Amid the controversy of appointing the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan Al-Jabar, as this year's COP president, a watershed moment was finalized to phase out fossil fuels. As part of the first-ever Global Stocktake since the Paris Agreement, to evaluate progress on climate action and setbacks to date, an agreement was reached that signals the “beginning of the end” of fossil fuels and a transition to clean energy. This year’s COP was also marked by the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund, and the advancement of the Global Goal on Adaptation, aimed at improving resiliency to climate change.
As part of the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP) program, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security brought a cohort of journalists from low- and middle-income countries to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the United Nations climate summit. This year, 20 journalists and 7 EJN trainers attended COP28, while 10 fellows reported on key events and discussions remotely, from their home countries in the MENA and Mekong regions.
Meet the fellows: Covering COP28 | Earth Journalism Network
The CCMP supports journalists from low- and middle-income countries to report on the outcomes of negotiations and contextualize momentous decisions for their home audiences, many of whom face both the brunt of climate impacts and the fallout of inaction.
EJN’s Charlie Debenham, who manages the CCMP program, said “Attending the climate change COPs in person allows our fellows to get a much better understanding of climate policy and of the nexus of climate with many other important topics. Under the guidance of their mentors the CCMP fellows have produced scores of high-quality stories for their outlets this year, some exploring topics and themes that were new to them before they had arrived. We hope to see our 2023 fellows continue to report on the climate COPs in the future, using the tools and skills that they gained from this fellowship to help them to follow the proceedings independently going forward.”
Side events and high-level interviews
COP28 was the first climate summit to have a day dedicated to health. On December 1, EJN hosted a well-attended official side event at the World Health Organisation pavilion. At “From Global to Local: How Climate Journalism Can Elevate the Health Story at the Heart of the Climate Crisis”, experienced journalists and a One Health expert discussed how best to communicate these inextricable linkages between the health of people, animals, and ecosystems, and the importance of integrated, multi-faceted solutions to address these connected crises.
Our #COP28 side-event with @earthjournalism kicks off in less than 15 minutes! Join us via livestream here:https://t.co/ldeZdAo9pj We will also be live-tweeting the event on this thread, stay tuned!🌍❤️🩹⚕️🌳#climate #health #journalism @MegEmiller @idajooste @MackieOkafor
— Internews Health Journalism Network (HJN) (@InternewsHJN) December 1, 2023
Internews’ Humanitarian team also hosted a side event at the summit, focused on the importance of centering communities’ informational needs when designing climate action and disaster response.
Fellows not only witnessed negotiations and discussions firsthand; they were able to interview high-level officials who are usually hard to pin down at home. Afifa Nassar Ullah spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, Iraqi fellow Ahang Habib Hawrami met with Hillary Clinton and France's President Emmanuel Macron, while Sahar Mohammed interviewed Yemen's minister of water and environment, Tawfiq Al Shargabi.
Likewise, decision-makers and climate experts were pleased to interact with the fellows at the summit.
— David Cooper (@hdavidcooper) December 5, 2023
Engaging with the Australian Water Partnership
With support from Australian Aid through the Australian Water Partnership (AWP), EJN facilitated an interaction between "water envoys" and experts who were present at the COP, and CCMP fellows. The AWP is a cooperation initiative that helps low- and middle-income countries in the Indo-Pacific region work toward sustainable management of water resources. Iraqi CCMP fellow Ahang Habib Hawrami conducted an interview with Dani Gaillard from the Stockholm International Water Institute for her story on water and climate.
On December 5, virtual CCMP fellows from the Lower Mekong region met AWP general manager Sarah Ransom via Zoom. During the meeting, she introduced the Water Pavilion that had been set up in Dubai, and spoke about the connection between water and climate mitigation and adaptation. Ransom shared insights from Australia's experiences in water and drought management, as well as technologies for ensuring the sustainability of existing dams.
The journalists enjoyed the lively discussion, and expressed particular interest in dam management—a significant water issue in their hydropower-dependent region. The session with AWP offered new insights on innovations and technology, including pumped storage hydro, which can help improve hydropower management.
“I learned more about the Australian experience of managing water and dams while preserving biodiversity,” said Ploythida Ketkaew, an environmental journalist from Today News and CCMP virtual fellow from Thailand.
Learning and mentorship
Alongside daily briefings and interview opportunities, fellows also received close mentorship from EJN trainers—each a veteran climate journalist with specific regional expertise.
Erika Kurnia, a fellow from Indonesia, described how “during the COP, the mentors kept us updated with important document drafts progression, new study reports, and info from reliable intel to be aware of. Those insights made me confident to reach my country's delegates and negotiators. The COP CCMP this year was the first world conference with an international cohort I've ever joined during my ten years of journalistic career.”
EJN trainer Imelda Abaño, explaining why it is important for climate journalists to report from COPs, said: “COP28 climate talks proved how important it is for journalists to report climate-related issues in person. I've seen how the fellows were challenged to cover issues like coal, fossil fuels, biodiversity, renewables and climate justice but importantly how they hold their country delegations accountable by asking probing questions. Hopefully, they'll continue to chase their governments and report more on local actions and other climate-related issues beyond COP28.”
