The Blog

Leadership on Climate Change: There's a Vacancy for a Celebrity Standard Bearer

The key to action on climate change is leadership. That's why, Britain's biggest climate change campaign, is trying to identify and applaud people in every part of society who are showing leadership that helps bring about the transition to a sustainable world.

The key to action on climate change is leadership. That's why Climate Week, Britain's biggest climate change campaign, is trying to identify and applaud people in every part of society who are showing leadership that helps bring about the transition to a sustainable world. Leadership can happen in many places, from primary schools and small local businesses to leading edge research units and the highest levels of government.

Leaders must inspire trust, and a survey commissioned last month by Climate Week found that scientists are the group of people the public has most trust in, on the issue of climate change.

This is perhaps surprising, given recent controversies over scientific climate data, but it is also reassuring. Despite all the propaganda from those who seek to deny the existence of climate change, the British public still seem to prefer to put their confidence in conclusions drawn by experts who have carefully considered the best available evidence.

The survey result emphasises the responsibility on the shoulders of scientists to communicate climate change with honesty and courage. A dispassionate absence of bias is certainly needed, but so too is a willingness to "speak truth to power" when the data leads to clear conclusions.

The Climate Week survey also asked the public which celebrity figures would most influence them when it came to acting on climate change. We found to our surprise that business figures came top, rather than the expected names of film and music stars - Richard Branson was top of the list, Bill Gates was number two and Alan Sugar was number six. The public seems to regard business icons as credible, no-nonsense figures, who because they are not answerable to voters or a wider public, do not need to tone down their message, and are consequently more believable.

The trust in scientists and the importance of celebrity leadership needs to be combined. There is a huge movement of people across society who care about climate change, but the movement lacks a pre-eminent celebrity standard bearer for the issue. There are a lot of celebrities, including some who are scientists, who have spoken out on climate change. But I don't think there is anyone who has become so associated with it that there is an instant connection in the public's mind. There is a space there for someone to step up to.

The Climate Week survey also showed that family and friends came second and third on the list of those most trusted, after scientists. This emphasises that all of us have a circle of influence, people who will listen to us and whose behaviour can be influenced by us. We can all be leaders.

Climate Week on 12-18 March aims to mobilise leadership on climate change at every level, shining a spotlight on the thousands of positive solutions that are being developed to combat climate change across Britain. By showcasing these solutions, many more people can be inspired to take action during the other 51 weeks of the year.

Participation in Climate Week is completely free, organisations can run any kind of event or activity they want, and our aim is to empower people to act either through their own lifestyles, or through their workplaces and community groups.

Climate Week is Britain's biggest climate change campaign and its biggest environmental occasion. In the first Climate Week in 2011, half a million people attended more than 3,000 events across the UK. This second Climate Week starting on 12 March 2012 is expected to be even bigger.

It's not too late to take part and there are several activities that need virtually no preparation and can be done in around an hour. Take part in the Climate Week Challenge competition for small teams in schools and workplaces, make a low carbon meal and be part of Climate Week Cuisine, or run the Climate Week Pub Quiz.

You can register for all of these at www.climateweek.com. Registration takes less than two minutes, and you will be joining an unstoppable movement for change.