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Who cut through in the run-up to COP26?

As COP26 kicked off, the data team at Trafalgar Strategy tracked and analysed the conversations that developed on Twitter. Over a one month period immediately preceding the start of COP26, they found over 2 million tweets that mentioned the conference.

Greta Thunberg was the most prominent voice on Twitter and had several tweets go viral in the build-up to the conference, using her platform to urge world leaders to face up to the climate emergency. However, hypocrisy was a prominent theme that emerged around COP26, with conspiracy theorist Joseph Paul Watson, political pundit James Melville and Andrew Neil, all highlighting the hypocrisy of world leaders with tweets that broke through the noise and performed exceptionally well.

Unfortunately for Boris Johnson, despite COP26 being his big moment on the international stage, Pope Francis and former US President Barack Obama received greater cut through. However, the most prominent tweet from any current or former world leader came from former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, whose tweet simply announcing the end of the opening ceremony outperformed every other world leader.

The Labour MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson, was the only current British politician to break into the top ten most engaged-with tweets. Unhelpfully for the Government, his tweet struck a chord with the Twittersphere, as he called out proposed cuts to air passenger duty and proposals for a new Cumbrian coal mine. Other than Esterton, only Nigel Farage, Caroline Lucas and David Lammy were able to make a serious dent in the overall Twitter conversation, with attacks that focused either on the Government, the hypocrisy of world leaders or mocking the Prime Minister.

Overall, our analysis of the Twitter conversations demonstrates the public is increasingly aware that changes to their lives are now a matter of when not if. Although the Government’s focus on climate change is important, the cut-through of social media centred around hypocrisy serves as a stark reminder that pursuing a green agenda promises to be a political minefield like few other policy issues encountered since the war.


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