The year was 2015 and over 150 Heads of State and Government were present in an unprecedented show of global political support for an ambitious and extensive agreement. An excited President François Hollande boomed: “Alors, vous l’avez fait…et vous l’avez fait à Paris!”
That conference birthed the “Paris Agreement” also known as the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris (COP21). The conference opened with the largest gathering of world leaders in history, and on December 12, 2015, it closed with an adoption of a new global accord on tackling climate change. Less than a year later, on 4th November 2016, the agreement went into effect and has now been ratified by 189 countries, including Nigeria.
- Insecurity: 113 traditional rulers kidnapped in 4 years
- How I moved from royal stool to study law – Monarch
COP 21 requires all member countries to commit to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so that global temperature will be kept to “well below” 2 degrees celsius, and “endeavour to limit” them even more to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial times — a time before the industrial revolution when fossil fuel burning was yet to change the climate.
Member states are to make nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which represent efforts by each country to reduce national emissions, and adapt to the impacts of climate change as a contribution to global climate action. The efforts are reviewed every five years to raise ambition.
These contributions are so important because the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) attributes climate change directly or indirectly to human activity that increases GHG which warm up the earth, causing snow and sea ice to melt and expand. Expansion in turn, causes sea levels to rise, resulting in extreme weather conditions like flooding and erosion of coastal and low lying regions. On the other hand, other regions get to experience increased heat, drought, insect outbreaks and wildfires.
While it is complicated to link any single extreme weather event to global warming, a rise in temperature has been implicated in water-borne illnesses, reduced crop yields, disease vectors and the displacement of many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species. A healthy and stable climate is therefore, our most precious asset.
Although, public awareness of climate change is rising worldwide, in Nigeria, a number of people still do not know about its causes and consequences. They also do not know how they can mitigate and adapt to these changes, primarily because media coverage of climate change issues is not commensurate to the rate at which human activities are contributing to global warming. Thus, depending on the quantity and quality of its reports, the battle to achieve net zero emissions could be won or lost on the pages of newspapers, in TV and radio broadcasts and on the internet and mobile phones.
Further, there’s been a major shift from traditional media to digital communication and social media. Media professionals should therefore leverage on technology and social media to talk about the profound alterations that need to happen in order to halt the course of the climate emergency. These discussions should be creative, clear and engaging such that they resonate with viewers, listeners and readers and lead to desired changes in behaviour.
Communicators should “humanize” climate change stories by talking about real people, not just complex terms. When a report comes across as being too scientific, most people would naturally tune out. But when there’s a human face to it, audiences will have an entry point and relate with the story.
Although climate change is an emergency, journalists must shun a gloom-and-doom narrative as such stories simply lead to overwhelm, causing audiences to tune out mentally. Impact stories should be balanced with success stories about what people are doing to mitigate and adapt.
While the media continues to tell stories about climate change, individuals and businesses need to share success stories about how they are mitigating climate change. Businesses that are sustainable and climate-smart need to pitch their stories to the media so that other businesses can learn from their green models.
This is the approach that informs the work of Inspire Decisions Consulting or IDC – a management consultancy service provider that is committed to helping smallholder farmers maximize their output and increase their profit in ways that nurture and preserve our ecosystems in addition to helping these farmers to be better able to mitigate, cope and adapt in the face of climate-driven shocks and stresses. At IDC, we believe that we can inspire businesses to go green by informing and educating people about what we do and how we do it. So consistently seek ways to share our story with the mass media, while also doubling down on our owned media.
Media professionals should always remember the powerful role they have in influencing and shaping the public sphere. They should channel their powers as the fourth estate to tell climate stories in phenomenal ways that would lead to sustainable systems and livelihoods.
Nora Agbakhamen, Head of Communications and Partnerships at Inspire Decisions Consulting writes from Lagos