November 18, 2011

Scriptoria Blog

Communicating Climate Change at COP17

Sierra Club activists following the example of world leaders at last year’s Cancun summit. Using humour cleverly like this is one way to communicate serious messages without “turning off” your target audience.

With the UN COP17 climate summit nearly upon us, the Scriptoria team wishes “Ube nohambo oluhle” (that’s ‘bon voyage’ in Zulu!) to all our Durban-bound clients. But we have to admit that, with world leaders expected to resurrect the same depressing stalemate as previous years, and the future of the Kyoto protocol hanging in the balance, we are feeling a little on edge.

Despite our anxiety about the negotiations themselves, however, we are at least confident that the exhibitions at the summit will remain – as always – a beehive of individuals and organisations that are buckling down to help prepare people and the planet for a warmer, more uncertain future. And, with so many bodies jostling to be heard, the summit spells high-tide for climate communications. There’ll be tweets, blogs and videos fired off in all directions, and a packed line-up of talks and seminars to get stuck into.

Mainstreaming climate messages in the media
One side event that’s really got us talking is the Climate Communications Day on the 1st of December. Journalists, academics, scientists, NGOs, and business leaders will be putting their heads together to consider what new approaches to communication could help the climate change message take flight.

Capturing more media coverage
Hosted by the Earth Journalism Network, the day-long programme looks packed with captivating speakers and talking points. You can read the line-up by clicking here. We’re particularly intrigued by the “Dragons Den” break-out session, where participants will be pitching their climate news stories to real-life media editors, and discovering what it really takes – in terms of human interest, sensationalism and ingenuity – to snare media coverage.

Training journalists
The Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP) will also have all hands on deck again this year, and we think that their work will be well worth watching out for. The partnerships aims to boost the quality and quantity of climate change journalism across the developing world. As part of this, it runs a fellowship programme giving promising developing-country journalists all-important access to the climate summits. With the help of journalistic training, mentoring and daily briefings, fellows can overcome the hurdles that hamper climate change reporting in their home countries.

A common problem facing many developing-world environmental journalists, for instance, is lack of access to authoritative scientific and governmental opinion on climate change. Once at the summit, of course, they can barely move for the stuff! So, if you want to get the scoop on the climate talks from some fresh new perspectives, don’t miss the work of this year’s CCMP fellows at

Taking it to the top
Naturally, it’s not just the attention of the wider world that conference-goers will be hoping to capture. Advocacy will be all around, as individuals and organisations push to influence the opinions of the decision makers right at the heart of the negotiations. From running exhibition booths to giving interviews and press conferences, competing participants will be given a thorough examination in their ability to communicate. Tuning into the online webcasts by the Oneclimate Network is a great way of keeping up to speed:

A little comic relief…
We can’t wait to see the more inventive measures that this year’s participants will take to get a point across – who can forget the 20 Sierra Club activists who, on the beach of Cancun last year, literally buried their heads in the sand? Another slightly silly, but ingenious example is the “Fossil of the day” awards ceremony, organised daily by the Climate Action Network (CAN). This awards tongue-in-cheek prizes to the country that has done the most to block progress in the international negotiations. The winner is voted for on each day by CAN’s 700+ member organisations. With a Jurassic Park-inspired theme tune and flag-waving dancers to herald it in, the ceremony never fails to draw a crowd! We think it’s a really inspired way of informing people about the debating progress, and of keeping the pressure on delegates. This video gives a good introduction:

So, all in all, there’s going to be a lot to look out for at the summit, and a lot to learn about successful communication. If you’re heading for the conference floor, don’t forget to plan very carefully how you are going to assert your message, and if in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact the Scriptoria team for advice – we’ll be in our element!

Posted by Jessie Barnard (Scriptoria)

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