The rapid and momentous onset of coronavirus represents a massive challenge for retaining political and public support for hitting climate targets.  The environmental sector has never been that sophisticated at handling complex messaging and dealing with the impact of coronavirus will test it in ways not seen before.

The stumbling blocks are numerous.  The language of Extinction Rebellion looks ever more clumsy and scaremongering at the current time.  Messages gloating about short-term benefits to air quality, carbon emissions and water quality play into the hands of those who have long argued that what the environmental movement wants to see is a bleaker, less enjoyable society.  The disruption could see delays in crucial investment and then once some form of normality returns a mad rush to turn on the investment taps regardless of their impact on the climate.

Given these risks, what are the five things that the green movement can do to navigate this complex period? 

1) Be sensitive

Crucially we need to turn off negative, antagonistic messaging and be sympathetic to the hardships and disruption people are facing.  Many environmental messages can help people through this difficult period such as reducing food waste, making the most of resources and cutting bills.  The movement needs to show it is on-the-side of people in this crisis.

2) Showcase sustainable approaches

We need to demonstrate that a more sustainable approach can build increased resilience for society.  Localising supply chains, growing food nearer to home, creating renewable energy sources, building increased resilience to natural disasters are all things that people will increasingly recognise as being important in dealing with global meltdown.

3) Keep what we've learned

We should seek to identify and embed some of the positive changes that are inevitably happening.  We need to get behind a world where people can effectively connect virtually rather than travelling around the world.  We should help people to cherish the value of nature as an alternative to a high consumption lifestyle which creates debt and environmental damage.

4) Collaborate, always

We must collaborate, building on the way that communities, businesses and government are slowly coming together to address coronavirus. 

5) Share a strong vision

Finally, we need to create a positive vision of what a world could look like that hits carbon targets and is resilient to disruption such as that we are currently witnessing.  This will be essential to engage with politicians and to deflate the inevitable attacks the sector will face.

The immediate future is uncertain and scary.  Navigating it is fraught with risks for all of us who want to hit science based climate targets.  We must respond in a way that is thoughtful and keeps an eye on the long-term prize. 

Hubbub are planning to create a series of virtual workshops that will explore the different responses we've seen to the changing world, and how our communities and businesses may work together once we’re out the other side of this. Stay tuned for when the series launches by signing up to our business newsletter here or drop us an email.