To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels — as called for by the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world would need to reach net zero by 2050.
In recent years, a number of countries have set increasingly ambitious net zero goals, pledging to decarbonize their economies and cut greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible by 2050, 2070 or beyond. According to the United Nations, more than 70 countries, including the biggest polluters — China, the United States, and the European Union — have set a net zero target, covering about 76% of global emissions. Despite these promises, critics argue that even if achieved, pledges fall well short of what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Two of the most ambitious pledges so far have come from South Africa and India, who committed to reach net zero by 2050 and 2070 respectively, at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.
Achieving this goal will involve shifting away from fossil fuels and accelerating the transformation of how populations produce, consume, and commute, while ensuring any remaining emissions are reabsorbed by carbon sinks such as the ocean and forests.
It will require investment in a healthy, resilient, carbon-neutral economy that prevents future threats to the environment, improves job prospects, and encourages sustainable growth, without leaving vulnerable and marginalized communities behind.
Yet, for the broader public — and indeed, policymakers — this remains a new concept. There is a lack of understanding about what the transition would entail, what steps are needed to move towards the target, and what countries will need to do to make sure they are on track. There is a dearth of in-depth media coverage on these topics and without public awareness and pressure, policy responses will remain inadequate.
It is imperative, at this crucial juncture, for the media to convey accurate and science-based information on climate action to the public, and to hold policymakers accountable to their pledges to decarbonize.
To meet this need, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) embarked on a year-long media project to strengthen climate-related reporting in India and South Africa. Through this project, we aim to build the capacity of journalists in India and South Africa to report more effectively on pathways to achieving net zero — including the prospects, potential opportunities and challenges that will be faced along the way.
Project activities to improve the quality and quantity of net zero coverage will include:
- Story grants and mentorship to selected journalists
- Journalism training workshops in both India and South Africa to connect media professionals to scientists, researchers and policy experts
- The production of online reporters’ resources such as tipsheets and briefing documents
In the second phase of this project, we will expand our work to improve reporting on Net Zero Pathways to include activities in Argentina, while also continuing activities in South Africa. Both countries are targeting 2050 for to achieve Net Zero.
Project activities in Year 2 in South Africa will include data journalism training workshops for journalists to better understand scientific, financial, and technical data to research and investigate stories related to net zero pathways. Selected journalists will receive story grants and mentorship to produce data stories on net zero topics.
For Argentina, we will implement similar activities to those already done in India and South Africa, including journalism training workshops and webinars, story grants and mentorship and the production of online reporters' resources.
EJN will continue its social media outreach to boost coverage of net zero, renewable energy issues and low-carbon development.
Through this project, we aim to build understanding of the importance of low-carbon development within the journalistic and media community – and by extension to their audiences – of how their countries can meet their targets to become carbon neutral.
Banner image: Orlando Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station in Soweto, South Africa. Its iconic cooling towers are now used as a bungee jumping site / Credit: Michael Schofield via Unsplash.