5 lessons learned from the largest mass lobby on climate change

Last month, Greenhouse PR launched ‘The Time Is Now’ campaign to national and international media, resulting in the largest mass lobby the UK has ever seen. Thousands of people from every corner of Britain joined together to lobby their MPs, bringing a clear message that we cannot delay any further when it comes to passing legislation to tackle climate change.

The lobby was a resounding success, with over 380 MPs attending the event to meet their constituents and listen to calls for a strong Environment Bill that can restore nature, cut plastic pollution,improve air quality, and above all reduce our carbon emissions rapidly. This is desperately needed to give us a fighting chance of hitting our net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. When you consider that only one of the 25 emission-reducing policy actions laid out by the CCC (Committee on Climate Change) has been carried out by the UK government so far, it’s clear to see why this pressure on MPs is needed.

For the Greenhouse team, working with The Climate Coalition (the body behind The Time Is Now campaign, consisting of more than 130 organisations, including the WWF, RSPB, Women’s Institute, CAFOD, National Trust and Greenpeace) was an inspiring experience. It was a genuine coming together of positive energy, people and strong will, resulting in a campaign that connected us all. We witnessedthe incredible passion that fuels climate activism, demanding tangible progress from our politicians, businesses and individuals. 

There were many lessons learned and a range of achievements to celebrate, but we can’t go through them all. Instead, we’ve picked our top five from the campaign that we would like to share with you. We hope these provide food for thought and some inspiration for more climate action, big or small. 

1. Regional support is crucial to engage with MPs to drive change

Calling upon people from all corners of the country to engage with their MPs and ask them to attend a mass lobby in Westminster required a focused approach to regional coverage. 

Using the consumer research we developed for the campaign which showed how concerned Brits are about the impacts of climate change, we prepared seventeen separate regional press releases for the cities and regions we wanted to target. 

The results were supported by case studies of individual people across a range of demographics and generations, telling their story of why they joined the lobby.  We worked closely with the Press Association and also pitched the stories to high circulating regional media. 

This resulted in over 300 regional articles in the build-up to the event, encouraging participation wherever possible. This helped ensure the lobby represented the whole of the UK. In fact, on the day itself, 99% of all parliamentary constituencies were represented. This wouldn’t have been possible without such a targeted regional media approach. 

Image from the Time is Now mass lobby on climate change and the environment.

2. A mass lobby needs to transcend generations, faiths and backgrounds

The cause behind the lobby is undoubtedly one that affects us all. It was incredible to see people of all generations, faiths, backgrounds, accents and beyond come together to call for action. 

The diversity of the lobby was showcased during the Multi-Faith Walk of Witness that took place at the start of the day, from Trafalgar Square down to Parliament Square. It was led by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and leaders of major faiths across the UK. It was the perfect opportunity to facilitate national media interviews, giving us another platform from which to distribute the lobby’s messaging. 

We also worked closely with key journalists through a media centre on the day ensuring that each media outlet got access to a range of people – from grandmothers with their children and grandkids, to university lecturers, to people of faith, to campaigners.

3. Inspiring hope brings people together 

One of our underpinning strategies of the media campaign and overall messaging was one of hope. Everyone supporting the lobby got involved because they believe we can make a difference and fix the climate emergency we find ourselves in, or at least significantly mitigate the potential devastating impacts of climate change. 

Too often we see a narrative implying that the problem is unsolvable or that we can’t do anything to fix it before it’s too late. That narrative is counter-productive and dissuades people, businesses and politicians from taking action. 

Instead, we made the conscious decision to deliver a positive message: one which acknowledges the severity of the climate emergency but highlights how we can fix it together with mass action and strong legislation. 

4. The power of a proactive press office to influence change

The media campaign achieved widespread coverage, securing over 500 articles (to date) with an estimated online/print reach of more than 960 million. Highlights included BBC News, Today Programme, Sky News (broadcast), BBC Newsround, The Guardian, The Independent, Evening Standard, Metro, and PA.

The effect of the coverage was incredible, so much so that The Climate Coalition’s website almost crashed thanks to an influx of applications to join the lobby. 

The impact was clear to see.  As the media coverage landed, the expected number of attendees leapt from below 10,000 to well over 16,000. We also witnessed the impact among MPs; initial estimates expected attendance from around 50 MPs, but as the media pressure mounted and articles continued to generate buzz around the lobby, that number rose quickly to over 380 MPs, with many crediting the media coverage saying how it had become a lobby they “couldn’t ignore” and felt they “had to attend”.  

Media coverage

5. The time is NOW 

The inspiring rise of Extinction Rebellion, the incredible example set by Greta Thunberg, and recent environmentally-focussed productions from the BBC’s David Attenborough have sparked fresh and widespread public concern for the climate and environmental crisis. 

Protecting the planet has finally become mainstream. If there were ever a time to take action and pressure the government, it’s now. For net-zero 2050 to happen, we have to act now. 

The message, the banners and placards, and the clear message that was sent by 16,000 people coming to meet their MPs in Westminster is that the time for action is NOW, not time to wait; the pressure is mounting for clear and decisive climate action.

Commenting on the success of the campaign, Greenhouse Founder, Anna Guyer, said: “It’s been inspiring to work with such a forward-thinking collection of organisations on this campaign. Together, they are striving for a carbon neutral UK as soon as possible and robust legislation to protect our future. I couldn’t be prouder of the Greenhouse team; they all performed to the highest level, delivering incredible results which speak for themselves. In fact, the coverage was so strong, we had to cease communications at one point to stop the event website from crashing. 

“The climate emergency affects everyone, of all ages, backgrounds and faiths, hence why we gave our time to The Climate Coalition for free to support this movement. The joy comes in the giving, connectedness and the meaningful impact.”

Clara Goldsmith, Campaigns Director at The Climate Coalition, added: “We were lucky to work with Greenhouse in the run up to the largest mass lobby for climate, nature and people in UK history. They became an integral extension of our team, inspiring us with new ideas, proactively taking them forward and being a core part of the success of our communications strategy. The proof is in the pudding – we exceeded our media KPIs by more than double with their help.”

If you’re an organisation that’s taking climate action and looking for communications support, click here to get in touch with the Greenhouse team.