12 February, 2021
In the last week, two of the UK’s most influential tabloids, The Sun and the Express, have launched new environmental campaigns. Is this a new, mainstream, dawn for sustainability?
The Express’s “crusade”, “Green Britain Needs You” shows incredible progress. Ten years ago its front page headline was “100 reasons why global warming is natural”. Now it is calling for readers to join its “revolutionary campaign to help save Britain’s environment and give a £21 billion boost to the economy.” The campaign, backed by a coterie of environmental groups from Greenpeace to the National Trust, links environmentalism to growth of the green economy, focusing upon launch on the removal of VAT from environmentally-friendly products like electric cars, solar panels and household insulation.
The Sun was already on an environmental journey with the launch of ‘The Green Team’ last October. But this week its focus switched from personal sustainable actions to the “Road to COP26”, referring to the intergovernmental climate conference to be held (belatedly) in Glasgow this November. That the UK’s most read newspaper is running a reader campaign around this kind of policy-driven event is quite remarkable and, we hope, speaks to The Sun’s reputation as the bellwether for changing tides of public opinion.
It is easy to be cynical about these kinds of campaigns, particularly with their nationalistic undertones and lateness in the day. Certainly, Twitter was set alight by theories for why there must be “a catch” in this newfound enthusiasm. But these are the outlets that drive public opinion, and widespread support is crucial in driving meaningful change. Even if we know that that change has to go beyond what the tabloids are calling for.
By Ben Wood