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The #ParisAgreement marks a new day on climate action. How do we best engage new audiences to work towards a net zero emissions future?



To create the enduring solutions we need to change climate change, ClimateWorks is partnering with like-minded organisations to be the early adopters at the forefront of building the awareness and driving the national discussion about our net zero emissions future - outlined in our Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation in 2050 report.

Experience has taught us that communicating effectively with audiences requires a solid understanding of their values and priorities, and framing the opportunities and risks accordingly.

This project will provide information to ‘key influencers’ – or thought leaders – from a range of sectors, in terms familiar to them. Change is best facilitated by those who are known and trusted in their networks, informed by a strong evidence base to provide the rationale for change.

This project proposes to work with partner organisations to create, adapt and share communication materials that can be embedded in existing activities. It will also establish a methodology to be continually learning over time what sorts of content and messaging work best with a range of audiences.

The work focuses on a segment characterised as the 'persuadable middle' - those with values aligned with climate change, but not necessarily active, or prioritising it.

This demographic includes the health and education sector, sports associations, religious groups and progressive businesses.

The project leverages substantial scientific, physical and social research.

The project is divided into two distinct streams, outlined below. Both streams have a scaled approach to engagement, offering a range of base level materials and engagement activities, as well as tailored solutions for those more engaged.

Community Engagement | A 'community of practice' established across diverse project partners who will develop, share and evaluate a range of material and approaches to engage their audiences.

Business Engagement | Translating our deep decarbonisation work for business and industry audiences.

What actions do you propose?

Overall, the project aims to shift the discourse on climate change in Australia from being skeptical/doubtful about the science, impacts and solutions to climate change - to a more robust conversation that invites participation in a common goal of a net zero emissions future.

ClimateWorks approach to this project recognises that there are wide-ranging motivations at play when appealing to diverse audiences, but we will identify and engage commonly held values and attitudes to minimise the polarised nature of the debate and help establish common ground for people to unify on the issue.

Stage 1 – Community Research

Socialising the idea that a zero net emissions future is both achievable, beneficial and in a way that invites participation is a complex challenge.

Peoples touch points with the climate change - whether they are personal, or professional - are vast and varied. In being more targeted in the audiences we reach (which will define the approaches we take), we have completed substantive research on the drivers and motivators that appeal to audiences in the 'persuadable middle'. That is, those who may ostensibly care about the issue, but may not be very active on responding.

To reach these people, we have identified the need for peer-to-peer engagement and seek out trusted voices that have an ability to transcend the current debates that cause doubt and inhibit action and invite participation in a positive unifying proposition that can act as an antidote. In this body of work we will:

  1. Conduct analysis to establish audience segmentation, based on values.
  2. Develop a framework for messaging, materials and tools to reach key influencers.
  3. Establish an understanding of how to frame messages to effect a positive shift in values.
  4. Develop an understanding of how to connect values to resonant stories.
  5. Identify and approach ‘like-minded’ partners (e.g. environment groups, community organisations, sporting associations, unions, religious groups etc.), and identify communications material and activities most relevant to their audiences, and ensure our work can be tailored to add maximum value.


Stage 2 – Business Research

Both business and industry have the capacity and agility to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape on climate change. When working together, particularly in key sectors like the built environment, energy and transport - they have the ability to leverage market forces for a more rapid transition, shift the direction of investment into low emissions technology and provide a common voice to government on the need for policy certainty to support large-scale change.

Across business and industry there are already companies and groups demonstrating leadership on the issue. The first part of this stream of work is to identify who may help illustrate the benefits of progress, as well as identifying those voices most influential in a sector to raise ambition. We will also look to them to help convene other companies and groups in their sector towards common purpose.

In this body of work we will:

  1. Conduct analysis to establish a network of influential businesses and industry groups that can play a leadership role in the transition to a zero net emissions future.


Stage 3 – Community Messaging & Materials

One of the largest inhibitors to increasing the appetite for solutions to climate change is a heightened literacy in understanding the pathways to a net zero emissions future and the social, economic and environmental implications of the various options to get there.

