Three ways environment and climate charities can harness key policy moments in 2021

Posted 30 April 2021

2020 saw many occasions to influence public discourse on climate change postponed. Now, with events such as COP26 taking place in November, what do green charities need to do to really make use of these opportunities?

With COVID-19 gripping the world, the decision was taken last May to postpone the highly anticipated COP26 conference. This has meant a 12-month wait for conversations to resume between world leaders on what progress had been made since the Paris Agreement, and crucially, what still needs to be done. Fast forward to the start of this year and green campaigners were met with more disappointment as the UK government delayed the Environment Bill for a third time.

All these setbacks have forced environment charities to continuously rethink their strategies, alongside engaging with time poor parliamentarians and a news agenda dominated by the pandemic. With the urgent need to restore nature and protect the environment – only 13 out of 193 countries currently have laws requiring them to reach net zero by 2050 – this is the time for the sector to reclaim that dialogue and push for a commitment to climate action.

A masterclass on engaging with environmental policy.

At Media Trust, we have been supporting environment and climate charities with strategic comms and media training through our Weston Communicating Climate Programme in partnership with the Garfield Weston Foundation. As part of the programme and to celebrate this year’s World Earth Day, we teamed up with award-winning comms and lobbying agency Seahorse Environmental for a free masterclass on how to build comms strategies around the key climate policy moments coming up this year.

The masterclass was delivered by the brilliant Isabella Gornall, Founder and Managing Director of Seahorse Environmental, chair of UK:100 and an Advisory Council member for the APPG on Sustainable Finance.

Offering insider knowledge and top tips for engaging politicians and civil servants, the event attracted over 100 charities.

Missed the live action? Don’t worry. Here are the all-important takeaways!

This year’s domestic agenda is packed with opportunities to use as a communications hook

While all eyes are on COP26, there are plenty of potential comms anchor points ahead of the summit.  From the cabinet reshuffle and the Queen’s speech in May to the long-awaited final stages of the Environment Bill, Isabella mapped all of this out on a handy timeline infographic. Take a look at which key moments could be relevant for your charity to hook onto.

Environment landscape 2021, searhose environmental

Environmental Landscape 2021

You can leverage COP26 without being there

The deadline for civil society organisations to apply to officially attend COP26 has now passed, but there are still plenty of opportunities to leverage the summit, even without physically being there.

Isabella recommends charities share digestible briefings with their employees, members and supporters that show how COP26 is relevant to them and the ways in which they can take action. With the UK offering a stage for COP this year, we are going to see a spike in media interest for great thought leadership, blogs and case studies. Social media will also be a key tool for breaking down technical jargon and shaping public debate. Don’t forget to include the official #COP26 hashtag.

Right now, the government is working on the final stages of the Environment Bill, which presents another chance to steer conversations before COP takes place. If you are not engaged with this yet, Isabella suggests looking at Greener UK’s insights to check which aspects are most important to your audiences and using these to inform your social media strategy.

Having impact as a campaigner is possible even on a shoestring budget.  

Isabella shared a case study from the clean air lobbying work carried out by Seahorse which included some useful low-cost campaigning tactics.

After identifying three Conservative MPs to get behind the campaign, the agency did their homework to uncover which social and environmental issues these MPs cared about. By taking the time to understand the interests and motivations of their targets, Seahorse was able to engage and move them towards becoming clean air influencers, resulting in several impactful opinion pieces in the media.

Another cost-effective strategy involved using Twitter lists to build databases of political influencers to contact with asks such as sharing tweets, social graphics or petitions. There are three questions to keep front of mind when selecting influencers to back your climate asks: Who will the government listen to? Who will the sector listen to? Who has the biggest following?


Looking beyond this masterclass, we’d love to work with more media industry partners on other initiatives that support environment and climate charities to pitch stories to the media ahead of COP26. If you’re a journalist or a PR professional and interested in helping charities working to protect the environment, we would love to hear from you. Please contact me at

A huge thank you to Isabella Gornall and the team at Seahorse Environmental for sharing their insights. We are also grateful to our funder and initiator of the Weston Communicating Climate Programme, the Garfield Weston Foundation, for enabling us to share new resources with the environment third sector.

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