15 September – Social media efforts to raise awareness about the upcoming Climate Summit are heating up the Internet — well ahead of the 23 September event that will bring more than 100 world leaders to the UN headquarters in New York.

That is important to the organizers, because the Summit will succeed only if the messages imparted during the invitation-only event are heard outside the walls of the world body.

The UN’s Social Media Team started working toward that goal six months ago by branding the event on Twitter with the hashtag #climate2014. Since then, the hashtag has reached more than 33 million people via more than 58,000 tweets from more than 30,000 contributors — with an exposure of more than half a billion impressions.

“Our aim is to raise awareness so that the general public takes climate action seriously and puts pressure on their governments to do the same,” said Charlotte Scaddan, Public Information Officer on the UN’s Social Media Team.

“What we want to do is empower people to act.”

One way that the Social Media Team is doing this is through the “22 Days, 22 Solutions” campaign, which showcases 22 projects from all over the world that are tackling climate change as a way to count down to the 23rd of September. Some of these solutions involve local communities, some are partnerships between non-governmental organizations and governments, and some involve the private sector.

Response from the public has intensified as the Summit date has neared. “Considering we’re still a week out and it’s a one-day event, we’re really pleased with the level of engagement.”

Similarly, a joint campaign from Upworthy and Unilever Project Sunlight that was launched on 2 September engaged nearly 10 million people worldwide in its first week alone.

Upworthy said the average piece of content in the digital media initiative generated more than 400,000 views, more than 150,000 social actions (shares/likes/comments) and more than 7 million social impressions.

Such involvement via social media may help the Summit achieve its chief goal — to inspire global leaders from government, finance, business and civil society to adopt more ambitious and urgent approaches to addressing climate change and to create the momentum needed for countries to reach a meaningful global agreement on climate change in Paris in December 2015.

Several high-profile UN supporters have thrown their weight behind the Summit by encouraging their social media followers to act on climate change. A UN video produced for social media featuring a host of celebrity advocates will be launched a week before the Summit, as part of a final push for climate action.

“With more than 100 heads of state and government joining leaders from business and civil society at the UN Climate Summit, we want to help them understand how much support there is for ambitious leadership and action on climate change,” said Dan Thomas, head of communications for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team.

“Through social media and innovative partnerships, we are constantly seeking to engage new audiences in our mission.”

The UN’s four-person social media experts squirreled away on the 10th floor of the UN Secretariat Building have been seeking those new audiences by roiling the waters of social media in an effort to get out their message.

“Climate change is this overwhelming and quite depressing issue for many people,” Scaddan said. “They believe that it’s just too big a problem for any one person to tackle and there’s nothing they can do or that acting on climate change costs too much or is too disruptive to their lives.

“What we want to do is let them know otherwise, to tell them about the many affordable and straightforward steps that they take, to lay out their options for climate action. And we want them to share the information with their friends so the word spreads.”

Toward that end, the United Nations has a presence on all the major social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and Tumblr.

During the Summit itself, a screen will display for attendees uses of the hashtag #climate2014.

That helps bring the voices of people outside the United Nations compound into the buildings. “What they’re saying will be appearing,” she said. “It’s a way of bringing the outer world in, and also a way to encourage those who are at the Summit itself to be active on social media, to provide a window to the event to everyone outside.
“We want them to be tweeting, posting, giving opinions, sharing their announcements.”

In addition, world leaders attending the Summit will be invited to visit a social media zone, where they will be able to announce through social media platforms their new commitments to tackle climate change.

“The multitude of messages will underscore the one overriding theme – that climate change is happening, but we can do something about it if we act now,” Scaddan said.