The Africa Climate Summit 2023 on September 4–6 in Nairobi came with high expectations of radical proposals to address climate change. “Driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the world,” the theme promised.

In their Nairobi Declaration from the Summit, African heads of state and government committed to focusing “economic development plans on climate-positive growth, including expansion of just energy transitions and renewable energy generation for industrial activity, climate-aware and restorative agricultural practices, and essential protection and enhancement of nature and biodiversity.”

National and international journalists at a Summit side event organised by the Kenya Editors’ Guild confessed to lacking sufficient knowledge to communicate climate change effectively.

Carbon sinks and decarbonisation, greenhouse gases, clean cooking, ecosystems stewardship, climate-positive investments, and carbon tax it seems the language of climate action is lost on many.

If this conversation is any indicator of sentiments in mainstream newsrooms, ordinary citizens with a crucial role in climate action will be no wiser about what is required of them.

Enter community media journalists. They, by all indications, are well versed in climate journalism, that is, the skill of gathering, evaluating and presenting information about climate change and climate action.

Anecdotal evidence from rural Kenya indicates a strong presence of climate programming on community radio. Even more impressive is the greater understanding of climate concepts by rural populations compared to those in urban areas.

For example, in a recent communication, a farmer articulated the science of climate change fluently and expressed intrigue as to why carbon credit funds are disbursed in her village with no conditions attached. She wondered why, at the very least, there was not an obligation to use a portion of such funds for a climate action activity.

A recent study by Mike S. Schäfer, Department of Communication and Media Research at the University of Zurich, and James Painter, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, raises two important issues:

  • the scarcity of specialist climate journalists particularly in the Global South
  • a “strong and rising influence of stakeholder PR on climate journalism”

Taking bold climate action means dedicating resources to community media, supporting them to effectively communicate about climate issues and to hold off capture by special interest groups. To save a planet in crisis, we need community media.

Photo: Javier Miranda on Unsplash

Learn More

Discover in Communicating Climate Justice how effective climate action needs the local voice of community media — communication for all. Available for purchase from CCR.