Climate change has become a commonplace topic in the media and government communications. Most people acknowledge the threat but demand leadership and feel unsure what they themselves can do to address climate change. Part of the problem behind this seeming helplessness seems to be the global and abstract nature of climate change. Climate change is rarely experienced directly by people living in the developed world, and they cannot assess the extent of change directly. In other words, people feel psychologically distant from it. There are different ways in which psychological distance can be overcome, such as perspective taking (Pahl et al., 2009) and visualisation (Shepperd et al., 2005). The present work explores the merit of a socio-cognitive theory of psychological distance – construal level theory (CLT; Trope & Liberman, 2003). According to CLT, the lowest psychological distance possible is associated with direct experience in the here and now, characterised by direct sensory input. The further removed from direct experience an event is (for example in space or time), the higher is the distance felt, and the more people have to make an effort to mentally construe the issue or event. Importantly CLT suggests that people have systematically distinct mental representations of events, depending on psychological distance, and this in turn has implications for risk perception and behaviour choices. CLT suggests a number of ways of operationalising psychological distance, for example asking people to explain “how” vs. “why” something happens. “How” is linked to the concrete detail and procedure, associated with near distance. “Why” is linked to implications and meaning, associated with far distance. We present three experimental studies that apply CLT to climate change and sustainable behaviour. Study 1 asked people to explain climate change from two perspectives (“how” vs. “why” it happens). In the why condition people subsequently said climate change felt more temporally removed and was less likely, compared to the how condition. Study 2 applied the how-why manipulation to a range of specific sustainable behaviours. When asked to explain “why” other individuals engage in the behaviours, people estimated their own enactment of the behaviours to be more temporally distant than when asked to explain “how” other individuals performed the behaviours. Study 3 asked people to verbalise or visualise a specific sustainable behaviour (having solar panels installed). People reported higher self-efficacy to arrange for a solar panel in the visualisation condition, compared to both the verbalisation condition and a control condition. Applying construal level theory as a theory of psychological distance to the domain of sustainability is novel, and the present research suggests that it is worthwhile. The theory highlights several avenues for communicating climate change and sustainable behaviours by focusing on people’s perceptions and cognitive construal processes. The challenge for future work will be to use these principles to communicate spatially or temporally distant climate change as if it was psychologically close, and to make sustainable behaviours appear psychologically close, in order to motivate people to make a difference.