ClimateWorks' will help build capacity in its partners to help tell this story with confidence.

This body of work has two components.


  1. Develop a communications plan, narrative and creative concepts for materials and tools.
  2. Identify and build communications capacity in influential stakeholders to develop and communicate positive stories of change that aggregate under the notion of a zero net emissions Australia.
  3. Develop briefing and support pack for partners.
  4. Testing and refinement of creative concepts.
  5. Develop an active ‘community of practice’ comprising of partners from a range of sectors including health, faith, social enterprise, education and sport and recreation; to co-develop, test and evaluate resonant messages.
  6. Through targeted social media advertising to the ‘persuadable centre’, a detailed data analysis completed across partner organisations to help understand resonant messages with a range of audiences.


Tools & materials

  1. Production of communications tools and materials for a community audience, designed for easy assimilation into the existing community education activities of partner organisations.
  2. Development of a central website to encapsulate the net zero emissions concept, that links to the 2050 pathways site.
  3. Interested partners will be invited to participate in workshops focused on designing content relevant for social media.


Stage 4 – Business Messaging & Materials

Much like the community stream, this body of work will look to build capacity and understanding of the role of business and industry in a net zero emissions future. Messaging and materials will be tailored for business audiences in mediums that work best for them.

This body of work also has two components.


  1. Develop a communications plan, narrative and creative concepts for materials and tools specific to a range of sectors.
  2. Engage business and industry groups looking to take a leadership role outlined in stage 2 and work collaboratively to identify and develop priority messages.
  3. Develop business cases in consultation with key stakeholders for the increased uptake of technology and practices consistent with a net zero emission future.


Tools & materials

  1. Production of communications tools and materials for a business audience, designed for easy assimilation into the existing activities like boardroom, staff and other stakeholder briefings. These include fact sheets, presentations, briefings and public/consumer focused materials.


Stage 5 – Community Implementation

Take the materials developed in stage 3 into execution with partners.

  1. Provide support as needed to assist organisations to embed materials in their existing community education activities. This will include individual and group capacity building sessions.
  2. Track usage of materials and messaging by partners, and resulting shifts in community discourse over time.
  3. Utilise a narrative benchmarking system to test prominence of a zero net emissions narrative in the Australian vernacular.
  4. Develop and institute a standard methodology to measure the effectiveness of messaging and engagement across mediums.
  5. Work with the ‘community of practice’ to periodically analyse, interpret and discuss results to refine and adapt content.
  6. Share learnings and communications models with partners and other interested parties.


Stage 6 – Business Implementation

Take the materials developed in stage 4 into execution with partners.

  1. Provide light touch support as needed to assist organisations to embed materials in their existing community education activities.
  2. Track usage of materials and messaging by partners, and resulting shifts in community discourse over time.
  3. Develop a schedule for boardroom briefings in consultation with key businesses in a range of sectors.
  4. Identify key business and industry forums and publications to build further capacity, understanding and support for a net zero emissions future.
  5. Share learnings and communications models with partners and other interested parties.


Stage 7 – Evaluation

The following stage outlines the measures by which the project will track shifts in attitudes and sentiments on climate change that relate to socialising the idea of a net zero emissions future.

In broad terms, we will try and shift sentiment on climate change in the public discourse from being a negative and disempowering proposition, to feeling like raising the ambition on progress is achievable and beneficial. The overarching goal is to display that a majority of Australians demonstrate consist support for strong action on climate change, particularly from those in the ‘persuadable middle’.


Although causality is difficult to prove, if the project is getting traction with desired audiences we should see positive shifts in the following identified areas.

Lowy Institute | Annual Poll

Climate Change and Energy

Essential Media

IPSOS Climate Change Report

Roy Morgan


As part of the project, we have purchased a narrative tool to measure, track and utilise and respond to significant topics, actors and topics related to our zero net emissions story.

