Meeting the global climate challenge

Xu Weiwei and Yang Han

Meeting the global climate challenge

While seemingly inconsequential, a temperature difference of a mere 0.5 C can signify a threat to life and disaster for millions around the world, according to climate expert Joy Pereira.

Limiting the planet’s warming to 1.5 C instead of 2 C will change the fate of several hundred million people, said the vice-chair of Working Group II on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — an intergovernmental body of the United Nations — at a webinar in Hong Kong on Feb 5.

Since the pre-industrial period, the temperature has risen by 1 degree C, putting it on course to reach 1.5 degrees C, she said at the online seminar titled “Climate Changes: Challenges for Asian Nations”. China Daily co-organized the event alongside the University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai International Studies University, and the Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 leading media outlets across 21 Asian countries. ANN Executive Director Pana Janviroj and DJ Clark, multimedia director of China Daily Asia Pacific, moderated the panel discussion.

Pereira stressed the need to take joint action in dealing with climate change, something that is urgent and far-reaching. “The lower we can keep the warming, the better it is. And every year matters. The faster we take action, the cheaper is the cost down the road,” she said.

“Planet Earth is our only home, and addressing climate change has a direct bearing on the future of humanity,” said Zhou Shuchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, and publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily.

“The future of global climate governance is drawing greater attention, and no country can avoid the crisis. There must be global action, global response and global cooperation,” he said at the virtual discussion.

A key player in the Paris Agreement, China has been proactively implementing balanced and sustainable development that features harmonious coexistence of nature and humanity.

Zhou cited President Xi Jinping’s remarks at the Climate Ambition Summit at the end of last year to further elaborate on China’s beliefs and visions on combating global warming. “In meeting the climate challenge, no one can be aloof, and unilateralism will get us nowhere. Only by upholding multilateralism, unity and cooperation can we deliver shared benefits and win-win for all nations,” Xi said.

Gao Xiang, a professor at the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said China fulfilled its 2020 carbon-cut target ahead of schedule, and China’s progress can boost confidence in the whole of Asia in pursuit of green recovery with low-carbon ways of life and production.

Lauding China’s commitments to cut carbon dioxide emissions, he said that efforts have been made in the nation’s energy sector, the biggest source of carbon emissions, by switching to renewable energy as well as the use of technology and other measures to improve energy efficiency.

Increasing public awareness is one of the priority tasks apart from developments in science and technology, Gao said, with cities, communities, industrial parks and campuses serving as low-carbon pilot areas in deployment, while the media can help reach the wider public and build a consensus.

Zhou pointed out the media’s “indispensable and irreplaceable role” in global climate progress. Noting that ANN members have jointly offered the world “Asia’s voice along with Asia’s views”, he said the efforts have “fostered favorable public opinion in the international community, which further facilitates Asian nations in their joint endeavor to tackle the global challenge”.

“China Daily would like to further strengthen communication and cooperation with ANN members and other media, and join hands to make an even greater contribution to tackling global challenges such as climate change,” he said.

“If you focus on the doom and gloom (side of climate change), people tend to switch off,” said Jonathan Lynn, head of communications and media relations at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

To raise people’s climate change awareness, it is best to have stories with a positive angle to show people how a solution can be achieved and to share best practices, he said.

For example, coverage focusing on tragedies caused by natural disasters may not be something that people want to focus on, while bringing in such discussions on climate change during the coverage may make people see reporters as being heartless.

“If you can bring a story where you show how the community has come together and dealt with this crisis, and maybe come to a longer-term solution where they can make their community stronger afterwards, this taps into a sort of deep, almost mythological kind of need in humanity,” said Lynn.

Zofeen Ebrahim, Pakistan editor for online platform The Third Pole, said covering climate is complicated as it is an abstract topic.

“There is a lot of science involved in it,” she said, adding that the coverage requires learning, researching and deciphering the language of the scientists.

In Pakistan, Ebrahim said, a key challenge in reporting climate change is that many journalists consider it a difficult subject that they feel less familiar with and one that requires more time.

Krixia Subingsubing, a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said most people in the Philippines are aware of the connection between climate change and the extreme weather events the country experiences.

Between 2010 and 2019, a total of 12,097 people died from extreme natural events and disasters in the Philippines, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. The damage incurred amounted to 463 billion pesos (US$9.61 billion).

But Subingsubing said there are still challenges in getting people more involved in the topic.

“Our paradigm right now is that climate change is really a communications battle,” she said, adding that relevant stories not only need to combat “climate change deniers”, but also need to focus on how to draw attention from people who are indifferent to the topic to learn the science behind it.

“The road to net-zero is fraught with many challenges,” said Jessica Cheam, founder and managing director of Eco-Business, a media organization focusing on sustainable development.

Cheam said the world has made tremendous progress in tackling climate change, with many Asian countries making net-zero pledges.

“What’s encouraging to see is that not just countries started to make net-zero pledges, but the corporates are also starting to make these pledges.”

Noting, however, that many companies are making such commitments to benefit from the publicity, she stressed the need for the media to scrutinize these pledges and look into the details.

In addition, Cheam said, cooperation among governments still needs to be improved in Asia, and multilateralism and trust are required to promote such development.

Contact the writers at vivienxu@chinadailyapac.com