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Climate Change Sir David Attenborough United Nations

How David Attenborough, a hashtag and WPP gave citizens a voice at the UN climate change summit


By Imogen Watson, Senior reporter

December 24, 2018 | 7 min read

Prior to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) held in Poland in early December, a collective of WPP agencies came together to create an initiative that would allow people from all over the world to have their voices heard – 'The People's Seat'.

The project seen a new 'seat' added to the United Nations (UN) that let citizens speak directly to decision makers in order to share their own experiences of climate change.

Comments were submitted via the hashtag #TakeYourSeat across platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

In the lead up to the COP24 – a crucial summit held as part of UNFCCC where global and business leaders met to negotiate the next stages of the Paris Accord – the campaign reached 1.2 billion people, gathering stories internationally from online contributors.

Environmental activist Sir David Attenborough was chosen to deliver the people's message at the summit, which was the most critical meeting on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement. There, he relayed comments from members of the public to delegates from around the world, including representitives from the UK, US, France, Germany and Poland .

As part of his speech, the Blue Planet creator also played a video showcasing some of the #TakeYourSeat contributions.

According to Kantar, the breadth of reach and coverage of the campaign has been significant. Content from 'The People’s Seat', it says, has experienced a global broadcast reach of 337 million sets of eyeballs, as well as over 1,600 pieces of coverage on a number of top newspapers.

Mobilising action through 'The People's Seat'

The concept was developed and led by Grey London. However, it was a collective of WPP agencies who came together to make 'The People's Seat' happen – including Grey, Town Productions, Kantar TNS, Lightspeed, Finsbury, BCW, The Social Partners and MediaCom.

The network worked in partnership with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), the United Nations Office at Geneva, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Facebook to develop a multifaceted campaign to highlight the issue.

Initially, the companies involved recruited broadcaster and naturalist Attenborough to help engage the global public for the crunch talks at the UN Climate Change Conference.

Since he began studying natural sciences in the 1940s, Attenborough has documented and campaigned against, the exponential decline of the natural world, describing climate change as "the biggest threat to this planet in thousands of years."

The premise of 'The People's Seat' was developed to let ordinary people feeling the impact of climate change show decision makers that they were "not living in a vacuum" and had the future of individuals in their hands.

On 21 November, a film showing Attenborough which called upon the people of the world to send their thoughts, fears and experience of climate change using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat was launched to garner responses.

The creative was fed through social channels linked to the UNFCCC, to drive engagement around the use of the #TakeYourSeat hashtag, and the public quickly started responding.

The BBC also got on board and hosted an exclusive interview with Attenborough that drew attention to the campaign, encouraging readers to get involved. "There are fishermen all around the world who know what changes are taking place," said Attenborough, explaining to the BBC that including voices from people experiencing the reality of climate change was vital to getting politicians to take action. On top of this, WPP agencies engaged with influencers, who created their own content and encouraged followers to send their thoughts via video for the campaign. A celebrity PR push was also developed to get more citizens involved.

Leonardo di Caprio retweets

The holding group's creative taskforce then collated the messages from all over the world, producing the film that would eventually be shown on stage by Attenborough.

The environmentalist travelled with the team to Katowice in Poland to deliver the People’s Seat Address, which was written by himself and the team at Grey.

The speech was broadcast on Facebook live and also on the UN’s channels, which ensured it was streamed live around the world.

Following his address, the team arranged for Attenborough to be interviewed by key broadcast channels – including CNN, BBC, CCTV (Chinese state tv) and Reuters.

Since Attenborough delivered the address, 'The People’s Seat' has dominated global headlines, with over 500 pieces of broadcast coverage and three pages splashes in UK newspapers and 1600 articles. At the time of writing, the wider message had reached over 1.2 billion people.

Commenting on the campaign, Attenborough said it was: "A new kind of activism shaped by people from around the world through social media."

At the summit, almost 200 nations agreed on rules that would implement the 2015 Paris agreement, which looks to limit global temperature rises to well below 2C.

196 states signed on the dotted line to outline plans for common regulations that will govern the nuts and bolts of how the countries cut carbon, provide finance to poorer nations and ensure everyone is following the correct processes.

Climate Change Sir David Attenborough United Nations

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