The importance of communication and awareness are entrenched in the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework on Climate Change) system – Article 6 of the Convention which talked about public awareness while protocol Article10 emphasised training, public awareness and access to information on climate change.
This piece looks at the impact of communication and how the public can be carried along through public awareness and engaging communicators to be responsive to the challenges and opportunities in climate change.
At a media conference, former head of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer, in June 2010, said: “When l took on this job the issue of climate change was hardly being reported in developing countries at all and if it was being reported it must be an issue in which the West is interested but which is not of particular concern to the South.”
He went further to say: “I think that, that has fundamentally changed. I think that the media has played a modest role in creating awareness and deepened attention in the South.”
COP organisers have also provided opportunity for media and communication organisations and individuals for participation at different activities during the COPs. There are also various institutions and organisations such as EnviroNews Nigeria, IISD and others that produce and provide reporting services, bulletins, handbills and newsletters on a continuous basis to cover various activities before, during and after the COP and other UN activities. They provide information, create awareness, and make available research materials for governments, the academia, business, non-governmental organisations, students and all segments of the society. There are also others who play critical roles in ensuring the spreading of knowledge and also influence the way things are done.
There are organisations who support and sponsor journalists from developing countries for training and to attend conferences. The objective is for them to be more knowledgeable to report the climate change negotiations, side events and, beyond that, to create awareness and enhance public knowledge.
We all have the responsibility to ensure that effective and purpose-driven messages about climate change and COP sessions are put into the public space in a simple language that can ensure ownership, shared vision “buy-in.” Yvo de Boer at the press conference mentioned above noted “that the dominant Western media rarely tells such stories from the perspectives of developing nations whose journalists can rarely afford to travel to major meetings.”
We are aware that some institutions like the Federal Ministry of Environment, its agencies, other ministries, UNDP and a host of others have at one time or the other supported, sponsored, briefed and also engaged journalists and others before, during and after COP meetings. We thank them for the support.
There are tool kits for journalists worldwide on how to report on climate change and sustainable development. The journalists need to have access to the information and the man in charge of information because having the right information at the appropriate time means a lot and the society is the ultimate beneficiary. In short, access to information is an important element in addressing climate change and the attendant issues.
We believe that, as communicators, we have a duty to use the information at our disposal to the overall interest of the greater number of people and also to educate, mobilise, inform, create awareness and ensure that we carry people along as we go through the road to Paris. It is imperative that we have a lot of responsibility to carry and we must live up because we must set the pace and the agenda that will ensure the overall interest of our nation.
Climate change is real and affects all aspects of our lives. We have a duty to put it at the centre of public discourse especially now that the President-elect has emphasised climate diplomacy as one of the issues this administration will address. It is important that we embark on a high level advocacy to sustain it at the centre of public discuss.
The world is in the thick of discussion on climate agreement with world leaders signing an agreement in December. We cannot leave the discussion to a few people because it is an issue that all of us must be involved. In the next few days the Editor of the Guardian of London will be bowing out after 25 years to devote more time to climate change and the attendant issues. There are others around the world that see the climate matters as more than discussion because it is now a development issue. The amount of money available for renewable energy globally is huge and there are others. The recent French support to Africa is substantial and Nigeria must benefit from it.
In a presentation, the Climate Leadership Conference, Edward Maibach of George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication, USA in his paper titled: “Communicating Climate Change and the case for Action” talked on the need for quality information management and posed the need to answer four key questions:
- What does the public think of climate change?
- Who are they listening to?
- Who do they expect to take action?
- What do they want to see done?
We must have passion and determination for finding great stories and reporting them in ways that are relevant to our people. Climate change is a hard nut which we must crack. We must all work together to help millions of Nigerians about climate issues and what they mean to us and our lives.
We also must let the developed countries know that we need finance to address the challenges and we need the right technology to tap the opportunities and we need the right capacity building mechanism to train our people towards the path of low carbon economy and move towards green homes, green banking and green way of life.
We all have a common objective which is to improve the lot of our people. We are all stakeholders in the Nigeria project.
By Prince Lekan Fadina (Executive Director, Centre for Investment, Sustainable Development, Management and Environment (CISME). (He is a member of the Nigeria Negotiation Team, Africa Group of Negotiators and member, AGN Finance Co-ordination Committee). Website: www.cismenigeria.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @cismevision