NEWS: Putting climate change on Qatar’s agenda
Mairi Dupar, CDKN’s Global Public Affairs Co-ordinator, joined a stimulating debate in Doha about the role of the media in promoting climate-smart development.
According to Eman Kamel, a correspondent at Qatar’s construction trade magazine SITES, climate change has not been a hot topic in the small Gulf country until recently. Then, the UNFCCC arrived to hold climate talks here, and a flurry of promotional activities began to raise awareness. “A lot of companies are now looking at their green policies,” she said at Climate Change Communications Day today, a gathering of journalists and communicators taking place in parallel with the CoP. “There is a lot of potential for energy efficiency and savings in the construction sector and they are starting to do that now.”
Climate Change Communications Day, organised by Internews, the Earth Journalism Network and IIED explored how the mass media could achieve the greatest cut-through on issues of climate change and sustainability. The event was very well attended by Arab and Middle Eastern journalists, sponsored by Internews to attend CoP18 and today’s side event.
One could forgive the Gulf region’s media for struggling to make room for climate change on the news agenda – there are pressing concerns around war and peace. “The environment is easily forgotten with all the ongoing wars in the region,” said Jamal Dajani, Head of Middle East region for Internews, the press agency. “It barely makes page 4. There has been a focus on the war in Iraq, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the various revolutions.” Although political unrest in the region may appear to make environmental problems a lower priority, Mr Dajani said, environmental problems may soon boil over: “Many countries in the region are facing from profound economic, environmental and social impacts of rapid economic growth and population growth. For the moment, Middle Eastern countries are able to cross-subsidise food security with petro-dollars: they buy in crops from elsewhere to provide food in the region. This is not environmentally or economically viable, we don’t know how long this can go on.” Public audiences are not fully aware of this timebomb, he said – and so it is the role of the media “to keep governments accountable and raise people’s awareness.”
Meanwhile, Gulf state journalists such as Eman Kamel are managing to win over some editors and readers by tailoring news and features to specific audience interests – “If I write about efficiency savings, it speaks to profits and businesses like that,” Ms Kamel said. Meanwhile, some cross-cultural outreach is taking place, which may reach the burgeoning young generation. Saurav Dhakal is a Nepali journalist who has taken part in a British Council-sponsored outreach programme in Doha secondary schools and universities since mid-November. He’s been helping to raise awareness among Qatari youth about carbon footprinting. “So far, it has been a conversation about families’ reducing their number of cars,” he said. “But that is a good start.”