The Canadian High Commission, in association with the Women’s Feature Service, organised an interactive workshop entitled Media and Climate Change: Cool Reporting on Hot Issues, in New Delhi recently. 

 

Mr Jess Dutton, Deputy High Commissioner, Canadian High Commission, emphasised that the science was clear: climate change was real, it was caused by human beings, and was happening now. Year after year, our planet was getting warmer, sea levels rising, wildlife being impacted, and communities all over the world were feeling the effects of climate change. It was affecting “our health, economies, and our very way of life”.

 

The Canadian government was taking strong action to address climate change and grow a “clean economy”. In December 2015, Canada played a positive role in Paris to help reach a historic, ambitious, and balanced agreement to fight climate change, and along with India ratified the Paris Agreement.


He stressed on the media’s role to not only create awareness among the masses, but also encouraging governments to form environmental-friendly policies.

 

Mr Matt Friesen, Counsellor & Head, Advocacy Program, facilitated the day-long session. The workshop was attended by 45 participants, including journalists from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

 

Twenty three guest speakers, including journalists, experts and activists participated in the six sessions on climate change and media. Mr Norman Sacuta, Communications Director, Petroleum Technology Research Centre, Canada, shared his country’s experience in the context of climate change. These sessions deliberated on the following issues and were followed by interaction with the panelists.

 

As a blogger, Ms Hiremath was practicing what she was reporting on her blog, Endlessly Green, and given her expertise enjoyed credibility among her readers. She believed in going out and collecting information on her own. Mr Singh mentioned that resources posed more problems, than sources for stories on climate change. Journalists usually did not have time to cross check the facts, besides there were pressures from lobbyists and PR groups as well as advertisers.

 

Mr Vinay Kumar (Editor, Indiansaga.com) moderated the session onmedia’s role in creating awareness on climate change, with Ms. Urmi Goswami(special correspondent, The Economic Times); Mr Norman Sacuta; Ms Nivedita Khandekar (independent journalist working on water, environment and climate change); and Mr Himangshu Watts(Editor-Energy, The Economic Times) as the speakers.

 

Mr Kumar mentioned that there was certain degree of acceptance ofclimate change issues with national dailies sending reporters to cover the Marrakesh conference. Mr. Watts talked about the emergence of green concern in politics with initiatives like odd-even cars running on alternate days in Delhi. He pointed out to the lack of comprehensive studies.

 

Ms Khandekar mentioned that while there was need to reach out to the scientific community, on a positive note there was proliferation of independent journalists writing on environment. On climate changeissues, Ms. Goswami stressed, out-of-the-box thinking was required since everyone had an opinion on these matters.

 

The fifth session on scientific facts vs human interest stories was moderated by Ms. Aditi Kapoor (Director, Alternative Futures), with Ms. Bahar Dutt (environmental editor, CNN-IBN), Mr. Dinesh Sharma(columnist and writer), and Mr. Manish Anand (senior special correspondent, The New Indian Express) as the panelists.


Mr Sharma mentioned that the challenge before science reporters was that new evidences were coming out every day. Ms. Dutt stressed on the need to educate the editors on climate change and to bring together the scientific facts and the human interest angle of the story. Mr. Anand spoke about focussing on marketing of stories on climate change and communicating in simple language.

 

The last session of the day was on the impact of new age media on reporting on climate change, moderated by Mr Norman Sacuta. Ms Meenakshi Arora (Managing Editor, India Water Portal-Hindi); Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika (Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative); and Mr Chandra Bhushan (Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment) were the panelists for the session.


Ms Arora, Managing Editor of India water portal, which focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene issues, finds it easier to communicate to her audiences in Hindi through the portal. She mentioned that thoughclimate change issues were global, there was a need for a local connect and the social media provided that opportunity.

 

Mr Chandra Bhushan felt that the media had failed to connect climatechange with people. Regarding the social media, he mentioned that while it had a global reach, it was rhetorical, insular and targeted, providing instant gratification. Mr Sanjoy Hazarika felt that social media was an extremely powerful tool, and the new medium could influence the old media and vice versa.

 

With inputs from Kulbir Singh Kalsi