Will government walk the talk on energy efficiency?

The art of persuasion starts with your own credibility as a messenger, as this exclusive cartoon drawn for Green Alliance shows.

Although we are told that government is not in the persuasion business anymore, with advertising budgets slashed and the ‘Act on CO2’ campaign confined to the scrapheap,  there is a lot more to communication than just marketing.

The target of a 10% emissions reduction on the central government estate, which David Cameron announced on Day 1 in office, is a good start. But most people don’t come into contact with the central government estate.

To be credible and visible this target needs to be extended across the country to all areas where government has control and where people hang out. This means hospitals, schools, local government buildings, courts, libraries….the list goes on. Each of these need to have a visible response to the climate change challenge.

This is particularly relevant to the coming roll-out of the new Green Deal, which will be the first time many people have direct interaction with a climate change initiative. Most policies up to now have been behind the scenes- there is little individual interaction with EU ETS permits being traded or the Climate Change Levy for example.

So if government, and companies, are going to be seen to be encouraging us to increase the efficiency of our homes, we need to see that government is doing all it can to increase the efficiency of its buildings, and stop energy being needlessly wasted.

Experience affects us much more than words, so this reduction needs to be ‘felt’ as well as talked about.

This will extend to individuals too. First to sign up to the Green Deal should be the households of Mr D Cameron, Mr C Huhne and Mr G Barker. And they should be closely followed by all members of their parliamentary parties, councillors and top civil servants. After all, if it’s a good deal there’s no reason for them not to take it up. No-one wants the flack that Al Gore or, more recently, the Avatar director James Cameron received over their own carbon footprints.

This is something that government can learn from brands. All major brands know that they have to live and breathe their values before talking about them, as Rita Clifton argued so eloquently in our Hot Air to Happy Endings publication. Take M&S’s Plan A or more recently Asda and Pepsico‘s commitments to sustainable agriculture.

So let’s hope politicians live their own Green Deal brand and start walking the talk in public buildings and in their own homes across the country.

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