There is one acronym on everybody’s lips this week, and it’s COP17. The United Nations’ Conference of Parties Climate Change Conference started in Durban this week, and has already seen its fair share of drama formally, and informally in the form of the Occupy movement.
It is also one of the biggest international stories taking place on South Africa ground this year, and as such, has a large media contingent covering every aspect of the conference as it happens.
But reporting the story requires more than basic journalism skills and the ability to tell a story, says the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership’s Southern African director, Peter Willis. He believes business journalists “have a responsibility to develop the appropriate tools to report on the unprecedented challenge that climate change presents to the business and finance system”.
Willis told journalists attending the annual Sanlam Summer School for Financial Journalists, held in Pretoria “The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently warned that the media should find more meaningful ways of reporting on climate change, and the changes it will bring about on all humanity.”
He said he was “excited by climate change reporting in the South African financial media to date, but more still needs to be done. Journalists should be hunting down the small flames of leadership starting to emerge in South Africa, and fan them up. At the same time, they should have a skeptical ear available for the backward-looking companies.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by top SA environmental journalist Leonie Joubert who recently told Capetalk radio that newsrooms needed to up their game. One journalist covering the ‘environment’ was not enough. The subject has such scope that it requires specialists covering various beats within the overall subject of ‘climate change’.
It’s something the eNews Channel took into consideration when planning coverage of the event. The channel’s chief meteorologist Derek van Dam is there to unpack the science the story, but also to ‘demystify’ the science behind the stories, looking at topics such as marine conservation, CO2 emissions, and how to be a “greener person”. The channel had already created 60 features before hitting the ground running this week.
“By the eNews Channel’s involvement at COP17, the channel is able to provide a full spectrum of coverage from the politics around the conference to the scientific backgrounds, and reasons why people should be aware of climate change. Experiments have been done to break it down in simpler terms to give our viewers a better understanding of how climate change affects our daily lives,” Van Dam says.
eNews Channel has a team of around 25 people on the ground including senior anchor Jeremy Maggs, and five reporters: Paula Chowles, Serusha Govender, Belinda Moses, Vanessa Govender and Dasen Thathiah. The reporters will report on climate change stories from all provinces, as well as from the US, China, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Mozambique.
Willis says “in the financial sector, there remains a belief that you can have perpetual economic growth on a finite planet. The reality is that, if we want to avoid growing our way into catastrophe, we need to redefine economic growth so that it serves – rather than undermines – sustainable societal outcomes”.
“Financial and business media should tell the stories of firms that are rich with innovation, highlighting that making that shift now isn’t that painful,” he says.
But the change needs to happen soon, he says. Economists who worked on the Stern Report – a report into the economics of climate change commissioned by Treasury in the UK and published in October 2006 – found that the cost of moving to a zero carbon economy would amount to two percent of GDP a year now. However, that will increase to up to 25 percent of GDP a year if the process is stalled.
Durban daily newspaper, The Mercury, has assembled a top notch team of reporters under the leadership of award-winning environmental journalist, Tony Carnie. It has added a strong digital component to its activities with the addition of a dedicated COP17 section on its website. This will carry happenings and news throughout the conference.
Readers of the paper will receive “Planet in Peril” posters every day until Monday December 5. An additional four-page tabloid supplement dedicated to the conference will be carried in The Mercury every morning for the duration of the conference. On December 7, a 2012 green calendar, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme, will be published. And the monthly Food&Wine supplement will be green and organic today.
“The conference also presents an ideal opportunity for us to experiment with the social media storage facility, Storify,” says acting editor Jon Knight. “Our COP17 team will gather the most popular tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook and web updates on one convenient and easy to view page. Be sure to visit us as http://www.storify.com/TheMercurySA.”
CEO of Brand South Africa, Miller Matola, says Africa’s youth added valuable input into the fight against global warming as part of the recent Generation Earth: Climate Change Youth Summit. He says with the recent achievements in establishing green sustainability, the Generation Earth summit was an encouraging pledge from the youth because it shows that they want to ensure a better future for those of tomorrow.
Brand South Africa has launched a We can all Play Our Part social movement to get all South Africans to actively think about and begin doing something positive; and to recognise and celebrate those who are already doing something; big or small.
It is aimed at all South Africans, including civil society, government, corporate and non-governmental organisations, etc. It has been created by the Brand South Africa to inspire, empower and celebrate active citizenship. All South Africans have access to resources that can contribute to a better future for all including time, money, skills or goods.
A film festival, called New Climate Justice Festival of Film, has been organised for the duration of COP17. It will feature leading climate documentary films in a special edition of the Tri Continental Human Rights Film festival designed to inspire climate action and unite people in conversation around COP17, climate conference.
The Festival started on November 26 and runs until December 9, and will showcase 24 documentary films, as well as a tell-all documentary being filmed by Uhuru Productions during COP17 that follows three women from African countries who travel to COP17 to deliver their plea to the delegates.
“Through the festival,we not only celebrate the world’s best climate and social justicedocumentaries, but also aim to inspire people to become engaged with not only during COP17 but when everyone packs up and goes home,” says TCFF director and director of this COP17 documentary, Rehad Desai.
“We also strongly believe that because COP17 is in our backyard it’s vital that we use the opportunity of having the world’s eyes on us to tell African stories.”
“We have chosen a festival format to showcase both climate and social justice films that speak of the critical issues impacting people around the globe, with the aim of generating greater awareness, empathy and dialogue with the fantastic documentary content that is being made,” he added.
A festival highlight will be the launch of The Weather Gods today [Wednesday November 30] at the Greenpeace Solar Tent”, a joint Uhuru Production and Greenpeace film, that looks at the impact of climate change on subsistence farmers in South Africa, Mali and Kenya.
Watch an SABC clip on the Kyoto Protocol here.
Follow the action on Twitter #COP17