PRIA World PR Forum

November 23, 2012 by  
Filed under News

On November 19 and 20, Ogilvy PR sent three speakers off to Melbourne to present at the World Public Relations Forum 2012 hosted by PRIA.

Kieran Moore, CEO, was part of the panel session entitled “Have we found the “Higgs Boson” of Public Relations in Our Advances Measuring Value.” In this session, Kieran spoke about the evolution of PR measurement and the commitment and advances Ogilvy has made in this space.

Andrew Ure, Managing Director of OgilvyEarth gave a presentation to the Forum on trends in consumer-driven sustainability. Using the recent successful supertrawler Greenpeace campaign as an example, he spoke about how social media is making consumers more and more aware of sustainability issues, and coalescing their voices into powerful constituencies for social and environmental change.

Social@Ogilvy Director, Brian Giesen, delivered a lightning talk and attempted to answer 50 practical questions about social media marketing in 15 minutes or less. Brian was inundated with questions from the floor and Twitter and we’re waiting on the conference audio recording to find out how many questions he got through in the 15 minutes!

European deal is a carbon PR coup

August 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog

It’s been a good week for carbon pricing. On Monday, a Nielsen poll suggested 54 per cent of Australians haven’t felt a negative impact since it was introduced. And yesterday afternoon came news that the government would link the Australian emissions trading scheme to the European Union scheme, which has been in operation since 2005.

This was not a surprise – the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, foreshadowed the link at the COP17 Climate Conference in Durban in December. However, this announcement has the potential to further swing public opinion around to the idea that carbon pricing is not so bad after all.

Most of the media response has focused on the removal of the floor price. When the carbon ”tax” ends and the emissions trading scheme kicks in on 1 July 2015, the 200 or so Australian companies with a liability under carbon pricing have two options: reduce emissions themselves, or buy from others.

The floor price was designed to guarantee a minimum payment to these sellers. Now that it is gone, reducing emissions will be cheaper, at least in the short term, for Australian companies. They will be able to source credits from Europe, which yesterday were trading at $9.80 per tonne. They should be happy. So too should other Australians, because the cost to the economy of meeting Australia’s emissions target just came down.

However, the longer-term public relations boost to the government comes from the link with the EU. The climate debate in Australia has been bedevilled since the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 by the claim Australia is too far ahead of other countries in dealing with the issue – that we are doing more than our fair share.

Other countries do price carbon. For example, parts of China are trialling emissions trading, as are parts of the US, and India has a carbon tax on coal. In fact, 30 per cent of the global economy will be covered by emissions trading by 2013. This has been lost in the debate, not least because Australia’s floor price made it one of the more expensive schemes around. However, now that it will effectively be synchronised with emissions trading in 30 countries, it will not be possible to mount the argument that we are going it alone. From a public relations perspective, this may be the single biggest benefit of the announcement.

Other aspects of the announcement are interesting from a PR perspective too. Why did the government choose to drop this good news now? Would it not have made sense to negate some of the more furious criticism about the cost of the scheme a few weeks ago? The timing of the announcement may have been planned, or it may simply have been that the negotiations with the EU did not reach a conclusion until now. Whether it was deliberate or not, the timing could not have been better.

The carbon price is in place, as is the sky. Australians are beginning to question whether the policy will actually cost them that much at all. Power bills for the first period to include carbon pricing have mostly not yet arrived. The government is making the most of this window – while critics of the scheme are feeling under pressure – to deliver another punch: it’s going to be cheaper than you thought, and we are falling into line with the rest of the world (or at least 30 other countries).

Added to this, governments tend to avoid reneging on agreements they have reached with other countries, regardless of who was in power at the time of the agreement. Some might argue it was reckless to commit the country to an approach predicated on a policy that the Opposition Leader has made clear he would like to repeal. There are no legal impediments to walking away from this deal with the Europeans if the scheme is repealed – but it’s not a good look.

There are negative aspects to the move. It’s bad news for some hardened climate activists, who support climate action but not emissions trading. It’s also potentially bad news for those who support preserving tropical forests as a means of storing carbon, as the EU does not accept these credits into its scheme.

But there can be little doubt this announcement has been a PR win for the government. In June, the Climate Institute, a think tank, released polling showing only 44 per cent of Australians believed the Coalition would repeal carbon pricing if they won power. This number must now surely drop further. Carbon pricing just got more difficult to dislodge.

