Coronavirus messaging: a guide for local action groups

We’re living in unprecedented times. While we want to continue as much as possible to campaign on climate, we must be sensitive in how we do that – and how we communicate it.

17 Nov 2023

The pandemic is not "good" for climate

In most places around the world, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has rightly been to put the health of people first and foremost. This has meant implementing policies of physical distancing and social isolation, leading to infrastructure shutting down, travel being greatly restricted and people being forced to stay home.

It’s been noted how in some places these measures have resulted in a reduction in emissions, increased air quality, and in some cases, the ability of nature to return to spaces.

However, it’s incredibly important that we do not celebrate these as so-called "benefits" of the pandemic. As advocates of climate and environmental justice, we must recognise that this crisis – like the climate crisis – will hit the most marginalised, the poorest, and those least able to recover, the hardest.

Any solutions to the climate and ecological crises must work to create a more socially and economically just world – tackling inequality, injustice and oppression. If solutions don't embody these principles then they’re not real solutions.

We must ensure that any responses to COVID-19, and any campaigning around climate that we continue to do in this time, gets this message across.

This is a really important time for the climate movement. If we fail to put people at the centre of our responses, we run the risk of fuelling a dangerous narrative. One that pits people against nature, and groups of people against one another. We must all be aware and ready to defend the climate movement from a small minority who want to use this crisis to fuel their own agenda.

We can certainly take hope and strength from many things in this time – we’ve seen communities all over the world come together and show solidarity and support to one another. The resilience and ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations has been inspiring. We must continue to fight for the future we believe is right – advocating that any response and recovery from COVID-19 upholds human rights and dignity, and transforms our society and economy in a way that tackles the climate emergency. But in doing so, we must make sure that no one is left behind.

Here are some basic guidelines to help you communicate effectively and sensitively with your groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What to say

  • Focus on justice. This crisis, like the climate one, is a human crisis. And, just like the climate crisis, it will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our societies. We must continue to fight for the future we believe is right – advocating that any response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic upholds human rights and human dignity and transforms our society and economy in a way that tackles the climate emergency and creates a fairer world for all.

  • Focus on community. We’ve seen communities all over the world, come together and show solidarity and support to one another. This virus is a reminder that we are all part of one global community, and we need to co-operate to solve global problems. Let’s show our thanks and support for those who are on the front line dealing with the crisis - health workers, carers, supermarket staff, lorry drivers, teachers, and so many others.

  • Focus on kindness. It’s more important than ever that we take time to look out for each other and work together, for everyone's benefit and for the planet’s benefit. It is this attitude of kindness, resilience and ability to adapt, that we should use to inform other global crises.

What to avoid

  • Talking about how COVID-19 is good for the environment. This is offensive to the millions of people suffering the impact of this pandemic. As activists striving for climate justice, we will never advocate for climate solutions that cut emissions at the expense of human life. And this is no exception. There are no "benefits" to this pandemic.

  • Pitting the two emergencies against each other. Avoid making crude comparisons between the climate and COVID-19 crises, or saying that one is more important than the other. Both crises are important, but people are understandably focused on the most immediate health threat.

  • Advice that contradicts the World Health Organisation or Public Health England. We're not experts in this field. It would be irresponsible and negligent of us to provide advice that differs or goes against the advice of established health organisations.

If you're in any doubt, do send your query to [email protected].