Opinion: Suspicion pierces public's green spirit

'Citizens are being smeared as ­enemies of conservation, polluters, and environmental vandals' worthy of punishment rather than encouragement' - Ian Monk

Saving the world is one of the zeitgeists of our relatively caring age. There is probably a greater UK political consensus around the need to fight climate change than any other issue. And yet the opportunity to harness the willingness to change the world for the better is in danger of being wrecked by some truly appalling comms strategies that mask, on occasion, bad politics.

Instead of coherent messaging, well-intentioned citizens are being smeared as ­enemies of conservation, polluters, and environmental vandals worthy of punishment rather than encouragement.

It's the cost, not the benefit, that is allowed to dominate the headlines and the mind. Punitive financial penalties are imposed and suddenly millions who genuinely want a better world feel short-changed by vicious tax and charging regimes that oppress rather than liberate the Green spirit. Take proposals for dealing with waste. Instead of constructive presentation, oppressive-sounding diktats from sinisterly acronymed bodies such as WRAP (the Government's Waste and Resources Action Programme) are carelessly leaked to the media. A receptive audience is brutalised by a debate in which they are painted as villains.

Whose idea was it to leak documents suggesting councils abandon weekly rubbish collections under the cover of winter, when the stench would be less than in a festering, globally warmed summer? Can anyone be surprised that, bereft of positive messages, the media seize on the downside of higher charges, fewer collections and spies in wheelie bins? Pay as you throw rather than save as you go is the headline mantra.

There is no debate, no sense of bringing people on board, just the spectre of more charges for less service and more interference in private lives.

There is a monumental willingness to change, but no one is orchestrating the message. Manufacturers and retailers, along with government, should be encouraged to work with and for, rather than against, consumers and electors, to move the debate away from the suspicion that the whole green issue is simply an opportunity for another tax-raising binge.

The UK has some of the world's greatest PR professionals, and citizens who care deeply about the planet.

Now is the time to move forward in the one shared aim that matters to all parties. Seizing an opportunity that may not repeat itself could be PR's greatest challenge.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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