Andrew Ure is managing director of OgilvyEarth, a sustainability communications company, and a former official with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

Article appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald online on 29 August 2012.

By Andrew Ure.

Mixed-up confusion and climate change policy

July 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog

In 1962, mixed-up confusion was killing Bob Dylan. His head was full of questions, and his temperature rising fast. Forty years later, amid other rising temperatures, mixed-up confusion is confounding Australia’s efforts to respond to climate change.

One the one hand, the case for action seems straightforward. The debate over whether or not anthropogenic climate change is real is over, at least in the scientific community. Treasury modeling of
the potential impacts of climate change makes it clear that taking action on climate change is in Australia’s national interest. Much of corporate Australia agrees with this. And all major political parties advocate taking action on climate change.

So why, according to figures just released in the Climate Institute’s annual survey of Australian attitudes towards climate change, Climate of the Nation, do 65 per cent of Australians believe that there are too many conflicting opinions for the public to be sure about the claims made about climate change? Where does all this confusion come from?

It certainly does not come from a lack of information. If Bob Dylan had a cent for every media mention of climate change, he would probably never have got the tombstone blues, the freight train blues or even the subterranean homesick blues. Australians have had climate change shoved down their throat. Thousands of views have been canvassed, thousands of views have been offered.

Amongst this discordant cacophony, no one has been able to make their message resonate – not the government, not the opposition, not scientists, not climate science ‘deniers’, not NGOs, not community activists, not the private sector.

This has confused the population, and clouded their response to carbon pricing. Only 28 per cent of respondents in the Climate Institute poll (carried out by John Scales for JWS) said they supported the government’s scheme. However, when basic aspects of the legislation are explained, the number jumps to almost 50 per cent. This is not to make a comment on the merits or otherwise of the government’s particular scheme – it rather illustrates the point that people don’t support things they don’t understand. And they don’t understand carbon pricing.

This is fair enough. As public policy goes, it is complex and nuanced. Even the policy wonks struggle to get their heads round it at times. Several popular criticisms of action on climate change stem directly from misunderstandings about how the government’s scheme might work (these criticisms may also be leveled at other schemes). Here are three key sources of confusion:

  1. It won’t make a difference because Australia is only a small part of global emissions
  2. It won’t make a difference because industry will move overseas and pollute from there
  3. It won’t make a difference because we are going to compensate the polluters – so there is no reason for them to act.

There are very good answers to all three points. But this is entering a level of detail beyond the point at which the public would normally engage in public policy. Debunking incorrect information is necessary. But arguing the toss on the details of particular arguments is pointless – people end up confused and disengaged. Instead, advocates of climate change action would do well to focus on some key communication approaches:

  • Appeal to the emotional: Use language and imagery that appeals to people’s emotional rather than intellectual side. This is something marketers have honed for decades.
  • Use third-party advocates: There is no academy of science in the world that disputes the science. Other voices lend credibility to your arguments.
  • Point to peers: Highlight what others, faced with the same problem, have done. The vast majority of countries have some form of measure in place to combat climate change.

Talk about the alternative: Instead of allowing the debate to focus on the intricacies of different schemes, focus on the costs of inaction.

Make it local: Talk about the impact of climate change on insurance bills and front lawns.

A recent poll by Fergus Hanson for the Lowy Institute showed that 38 per cent of Australians felt they had become ‘more concerned’ about climate change since the debate in Australia began. If this concern is to be harnessed into support for action, we need to do a much better job of telling the story, and a much better job of debunking the myths. “Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean,” Bob Dylan once remarked, “sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean”.

Andrew Ure is the Managing Director of OgilvyEarth, a sustainability communications company (part of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide).

By Andrew Ure.

Tax furore hides much furious agreement

July 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog

Lost in a gale in the cult film Withnail and I, Paul McGann asks the driver “Are we there?”

“No”, comes the reply from Richard E. Grant, “we’re here”.

In the storm of words around the introduction of the carbon tax, Australians would be forgiven for being a little lost too.

You might think the major parties don’t agree on anything when it comes to climate change. But they do. In fact, they agree on a lot (though they might not admit it).

For starters, both parties argue that climate change is real, and that Australians need to act. The same cannot be said for many voters of both persuasions.

