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“It’s important not to be a climate zealot”: Investigating how politicians understand and act on climate change

Wednesday 11 October 2017, 16.00-17.15
School of Earth & Environment Seminar Rooms 8.119
Rebecca Willis
SRI Sustainability Seminar


Political support is essential to climate action. But how do politicians think about climate, and how do they decide whether to speak up or act? At this session, I will discuss the findings of collaborative research between Green Alliance and Lancaster University. The research uses analysis of political speech and detailed anonymised interviews with Members of the UK parliament, to build up a picture of how politicians see their role, plan their career and represent their voters – and how climate change fits (or doesn’t fit) within that picture. Based on these findings, I will suggest how climate advocates can best work with politicians to encourage better debate and action.

The work draws on Green Alliance’s Climate Leadership Programme for MPs, which since 2009 has worked to engage politicians in the science and policy of climate change.

Rebecca Willis (


Rebecca Willis is an independent researcher with 20 years’ experience in environment and sustainability policy and practice, at international, national and local level. She fosters collaboration between the research community, politics, government, business and the third sector, in order to further sustainability goals. In 2009 Rebecca founded Green Alliance’s Climate Leadership Programme, an initiative to support Members of the UK Parliament. With Lancaster University, she is conducting research into political responses to climate change. She advises the Lake District National Park, where she helped to establish the UK’s first local carbon budget; and has a particular interest in local and distributed energy solutions.

Rebecca is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of RCUK’s Energy Programme and advises the iGov initiative at the University of Exeter. She is a Fellow of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP). From 2011-15 she was a Council Member of the Natural Environment Research Council, and from 2004-11 was Vice-Chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, advising the Prime Minister and First Ministers of the devolved administrations. She is an Associate of the think tank Green Alliance and from 2001-4 was Green Alliance’s Director. Previously, Rebecca spent two years as a policy adviser at the European Parliament in Brussels, specialising in international environmental issues.

Directions to the Venue

School of Earth and Environment Seminar Rooms (8.119). At the Earth and Environment Reception take the door on the right-hand side. The Seminar Rooms are immediately on the left.

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