The Climate Challenge Fund: Government wastes £8.6m on green propaganda

Click to download the full research note.

With the Government’s Act on CO2 campaign recently launching a controversial advertising campaign on climate change issues, there is an increased focus on how the Government is engaging with the public over climate change.  Public information campaigns – like that warning people about stroke symptoms – can be legitimate.  But have climate change communications crossed the line into political propaganda?

This note puts recent controversies in context by looking at grants made under the major Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) scheme, the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF).  The CCF was run by DEFRA between summer 2006 and March 2008.  It allocated £8.6 million to 83 projects across England.  It aimed to raise awareness about climate change and encourage certain attitudes and beliefs, such as “climate change is the result of human behaviour”.

The information in this research note was provided by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in a response to a Freedom of Information request or obtained through investigation of organisations’ websites.  In December 2008, an evaluation commissioned by DECC of the CCF projects was completed. It is still in “the process of being published onto the DECC website” but was again provided in a response to a Freedom of Information request.

Key findings

  • £8.6 million was distributed in CCF grants: £4.7 million in 2006-07 and £3.9 million in 2007-08.
  • Of that total, £1.9 million was provided to projects explicitly targeted at young people.  This may understate the extent of efforts to communicate to young people though, as many other projects which did not explicitly target them made use of activities like music concerts or cartoons that suggest an interest in reaching younger people. £400,000 was distributed to projects explicitly targeted at black and ethnic minority (BME) groups.
  • The evaluation suggested a number of problems with schemes: they often preached to the converted, there was often little evidence of projects delivering on the scheme’s objectives and many websites were set up but relied “on serendipity to deliver visitors to their websites”.  It also suggested that some projects addressed other priorities of organisations receiving grants, and suggested that future funds should avoid “simply providing a way to secure additional resources.”

The full research note discusses a number of notable projects funded under the CCF and provides names, descriptions and amounts granted to all the projects supported by the Climate Challenge Fund.

The full DECC evaluation of the CCF projects has not yet been published on their websites, but it can be downloaded here.

Matthew Sinclair, Research Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

“The Government has clearly crossed the line from public information to propaganda on climate change.  Many of the Climate Change Fund projects are utterly bonkers and misleading, and come with a huge price tag. Despite a fortune having been spent on these projects, the Fund has failed even on its own spurious terms. It is infuriating for taxpayers to see their money squandered on attempts to scare and indoctrinate the public.”

Our video and links to online material funded by the CCF are provided here.

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