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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 16:36 GMT
'Climate threat badly understood'
Margaret Beckett at the launch of the new campaign
Mrs Beckett says people must tackle climate change now
Public understanding of climate change and what people can do to help tackle the problem is very weak, the environment secretary has said.

Margaret Beckett was launching a new campaign to persuade people global warming needs to be tackled now.

Under the banner of "Tomorrow's Climate, Today's Challenge", ministers want to recruit local groups to take the message to new audiences.

The government says its usual campaigns will not change public attitudes.

Instead of traditional national advertising schemes, the message on climate change needs to be linked to local and regional issues and come through "trusted" channels.

'Cloud cuckoo land'

The new three-year communications drive comes as ministers prepare for a United Nations summit on climate change in Montreal, Canada.

Ahead of the talks, Mrs Beckett said those expecting a new Kyoto-style set of targets to be agreed were "living in cloud-cuckoo land".

Instead, a new process for talks on the issue should be agreed, she argued.

It has become clear that the usual methods of government communications just wouldn't work
Elliot Morley
Environment Minister

"There are lots of ideas out there about how we can tackle it and what we need the international community to do is to start to engage on that debate and dialogue and work out what together we can do," she told BBC News.

Mrs Beckett said the new strategy was the first UK Government campaign designed to raise awareness and change attitudes to climate change.

"We are setting out to make the UK public better informed about the reality of climate change - that it is an issue for here and now, not for future generations or another country to solve - and that we all have a role in tackling it," she said.

'Attitudes, then action'

Mrs Beckett insisted the government was not trying to pass the buck.

Research showed climate change was widely recognised by the public, she said.

But understanding of its causes, and the impact of individual actions, was "typically very weak".

The research also showed more would be achieved if attitudes to climate change were tackled before efforts were made to start changing people's behaviour, said Mrs Beckett.

The campaign will include radio advertisements, a new website and a brief film which can be shown around the country.

Ministers are also inviting charities, private sector groups and organisations to apply for money from a 6m fund for their own campaigns for changing attitudes.

Targets call

Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: "It has become clear that the usual methods of government communications just wouldn't work...

"We would need to engage people much closer to home."

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker welcomed the campaign but said the government urgently needed to raise its own game.

"Only a system of mandatory national targets on carbon emissions will deliver the results we need," said Mr Baker.

"The government needs to show it is serious about action, not just public relations."

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