Climate Journalism Takes Center Stage at COP26 Side Event, Panel Discussions, Podcasts and More

protests in the streets of Glasgow at COP26
Climate Journalism Takes Center Stage at COP26 Side Event, Panel Discussions, Podcasts and More

Delayed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, COP26 was a pivotal moment in the global fight to address climate change and keep the global average temperature rise within 1.5C to avoid a "climate catastrophe".  Through a series of panel discussions and appearances on podcasts before and during COP26, the EJN team emphasized the growing importance of climate journalism and diversity in media. 

This year it was more difficult than ever for journalists to attend the COP itself because of Covid-related travel restrictions. As part of the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP) program, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) in partnership with the Stanley Center for Peace and Security, brought 20 journalist Fellows (selected from close to 400 applicants) from 15 countries, another two Internews Fellows, and four trainers to cover COP26 in Glasgow last month. 

Without this support, those in low- and middle-income countries — which bear the brunt of climate change although they contributed little to global emissions — might have had to rely solely on global wire services for COP26 news. But EJN also managed to reach the global community through a wide range of other events. 

full house at side event
The audience at Internews' EJN COP26 official side event on November 10 / Credit: Jodie Ginsberg.

On 10 November, EJN hosted an official COP side event in partnership with The Stanley Center, titled Journalism in a Changing World: Improving Climate Coverage and Including More Voices. The panel featured Chinese journalist and policy expert Hongqiao Liu, Brazilian journalist Daniela Chiaretti, Ugandan journalist Fred Mugira, and Senior Asia Program Manager Amy Sim. Moderated by China Dialogue’s founder Isabel Hilton, speakers discussed the role journalists play in making sense of global developments and bringing diverse perspectives to the climate change discourse.  

Over 55 minutes, speakers talked about the importance of youth at climate summits, the need to highlight the experience of marginalized groups such as women and Indigenous Peoples, and why climate reporting should be more representative. 

Amy Sim shared that journalists around the world are increasingly giving more importance to climate reporting, and pointed out that the presence of journalists from low- and middle-income countries at COP26 was especially crucial to help audiences back home make sense of how decisions made at COP26 will impact their lives and what their leaders have (or have not) committed to do to curb climate change. "We have delegates here who are meant to represent their communities at the negotiating table," said Sim. "They need to be able to represent the voices back home, so we bring journalists here to ask them questions, to remind them." Watch the full recording here.  

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Banner for EJN panel discussion at the GIJC / Credit: GIJN.

In addition, on November 5, EJN hosted “Climate Change: A Report from the Front Lines at COP26”, a live panel at the 12th Global Investigative Journalism Conference hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN). 

This year’s CCMP trainers – Fermin Koop, an Argentinian environmental journalist, Joydeep Gupta, India-based director of the Third Pole Project, Mildred Mulenga, senior correspondent of the Pan African News Agency, and Imelda Abano, founder of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists (PNEJ) – were in conversation with EJN’s Executive Director, James Fahn. 

“As reporters we should be looking more closely at what’s being done by national governments when they get money,” said Koop, encouraging journalists to follow the money when covering climate finance flows.  

Environmental investigations are key to holding governments and corporations accountable, and there are a wide range of industries contributing to climate change that are not sufficiently investigated by the media, but it is also important for journalists to highlight solutions that strengthen resilience, bring them to the attention of policymakers, and explore why they might not be getting sufficient support, said Fahn. 

Meanwhile, Gupta reminded journalists that investigative stories could be small in scope, yet still effective. "All investigative work don't need to be dramatic. Stories can be done with a simple amount of investigation, but that can have dramatic impact,” said Gupta. Watch the full recording here.  

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James Fahn on the Media Voices podcast / Credit: Media Voices. 

EJN's work to advance climate journalism was the topic of discussion on three podcast episodes too: 

  • EJN Executive Director James Fahn appeared on The podcast on 8 October, advising journalists covering the climate negotiations to pay attention to what current climate targets meant for the future, and to consider how climate finance commitments compare to what is needed for global climate action. 

  • On 4 November, on the It’s All Journalism podcast, Fahn spoke about the CCMP Fellowship, and the importance of giving journalists from low- and middle-income countries the opportunity to cover the climate summit in person.  “These conferences are really important global negotiations about how we as a planet and human civilization will try and tackle this huge problem,” he said. “These are wonderful opportunities for journalists, not just to cover these important negotiations that affect all of us. It’s a huge immersion course to learn anything and everything about climate change.” 

  • On 8 November, Fahn was a guest speaker on the Media Voices Podcast, which features leading figures from media and publishing businesses. He recalled how the media landscape has changed over the years, as climate and environmental reporting gains more prominence: "If you really want to inform people, you need to get [environmental stories] all over the news; the front page, the business section, the food section,” he said.  

“One of the main messages we give to our journalists is this is not just an environment story.  This is a business story, a technology story, a political story, a finance story, a legal story, an  international story...” said Fahn. 

Finally, the CCMP was the subject of an in-depth feature story reported by Jon Allsop of the Columbia Journalism Review, which you can read about here for an external take on the program. 

Check out CCMP Fellows’ stories, panel discussions and podcasts from COP26 here.  

Banner image: Climate protests on the streets of Glasgow / Credit: James Fahn.

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