Why advocate on climate change?

What is advocacy? 

Advocacy is about influencing people and public policies to bring about change. It involves influencing those in power to act more fairly, in order to bring justice and address the causes of poverty.

Buildings in the town of Basey, Philippines, destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Photo: Marcus Perkins/Tearfund

Advocacy is firmly rooted in the Bible and is based on God’s commitment to justice: ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ Proverbs 31:8–9 

Advocacy involves building relationships with people in authority and raising their awareness in order to influence them about a particular issue. It includes suggesting potential solutions. 

Raising awareness of climate change 

Climate change will affect all of us and is a key issue to advocate about. With climate change, an important first step is often to raise people’s awareness about the cause of the problem. You could try asking a few simple questions about changes in the weather or harvests – this may quickly reveal that people are already aware of the impacts of climate change on their lives and environment. Public meetings, talks, discussions and newsletters are all examples of ways to share information about the issue. Working with the media can be another very helpful way to reach both decision-makers and ordinary people. Advocacy can be done with communities affected by a situation, supported by organisations who work on climate change issues. Or it can be done directly by the communities who are affected by a situation. 

The impact of climate change is linked to problems such as environmental degradation, food insecurity, disasters and water resources. It often makes existing problems worse. 

‘The climate has changed and the rainy season has become unpredictable. The water levels fall year by year and some kinds of animals and vegetation have disappeared. The future is bleak for farmers and cattle-breeders alike.’ Tearfund partner in Mali 

Tackling climate change 

There are two important ways to tackle climate change: adaptation and mitigation.

Members of the Civil Protection Committee meet in Fombe Village, Malawi, to discuss forestation efforts to mitigate effects of climate change. Photo: Geoff Crawford/Tearfund

Adaptation is about taking action to cope with the consequences of climate change, both now and in the future. For successful adaptation, countries and communities need financial resources and the right technologies and advice. Adaptation needs to be included as a key part of national development planning. 

At the local level, advocacy around adaptation might involve influencing local officials or agencies to help communities adapt – for example, by using alternative crops or protecting land from flooding. At the national level, advocacy work might involve encouraging governments to include adaptation work in their national development planning and programming. 

Mitigation means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, especially in higher-income countries. It involves helping poorer countries to access renewable energy, and making sure they have funding for this. It includes helping countries to protect their forests. 

At a local level, advocacy around mitigation could involve ensuring local authorities create or enforce laws to protect forests. It could focus on small-scale renewable energy options for local communities. At a national level, advocacy could include encouraging governments to create national development plans involving mitigation. 

Civil society organisations can work with people living in poverty to help their voices be heard by those in power. This can be done by empowering people to speak for themselves, speaking with those affected by climate change or speaking on behalf of communities. 

Churches can make a big difference 

Local churches are part of many communities around the world. Church members often have personal experience of poverty and injustice, and understand both very well. Christian organisations and churches can advocate with or for people who are being affected by climate change. Churches can gain a deep understanding of local issues, and have a long-term presence in a community. They can use their coordinating body (eg diocese or denomination) to gain the respect and authority needed to influence policies at a local, national, regional and international level. 

Christian advocacy work should be supported by both prayer and a deep passion for justice for people who are impacted by climate change. 

This article is adapted from a short guide by Sara Shaw, Why advocate on climate change? You can read more about Environment and Climate Change on our Resources page.

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Sara Shaw