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Climate Communications Day
Addressing Climate Change with Innovation and Information
Durban, South Africa
1 December 2011



Summary: Internews' Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), in partnership with other organizations, will be hosting the 1st annual Climate Communications Day as an official parallel event at the UNFCCC Climate Summit to be held in Durban, South Africa. A day-long forum that will bring together journalists, bloggers, press officers, academics and scientists, IT firms and other communications experts, this event is aimed at exchanging insights, lessons learned and innovative new approaches on how to spread news and information about climate change effectively.

Background: Climate change has been and remains a difficult topic to communicate. The science behind it is complex. The global scale and long-term nature of its impacts make it difficult to report on at the local level. Even extreme weather events, scientists insist, cannot be specifically ascribed to climate change, although many such events are likely to be impacted by it. And the future consequences, although likely dire, remain shrouded in varying degrees of uncertainty.

Add in the difficulty of preventing climate change - the frustration of individuals or even countries who may feel their efforts have little impact on this global threat, and the lack of political progress toward a strong international treaty - which tends to generate apathy - and the challenge of communicating climate change in an appealing way to wide audiences becomes clear.

For the last seven years, Internews (www.internews.org and www.internews.eu) has been seeking to meet this challenge through its Earth Journalism Network (www.earthjournalism.org) - which now includes over 1,000 journalists working to cover environmental issues for local media organizations all over the world. We do this by supporting local networks and individual journalists through country-level and regional training programs, fellowships, the development of online resources and social networks, awards programs and supporting the production of thousands of stories.

Over the last four years, Internews has teamed up with IIED (www.iied.org) and Panos to form the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP: www.climatemediapartnership.org) which has sent over 150 journalists to the last four climate summits, where we support capacity-building activities and improved coverage of all manner of issues related to climate change.

The Copenhagen Summit generated a huge amount of media coverage and public interest, which subsequently seemed to drop off a cliff when it failed to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough, as noted in this report: http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2011/01/climate-coverage. Perhaps because of that, there were an unprecedented number of reports, programs and events on climate communications at COP16 in Cancun. In addition to the annual activities carried out by the CCMP, EJN, COM+ and the UNFCCC press office, there were communications-related activities sponsored by the Pew Center for Climate Change, the British Council, the Asian Development Bank, IIED's Development and Climate Days, the UN Foundation and the business-oriented World Climate Summit.

It is time to try and bring all of this illuminating discussion together. Climate summits are wonderful opportunities to gather all manner of communications expert from around the world together to cross-fertilize ideas on how to engage the public on climate change. By exchanging skills, tips, lessons and the latest IT innovations, participants at the 1st annual Climate Communications Day will be able to find effective new ways to turn this global issue into a local story that can attract everyone's interest.

Activities: Climate Communications Day will be a one-day forum on Thursday, Dec 1st, held as a side event of the UNFCCC COP17 Climate Summit in Durban. Modeled somewhat after CIFOR's Forest Day, this event will bring together a wide variety of communications stakeholders - including journalists, bloggers, academics and scientists, NGOs, IT firms and other business representatives, delegates and officials - to discuss strategies to effectively convey understanding about climate change.

Internews and IIED will once again bring journalist Fellows to the climate summit in Durban. And by now our networks of climate journalists are so extensive - there are roughly 900 journalists on our EJNet listserve and roughly as many members of our social network at www.climatechangemedia.ning.com -- that we will know hundreds, perhaps thousands, attending COP17 independently. All of these people, along with press officers, bloggers, academics and researchers interested in communications, will be invited to join us at Climate Communications Day. We expect to have at least 200 participants.

The forum will feature several plenary sessions in the form of interactive panel discussions, a Communications Marketplace that features breakout sessions on stimulating topics, and world renowned speakers and presenters with expertise on climate communications and representing key stakeholders. Download detailed draft program.

For those not present in Durban, the plenary sessions will be webcast and archived and advertised among our networks. In addition, the plenary roundtables are an opportunity to demonstrate the power of video conferencing by linking up with participants in other parts of the world.

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