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EJN Leads Media Training Workshops on Net Zero in South Africa and India

Group of people standing outdoors in hard hats

Over the last few years, pressure has been mounting on countries to transition to a low- or zero carbon economy. 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.

As part of EJN’s Pathways to Net Zero project, in an effort to improve reporting on India and South Africa’s pathways to Net Zero, EJN hosted two media training workshops in Johannesburg and Kolkata at the end of January. It was the first of its kind for EJN in South Africa. Selected journalists attended three days of training which included sessions led by industry experts and field trips to relevant sites of interest.

In Johannesburg, 10 journalists from across South Africa attended training sessions facilitated by EJN Project Coordinator Tunicia Phillips. Over 8000 km away in Kolkata, India, 11 journalists attended the training sessions facilitated by EJN India Project Manager and lead trainer, Joydeep Gupta.

Journalists learned more about the UNFCCC and South African energy policymaking processes, COP outcomes, carbon taxing, just transition frameworks and the role of the Presidential Climate Commission. The workshops covered topics such as grid and finance mechanisms, and civil society’s role in the transition. The workshop participants also received training on using data and technical resources, and engaged ingroup activities to develop their story ideas.

Speakers at the workshop included Leonie Joubert, a senior science journalist, Nick Hedley, a financial and energy journalist, Stephen Nicholls, Head of Mitigation at the South African Presidential Climate Commission and Climate Advisor to the National Business Initiative, Blessing Manale, Chief Director of Communications at the Presidential Climate Commission, Patrick Bond, a political economist, political ecologist and Professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg, Leanne Govindsamy at the Center for Environmental Rights, and Gaylor Montmasson-Clair, Senior Economist at Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS).

Lady presenting in a conference room
Leanne Govindsamy, Programme Head Corporate Accountability and Transparency at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) / Credit: Tunicia Phillips.
Three people sitting around a table.
Sakhile Dube, Kim Harrisberg and Dhashen Moodley networking over a tea break / Credit: Tunicia Phillips.

In Kolkata, journalists gained a deeper understanding of the concepts of Net Zero and the Just Transition from guest speakers: Aarti Khosla, Director of Climate Trends, Avijit Ghosh, Principal Scientist, Pradip Swarnakar, Head of the Just Transition Research Centre at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, Mayank Aggarwal, researcher on Just Transition and co-trainer Mrinmoy Chattaraj, a senior journalist working on Just Transition, along with PhD students at the Just Transition Research Centre, IIT Kanpur.

Sessions focused on India’s Net Zero pledge, the plan and its prognosis, the solar energy situation in India, and accounts of communities affected by the move towards Net Zero.

“If we want to learn about Just Transition, we need to ask the right questions to the community. We need to understand the role different stakeholders play in the community and what's the story angle we're focusing on," said Pradip Swarnakar.

Lady presenting at conference.
Aarti Khosla, Director at Climate Trends / Credit: Aarushi Tanwar.
Group photo outside Press Club Kolkata
Group photo of participants at Press Club Kolkata / Credit: Aarushi Tanwar.

“The energy transition is not something that is going to happen in the future. It is already happening. A Just Energy transition is not just about jobs and livelihoods it is about justice in every aspect of the ecosystem,” said Mayank Aggarwal, a researcher on Just Transition. “It connects to everything in the ecosystem and that is how it has to be understood and tackled. This issue touches every aspect of people’s daily lives, and this require that kind of attention in coverage as well.”

Field visits

Participants in South Africa visited Pan African Resource’s Evander Goldmine in the mining town of Secunda in Mpumalanga — a province heavily affected by the transition to zero carbon. Evander was among the first mines in South Africa to initiate a Just Transition and install a solar plant facility to supplement power during scheduled power cuts and reduce electricity costs. Participants were briefed on the financial costs and the technical and human resource requirements for the installation, as well as the average cost savings over its twenty-year lifespan. Senior engineers accompanied the group as they walked through the solar facility and fielded questions relating to the social and economic benefits for communities surrounding the mine.

Two people standing outdoors in hard hats
Journalists Sia and Dhashen, visit Evander Gold Mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa / Credit: Tunicia Phillips.

Meanwhile in India, participants visited a colliery in Jhanjra village near Durgapur, West Bengal operated by Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL) — one of the largest coal-producing companies of India and a subsidiary of the government-owned Coal India Limited.

The participants interacted with the officials at ECL on a range of topics including, the benefits employees and their families receive, issues such as low wages, safety regulations, opportunities for women, and corporate social responsibilities. The group walked through the ECL premises and interacted with the workers. A few mine engineers also answered participants’ questions.

The participants then journeyed to two nearby villages: Topsi and Kunusturia — the first with a coal mine that had been shut down and the second with an active mine. The journalists interviewed villagers in Topsi to understand the impact of the mines’ closure on their livelihoods. They also looked at the negative impacts caused by the open cast coal mine in nearby Kunusturia. The journalists went to the homes of coal mine workers and held in-depth interviews about their incomes and potential livelihood options if the coal mine were to be shut down.

“I had never known the workings of a colliery and the experiences of those working there. I will try to assimilate those into my future reporting on the Just Transition,” said a participating journalist who has requested to keep their identity anonymous.

Group of people outside coal mine
Workers at ECL coal mine in Jhanjra village, India / Credit: Aarushi Tanwar.
Women being interviewed
Journalist Rajendran Karolly capturing footage of community members  from Topsi village speaking to Supriyo Basu from JTRC- IIT Kanpur / Credit: Aarushi Tanwar.

On the final day of the workshop, EJN’s Joydeep Gupta spoke about the current energy situation in India and future projections the extent to which renewable energy capacity is actually on track to meet India’s 2030 commitments, and the socioeconomic issues surrounding a Just Energy Transition, keeping in mind the lessons learnt during the field trip. "Journalists get their most valuable insights when interacting with people directly involved in the story, which was what they got during this workshop,” said Gupta.

Two people holding up chart
Journalists working in groups to develop and present a story idea / Credit: Aarushi Tanwar.

“I really enjoyed the last session of group work to come up with story ideas. The way Joydeep and Mayank explained the theme of Net Zero and Just Energy Transition was helpful to understand the situation in India and globally. I also understood the basics of covering and approaching stories on Net Zero which I wasn't aware of earlier — Aarti Khosla's session also helped me here,” said Purnima Sah, a participating journalist reporting for 101 Reporters.

Story production

The journalists received 1-1 mentorship and storyboarding sessions to improve their story ideas on this topic. Some of these stories have already been published and can be read below.

From India:

From South Africa:

Learn more about EJN’s Net Zero Project: Pathways to Net Zero in India and South Africa here.

Banner image: Participants of the South Africa workshop visit Evander Gold Mine in Mpumalanga / Credit: Tunicia Phillips.