Natalie Bettendorf is a junior at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, CA. After seeing the ACE Assembly at her school last year, Natalie decided to get more involved in encouraging her peers to take action on climate change. She is an editor of the Berkeley High Jacket, a member of ACE’s Go Team, and she believes that getting your voice heard is the key to creating change.
This November, Paris, France will host the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties, or COP21. For twelve days, global leaders associated with the United Nations will gather and try to come to terms on an international agreement for the world’s climate.
The objective of COP21, as stated by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is “to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.” They hope to keep global warming from increasing two degrees Celsius, and to significantly reduce the amount of carbon produced by humans. But before these leaders attack the climate challenge, they have got a marketing challenge in front of them.
COP21 needs a marketing plan. But more specifically, it needs us.
What is most concerning is how little this conference is being advertised. This could absolutely be a climate movement, but with less than one hundred days until COP21, there’s been nothing. There have been no billboards, no countdowns, no front-page newspaper coverage, and very little social media flare about the conference. And for an event that could dictate the future of the entire human race, this is terrifying and wrong.
People care. That’s the key idea here. On Sunday, September 21, 2014 in New York City, the People’s Climate March was a parade of over 400,000 people demanding policies on climate change, the largest climate march in history. There were companion demonstrations all around the world in major cities as well that day, including in Oakland, Istanbul, Paris, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, London, and countless more.
A July 2014 article in Rolling Stone called climate change “the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced” and effectively encouraged readers’ awareness of the People’s Climate March later that year. This year, on October 14, the People’s Climate March takes to the world’s streets again to send a clear message about the need to take climate action. An increasing number of people are realizing the extent of what needs to be done about the climate, and they’re joining in on the activism. So if the bottom line is that this is an issue that people care about, why isn’t that being reflected in a climate movement?
Besides, the COP21 organizers need people on the same page as them if they want anything to get accomplished. Without the involvement and attention of the rest of the world, this whole “plan for our future” is really no plan at all. The worst possible outcome of this event wouldn’t be the leaders coming to no agreement or not enabling any new environmental acts; it would be the entire conference passing by and no one realizing it.
Not only do the COP21 organizers need to launch an advertising campaign to get more people aware of the conference, but they need to effectively direct it towards a certain group of people: millennials (for the purpose of this article, the term "millennials" will encompass Generation Z as well).
With one catchy phrase, COP21 can instantly be blown up by hashtags, memes, t-shirts, Instagram posts, and more, all free of charge, as it is spread virally.
Why young people? Firstly, millennials are the information generation. Because of technology, we have grown up being more exposed to information than any generation before. Climate research and data are more accessible than ever, so the debate of whether climate change is “real” is dwindling. Also, as a result of having so many resources, millennials are the most likely to speak out – the majority, of course, on social media. Activism is massively easier, which is not new information.
But there’s a more important reason why millennials need to be involved. If the leaders come to any agreements on environmental acts at this conference, millennials are the ones who are going to be feeling the effects of the acts implemented. The Baby Boomers might be making the decisions here at the conference. However, they will not live to see if their acts actually reduce carbon emission, or if they succeed in keeping the global temperature from increasing. The results that they are looking for will take years to take effect, probably when millennials are raising families, having kids, and becoming grandparents.
COP21 has a substantial marketing challenge, making it a bit understandable why the leaders are not jumping at the gun to promote themselves. It is the ridiculous number of names that this event has. Abbreviations for COP21 include Paris 2015, UNFCCC, WCS, CMP21, and plenty more. This is not only unnecessary, but awful for their non-existent campaign. If people are confused about who or what they are supporting, then whatever you are trying to market is a waste of time.
But in today’s digital world, marketing is not as difficult as it once was. With one catchy phrase, COP21 can instantly be blown up by hashtags, memes, t-shirts, Instagram posts, and more, all free of charge, as it is spread virally.
So as of right now, COP21 needs a marketing plan. But more specifically, it needs us.