Eugenia Akorfa Kumi, from Ghana, noted that being part of the fellowship showed her "climate topics covered back home barely scratch the surface."
"I've gained extensive knowledge on reporting climate issues, breaking down complex jargon and technicalities and presenting them in a way that resonates better with the Ghanaian audience," she added.
Similarly, Letícia Klein, a fellow from Brazil, noted, “I learned a lot about how to report on different topics related to climate, so I will incorporate those in my writing from now on, and I had the chance to meet very nice sources and organizations that can help me in future stories and endeavors.”
Fellows learned from their peers, too. “It was a fantastic chance to get feedback and also develop questions for interviews as I listened to different questions from different fellows and trainers,” said Sahar Mohammed, a journalist from Yemen.
Virtual fellows also took part in daily briefings and received 1-1 mentorship from EJN experts. Khaled Sulaiman, who supported the MENA virtual cohort, said: “Working with journalists from the MENA region before and during COP28 in Dubai was challenging, especially since the fellows were working remotely. However, we were able to link the conference topics to the impact of climate change on the ground where the journalists live.”
“The EJN virtual fellowship has significantly changed my perspective, knowledge, and way of thinking, especially when it comes to writing style and selecting particularly fascinating anecdotes. I came to understand that the commitment I had previously thought I put into my reporting paled in comparison to the support and guidance I received from the knowledgeable and enthused mentors.” said journalist Kieu Thoan Thu from Vietnam.
A CCMP reading list
At last count, the fellows produced more than 200 stories in 39 outlets and 9 different languages!
As COP hosted its first ever day dedicated to Health, they investigated the inextricable link between environmental issues and health. Letícia Klein delineated how the planet's average warming of 1.1 ºC is already impacting the workforce and health infrastructure, and how heat-related deaths among people over 65 have increased by 70% in two decades. Uzmi Athar from India also looked into key objectives of the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health, and the notable absence certain signatories, including India, one of the top greenhouse gas emitters.
This year’s COP could also not take place without an acknowledgement of how conflict and war is impacting climate change and mitigation efforts. Matías Avramow from Argentina examined how peace is an essential ingredient of climate policy and how current conflicts have led to stalled discussions, absences and political divide. Simrin Sirur, a fellow from India, reported on how the Israel-Palestine war is posing new challenges for Palestine, a nation already vulnerable to climate change, through the recent destruction of its solar power plant and German- funded waste-water plant by Israeli forces.
Fellows also took the opportunity to imagine what a phasing out of fossil fuels would look like for their countries, and globally; Daniela Quintero Díaz reported on the Colombian president’s pledge to prevent ‘omnicide’ and invest in the future of the planet despite being a carbon-intensive country, El Mahjoub Dasaa covered Morocco’s 50-million-euro investment in green energies and decarbonization whilst Chiamaka Okafor described the crucial importance of a just transition in Nigeria.
Here are some additional highlights of our Fellows’ coverage:
- What COP28 Could Mean for Solomon Islands and the Pacific Region | Earth Journalism Network
- COP28: Latin America Splits on Fossil Fuels and Farming | Earth Journalism Network
- New Report Reveals Carbon Emissions Will Reach Record High in 2023 | Earth Journalism Network
- Climate-Smart Agriculture Could Increase Productivity and Reduce Carbon Emissions | Earth Journalism Network
- Activists at COP28 Challenge "Green Colonialism" | Earth Journalism Network
- Unpacking the Global Methane Pledge's Impact on Pastoralist Communities | Earth Journalism Network
- Mekong Countries Push for Financial Help at COP28 | Earth Journalism Network
Networking with other climate journalists
To experience UAE’s wildlife and natural landscape beyond the conference rooms of COP28, CCMP fellows took a field trip to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to learn more about conservation efforts for desert species.
They witnessed falconry demonstration and learned more about how the Arabian oryx was brought back from the brink of extinction through a successful captive breeding program. Jacob Walter Ochieng summarized the field trip as "one of a kind and such an eye-opener experience."
#ccmp fellows Day out. What’s #UAE without the desert? Thanks to the team @ platinum heritage for this amazing desert adventure in dubai. .@earthjournalism and .@StanleyConnect were grateful. #ccmpcop28 pic.twitter.com/QtUjuy3wZa
— Eugenia Akorfa Kumi (@Youu_Genia) December 7, 2023
Fellows also attended mixer events where they met with CCMP fellows from former years. Eugenia Akorfa Kumi noted, “The mixer offered an opportunity to meet other journalists and exchange ideas which will be valuable in the long term.”
Such a great family we are…
It is really interesting to have all this great journalists around.@devonterrill and @JamesFahn thank you for always been there for us. You made our days 🙏🏼
We just started the journey. More to come.@earthjournalism @StanleyConnect @Kirkuknow_DT pic.twitter.com/T8gCybpUjU
— Ahang Habib Hawrami (@AhangHusein) December 9, 2023
Look out for more climate coverage from this cohort of CCMP Fellows in the future!
Banner image: The panel at EJN’s official side event in the WHO pavilion, featuring Brazilian journalist Ana Carolina Amaral, Nigerian fellow Chiamaka Okafor, media trainer Joydeep Gupta, Wellcome Trust’s Alice Bell and Internews’ Ida Jooste / Credit: Devon Terrill.