ‘ambassadors’ can relay climate messaging in a way that resonates with people from across society.

The response acknowledges the challenges posed by the green recovery from COVID-19, many of which revolve around reconciling the cost of a green recovery with the drive towards continued decarbonisation.

The response considers COP26 to be an opportunity to experiment with innovative and dynamic new forms of participatory research and dialogue, moving down from purely macro level political negotiations to the exchange of knowledge and perspectives at the level of the individual or community. This idea could be further propagated across Scotland in the form of community hubs that share best practice and motivate one another to reach locally set sustainability targets.

The response also comments on the proposed approach to monitoring and reporting. Importantly, reporting should be a constant, accessible, and multi-level process to ensure the public remains informed of progress made to date and of key endpoints.