Agenda item

Update on climate-related council communications

To consider the report of the Director of Resources and presentation providing an update on the use of communications and engagement to support the council’s climate mitigation and adaptation strategies for the city.



The Committee received the report of the Director of Resources which provided an update on climate-related council communications over the 2022-2023 municipal year.


The Senior Policy & Communications Officer from the Sustainable Energy

and Air Quality team (SEAQ) delivered a presentation providing an update on the use of communications and engagement to support the council’s climate action to the Committee.


Highlights of the presentation included;


The Communications team sits within Sustainability Energy and Air Quality, and works with colleagues across the council to assist with climate related communications. The role of communications at SEAQ is not to duplicate work that has already been carried out by colleagues across the Council, instead it is to co-ordinate, ensure dialogue and provide support. The Council already had a large amount of communication assets which have been built upon.


The work has three main purposes;

1.  Enable – the successful delivery of climate related projects and policy. As government funding is often time sensitive, it was highlighted that effective communication is key to ensuring all parties, including residents maximise the opportunities available to them, such as being made aware of, and utilising such time limited funding.

2.  Explain – Communicating different climate related concepts to communities with a variety of methodology.

3.  Engage – Engagement informs policy, with communication being a two way street between residents and businesses with the Council. Internal engagement has built on that work, such as by identifying the 70 council officers with weather resilience related roles and supporting them to incorporate climate change into their business continuity plans.


Some highlights of 2022 include;

·  11 climate newsletters

·  68 press releases, with work featured in the BBC, ITV, Yorkshire Evening Post and Leeds Live

·  7,600 impressions monthly on Twitter

·  3,700 visits to the Leeds By Example website

·  Secured an A Grade from the Carbon Disclosure Project

·  Hosting and attending climate events


Communication priorities for 2023 were set out;

·  To engage new commercial customers to Leeds PIPES (Providing Innovative Pro-Environment Solutions).

·  To promote uptake of retrofit new scheme for homes off the gas grid.

·  To explain the Council’s climate mitigation and adaptation policies link together more accessible way.

·  To promote awareness of environmentally friendly food.

·  To support colleagues and partners with climate related communications.

·  To explain how the Council is continuing to lead by example.

·  To engage services across the council to implement climate adaptation actions and improve climate literacy


After the Senior Officer’s presentation, the Committee had the following discussion;


The Senior Officer shared research that trying to dispel misinformation can actually embed it further, and therefore the role of Communications is to preferably provide high quality information ahead of time as a ‘prebuttal’, which is complicated by the way mass media has become increasingly fragmented and algorithmically driven. The importance of continuing to build upon existing and social networks was highlighted, in order to reach as large an audience as possible with the aim of reducing the impact of misinformation by communities receiving key messages from the Council, or another trusted source first. The Senior Officer explained that there are several internal steps which would need to take place to make a communication responding to an incident, including fact verification.


In considering such matters, Members discussed the need for clear and accessible communications to be delivered in this area, with the importance of looking to dispel rumour and myth being highlighted. A co-ordinated approach towards communications in relation to the climate emergency across Council services and with partners was also emphasised, with the work ongoing in this area being noted.  Members’ comments around the need for communications to be agile and responsive to developing issues, whilst also striking the correct tone was acknowledged.


The Committee discussed various approaches to tone within Council communications, with some favouring trialling more engaging forms and others preferring a more neutral approach.


The Communications team approach has been to attend and support climate related events when asked to in the past year, however in the next year they will proactively offer to assist at events, such as the youth summits.


The Chair recommended that the Committee specifically endorse the progression of the priority detailed within the presentation regarding internal engagement and the improvement of climate literacy across the Council, with the Business & Engagement working group supporting this work programme, as appropriate.




(a)  That the contents of the report and presentation regarding climate-related council communications be noted together with the comments raised during the discussion.


(b)  That the progression of the priority within the presentation around internal engagement and the improvement of climate literacy across the Council be specifically endorsed and supported via the Committee’s Business & Engagement working group. 

Supporting documents: