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Second Decarbonization Report

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) hired Spitfire to engage priority audiences — including state, local and federal policymakers; environmental justice advocates; and those most affected by the impacts of climate change — to read and embrace the findings from its report on decarbonization. Congress commissioned NASEM to ensure the U.S. meets the Biden administration’s goal of net zero by 2050, and its report “Accelerating Decarbonization in the United States: Technology, Policy, and Societal Dimensions” focuses on the most effective actions to take in the coming decade to build on the expected emissions reductions via the Inflation Reduction Act. Spitfire worked with the NASEM staff and the more than 20 experts and scientists who authored the report to capture the most important findings and package them in a way that resonates with NASEM’s priority audiences. To make these findings digestible, Spitfire created a strategy and a messaging platform to engage NASEM’s audiences across the ideological spectrum. Drawing from the strategy and messaging, Spitfire produced a briefing deck, audience-tailored highlights and social posts. Spitfire also provided counsel to committee members on conducting successful media interviews and presentations and arranged briefing sessions with ten environmental justice organizations.

Strategy setting

Because NASEM needed an impartial approach to its guidance to the U.S. government, we designed a strategy to reach and persuade audiences regardless of their political persuasion. Our conversations with scientists and experts around their ambitions for this report — including differentiating it from others and extending its lifespan beyond release — informed the goals, priority audiences, messaging and creative ideas we recommended that NASEM pursue. Tailored to NASEM’s priority audiences, these messages and ideas highlighted the report’s positive and practical aspects as well as its focus on achieving a just energy transition. Extensive research into the media landscape around decarbonization and clean energy underpinned our strategic approach.

Outreach activities

NASEM prioritized environmental justice groups as an audience due to the importance of community input in decarbonizing the nation’s energy system. We focused outreach on organizations addressing environmental justice, fostering new connections between NASEM and these communities through briefings that these organizations hosted with their networks, with the report authors on hand as subject matter experts. We also highlighted key areas from the report that informed our materials and website updates. Recognizing the importance of state and local policymakers in enacting many of the recommendations outlined in the report, we tailored highlights, slides and social graphics to both local and federal audiences. We broadened NASEM’s reach by connecting NASEM with podcasts — including “The Energy Gang,” “Bloomberg ZERO with Akshat Rathi” and “Volts” with Dave Roberts and influencers, such as Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Alexandria Villaseñor and Bill McKibben, who could further amplify the report’s key messages. Ahead of the report’s launch, we empowered NASEM and the report authors to address media attention with sample tough questions and answers.

Sample slides from the briefing deck

Results:

Within a day of the report release, NPRThe Washington PostGrist as well as trade publication Utility Dive highlighted NASEM’s report and NASEM committee members’ deep subject matter expertise. Coverage also noted the report’s practical, achievable and concrete recommendations. Social media posts like this from The Center for Progressive Reform also emphasized the report’s focus on equity. The report authors used the deck to brief Congress and fiscal sponsors, and it formed the basis of additional briefings to other audiences. The materials we produced will continue to maintain attention on the report as policymakers and advocates make big decisions about securing a safe, healthy climate for all.

Spitfire services employed

Communication planning and execution

Ethical and visual storytelling

Media relations

Policymaker engagement

Research

Strategic planning

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Issues Covered

Protecting the environment

Racial, Economic And Social Justice