UN officials brief African journalists on climate summit 2014

Accra, 4 August, 2014 – Journalists from Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria have participated in an hour long online press briefing to discuss Climate Change and the upcoming UN Climate Summit in New York.  The summit is being convened by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon to mobilize action ahead of 2015 when countries hope to make strong global commitment and to increase political will for greater action and ambition.

Ghanaian journalists at the press briefing in Accra

Ghanaian journalists at the press briefing in Accra

The press briefing for the eight Ghanaian journalists, representing five media houses, was facilitated by the United Nations Information Centre in Accra through the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, both in New York.  The UN officials who addressed the gathering were Dan Thomas, Senior Communications Officer for the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Team, and Dan Shepard, Public Information Officer at the UN DPI.  They explained the essence of the summit and what journalists in Africa could do to create awareness on the impact of climate change. They mentioned occurrences such as unexpected rainfall and sea level rise as good talking points to open a public dialogue on climate change impact.

According to Dan Thomas, “Climate Change is not only about environment, it is also about economic and social issues”. Adding that “By asking the right questions and reporting on the common man, [journalists] can build support for climate change actions.”

Cross section of the journalists

Cross section of the journalists

New to the September 23rd climate summit in New York is that businesses are now a key constituency, and public-private partnerships are promoted as a key mechanism to mitigation and adaptation efforts. “It is a very important issue to many business owners. Many are realizing that the effects of climate change will determine their future profitability. By large, businesses see an interest in combating climate change” Mr. Thomas said.

Africa is expected to be the continent most affected by climate change. “The average temperature is rising faster in Africa than elsewhere. Issues such as water scarcity are going to become more acute and dry areas will continue to become dry.” Mr. Shepard stated.  In terms of transposing climate friendly policies, Africa is considered well-positioned to leapfrog by making use of available green technologies and clean production practices in their development practices.

“This is building up to become a very significant moment in history” Mr. Thomas remarked when addressing a question on the expected outcomes of the summit. The track records for previous international efforts to combat climate change are considered to be far from successful, given the discrepancy between the actions already taken and the extent of action that is desired by the scientific and business community, but Mr. Thomas said that a recent shift in momentum can be identified; “There is a new sense of leadership. The US president has publically announced his intention to attend, and this, among other things, sends an important signal to the international community that climate change is to be taken seriously.”

“Briefings like this help us to keep updated” Edmund Smith-Asante, journalist at Ghanaian newspaper Daily Graphic remarked after the briefing. “It helps us to know what happens in our country and continent, and sometimes it is good to know about the perception of our country from outside.” he added.