Significance Systems:


Climate Institute: A Climate of a Nation | Annual Survey

Since 2007, The Climate Institute has produced A Climate of the Nation, research capturing the nation's pulse on attitudes to climate change.

CSIRO Audience Attitudes

At this stage this annual project was discontinued late in 2015, but the insights have informed our communications for key audiences. We are in direct contact with the lead author to see if the program is reinstated after the election.


The project will keep real time records for the following channels:

  1. Comprehensive Google Analytics for all relevant websites, including downloads of documents, briefers and packs.
  2. Comprehensive social media statistics relating to engagement and exposure on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and either YouTube, or Vimeo for video collateral.
  3. Individual agreements with highly engaged partners will lead to targeted activity with highly specific KPI’s.



University of New England

UNE has been spearheading national social research on climate change in Australia for the past 5 years, headed up by Don Hine and Tony Marks. In 2013, they publically released the most significant audience segmentation analysis on climate change in Australia, modelled on Yale’s Six Americas report.

They have published a number of relevant studies since then that we will draw on for guidance on audience targeting.

Who will take these actions?


Groups have been identified and approached across the following sectors:

  • Health
  • Arts
  • Faith
  • Unions
  • Sport
  • Music
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Service clubs


We will look to leaders across these sectors to educate their audiences on the achievability and benefits to a net zero emissions future.


Companies and industry groups have been identified and approached across the following sectors:

  • Electricity Generation
  • Transport
  • Buildings and services
  • Mining
  • Land Use
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction and Infrastructure
  • Finance and Insurance


We will look to progressive influential actors across these sectors to do two main things:

  1. Educate and inform people in their sphere of influence on the opportunities and implications of a net zero economy.
  2. Identify and produce high-quality stories of companies in transition to inspire further action from others in their sector.

Where will these actions be taken?

In the first instance, the program is proposed for a national audience across Australia, although the methodology has attracted attention from colleagues in Indonesia.

Being a program focused sectorally more than geographically, we will target key community groups, cultural influencers and businesses in the first instance.

Given Australia's densely populated centers, we will also look to run broader public sessions and forums in capital cities around the country.

How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

Although direct levels of causality are difficult to attribute to this project, the overall result will be a social climate that is well educated and more likely to show support for decisions that are consistent with a net zero emissions future.

The audience focus of the project is on the 'persuadable middle' in Australia, which makes up a significant portion of the population and one that is influential both as a consumer group and politically.

What are other key benefits?

Given a consultative and collaborative approach is being taken from project design, we are potentially able to develop deeper and more long term relationships with project partners. This is already leading to visible impacts like:


  1. Consideration of joint funding proposals leading to more sustainable resourcing of dedicated capacity.
  2. A diversity of views and experiences across a range of audiences that helps us understand the deeper and more common motivators to act.
  3. More common ground across business and industry to discuss and negotiate common positions, projects and engagement approaches consistent with a net zero emissions future.
  4. Increased exposure and engagement from new audiences not currently active on climate change.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Stages one through to seven have an estimated budget of $750,000, with a majority of the goal fundraised.

Where partnerships lead to more engaged activities, these will likely be scaled. For instance, in discussions with the education sector, we have scoped a curriculum package around a range of lesson plans and activities getting students to think about the implications of a net zero emissions future for their prospective careers. These call for more customised material development which will need greater resourcing, but potentially lead to greater impact.

Time line

The current stages of the project are scoped until June 2017.

This will mark the end of the first phase of the project where we take an initial community of practice from better education through to engagement of their key audiences on a net zero emissions future.

From mid-2017, we will look to scale efforts and specialise in sectors that require more effort to increase ambition. We will also look at broadening the community of practice to build on earlier momentum.

Our deep decarbonisation framework has been developed to be adaptive in relation to external circumstances and allows us with further research and analysis to be more granular down to a local and company level where required. 

This will allow us to work on the areas and businesses required to make the largest change in relation to emissions reduction, consistent with international efforts.

Related proposals

Not applicable.