Crucially, both parties have made an unconditional commitment to reduce Australia’s emissions by the same amount (5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020).

This is significant in two ways: firstly, they agree on the scale of emissions reductions that Australia should undertake (at least at a minimum); secondly they agree that there is a degree of climate change action that Australia should take, irrespective of what happens elsewhere.

Moreover, while you could live under a rock and still know that the Coalition opposes the government’s carbon pricing mechanism, few people realise that both parties share their support for particular approaches to reducing emissions.

The Coalition will likely release more details closer to an election, but based on its direct action plan and public statements, and the government’s public record, we can build a picture of what is likely to survive regardless of the colour of the government.

Let’s start with renewable energy. Again, both sides are in furious agreement that Australia should encourage the development of the sector through promoting a renewable energy target. They even agree on the amount: 20 per cent of Australia’s energy supply should come from renewable sources by 2020.

Of course, there is some nuance, with the Coalition seeking to carve out a special role for larger projects. But this is a relatively minor difference.

Energy efficiency is another area that is likely to remain a key priority whoever wins the next election. It’s a no-brainer: reducing energy bills and reducing emissions at the same time. This is particularly so in the building sector. After the initial capital investment, many energy efficiency projects become cash-positive within the first few years of operation. It’s a win for owners, a win for tenants and win for the construction industry – oh, and the climate.

Speaking of common ground, land management is another area where both the big parties can be seen shuffling uncomfortably next to each other. Estimates of the mitigation potential of reducing emissions from farming and forestry vary, but may be very significant, and both parties are supportive of efforts in this space. The Coalition estimates that soil carbon measures could represent 85 million tonnes of annual CO2 abatement potential; the government’s carbon farming initiative has been one of the more popular components of its Clean Energy Future package.

Under its ”contracts for closure” program, the government is seeking to support the closure of inefficient power stations. The Coalition’s proposed ”emissions reductions fund” has a provision to do precisely the same thing. The list goes on.

This is a good thing. A recent study by Mercer identified climate policy uncertainty (both international and national) as a significant source of risk for investors over the next 20 years. There is not going to be any certainty over carbon pricing for a while yet – but there is likely to be policy continuity in other areas.

So although the fight over carbon pricing will dominate the airwaves over the next few weeks, it is important to remember that there is a lot more to Australian climate change policy than carbon pricing.

A lot of bathwater will be thrown around in the next few days, but there is good reason to believe that, no matter where this all ends up, there will still be a baby – of sorts – sitting in the bathtub, wondering what on earth just happened.

Published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 July 2012.

By Andrew Ure.

OgilvyEarth appoints new Managing Director

April 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, News

OgilvyEarth, Ogilvy PR Australia’s sustainability communication practice, has appointed Andrew Ure, former Director, International Forest Carbon, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, as its new Managing Director.

Andrew replaces Sarah Cruickshank who is leaving Ogilvy Public Relations after ten years to take up an Assistant Secretary role in the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

“We are very excited that Andrew is joining OgilvyEarth to lead the team at a time when Australian companies have sustainability issues at the core of their business strategies,” said Kieran Moore, CEO, and Ogilvy PR.  “With over a decade of experience at the coalface of solving key strategic issues in both the public and private sectors and with a particular interest in climate change and sustainability, Andrew brings a new level of skill and talent to OgilvyEarth.”

During his time at the Department, Andrew supported the development of Australia’s international climate change policy, and was a lead negotiator for Australia in UN negotiations.   He was elected co-chair of the international REDD+ Partnership, a grouping of 80 countries aimed at driving progress on deforestation, and established a work plan to encourage private sector investment in REDD+.  He also chaired one of four negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol.

Prior to his time at the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Andrew worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a diplomat at the Australian Embassy in Iran. Andrew also spent three years as an Associate Consultant at the international strategy consultancy OC&C in London.

“It’s a very exciting time to be joining OgilvyEarth,” said Andrew Ure, Managing Director of OgilvyEarth.  “As Australian companies increasingly look to integrate sustainability into their daily operations, OgilvyEarth is uniquely positioned to help them develop and articulate their strategies, backed up by an international team of experts.”

“OgilvyEarth clients know that doing more with less is not just good for the environment – it’s good for them and their key stakeholders,” said Andrew.

For further information, please contact:

Sandra Renowden, on mobile: 0403 823 218