As the World and governments at large continue to fight a pandemic brought about by the coronavirus, climate change activists have bounced back to accelerate their momentum on climate action. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a consortium of more than 1000 organizations from 48 African countries in partnership with other several stakeholders has launched the fifth series of the African Climate Change Reporting (ACCER). PACJA pioneered the plan of action as part of its effort to promote climate and environmental journalism and enhance awareness on broader climate discourse and intervention measures.
PACJA recognizes the role of the media and other communicators in addressing the climate crisis through their sharing of information and expanding awareness among stakeholders. The organization believes that journalists and media networks remain important actors in unpacking and building the synergy for the environmental crises, making a compelling case for the challenges to be tackled simultaneously. ACCER Awards, a biennial reward scheme that has built an enviable mass of journalists across Africa and elevated the subject of climate change in the continent’s news platforms acknowledges journalists as the mouthpieces of the vulnerable people at the frontline of climate change impacts and the advocates for climate action at all levels.
“There is no doubt that the climate crisis is an existential threat to humanity and the health of the planet. Before COVID-19 struck, the international discourse on climate change was the most topical issue, even shaping the global geopolitical interactions. The nexus between the two crises – climate change and COVID-19 – will dominate the global stage for the foreseeable future,” PACJA said in a report.
PACJA brings together a diverse membership drawn from grassroots, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, trusts, foundations, indigenous communities, farmers and pastoralist groups with a shared vision to advance a people-centered, right-based, just and an inclusive approach to address climate and environmental challenges facing humanity and the planet.
Themed ‘Making climate action a way of life’, PACJA seeks entries that must have covered climate change or environment issues related in five key sectors; climate-smart agricultural and agroforestry, climate policy, governance & transparency, innovative solutions for the environment, climate finance, and environmental protection and conservation. The organization will reward individuals that are making use of the existing legal frameworks to demand climate actions from governments. The award categories are as follow:
1. ACCER Grand Price
Recognizes the best Climate Change and Environmental story across all platforms.
2. ACCER Radio Journalism Award and 2 Runners up.
This price recognizes the best Climate Change and Environment story by radio journalist.
3. ACCER Television Journalism Award and 2 runners up.
This price recognizes the best Climate Change and Environment story by a television journalist.
4. ACCER Print Journalism Award.
This price recognizes the best Climate Change and Environment story by a newspaper or news magazine journalist.
5. ACCER Online Journalism Award
This price recognizes the best Climate Change and Environment story by an online journalist
Dr. Mithika Mwenda, the PACJA Director speaking during the launch one month ago, said the scheme was birthed in 2013 to encourage journalists to give the “critical climate crisis the attention it deserves to help save humanity and the rest of the biodiversity”.
“Many media houses do not find environment and climate change stories sexy, and therefore despite the fact that the climate crisis has led to the loss of lives and continues to destabilize us, much focus is given politics without the policymakers being pushed to be more accountable,” said Dr. Mwenda, a multiple international award winner for the work he has done in increasing environmental conservation through his push for climate justice.
The Chief of the African Climate Policy Center (ACPC) of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Dr. James Murombedzi, on his side said Africa’s voice needed to be heard better in the global decision-making table, where policy frameworks were designed, but with less science from the continent to find solutions that would best work for us.
“There is adequate capacity in Africa to interpret the science and use the same to guide policy formation and citizens involvement in tackling crises,” he said, adding that it was sad that Africa relied on solutions suggested by people who had no clue what went on in Africa.
“How do journalists ensure that the citizens understand and participate in the response to the crises such as COVID-19 and climate change,” he posed during the Webinar that was attended by at least 140 people from around the world. Dr. James added that the role of journalists was key in ensuring the right balance and democracy, which is “dependent on the information that goes out to policymakers and citizens. All these depend on the availability of information, of which media is the custodian”. He urged journalists to enrich themselves with knowledge of the local happenings to enable them to push for accountability for development and policy issues.
Lilian Odera of Kenya Television Network, and also a member of the awards steering committee said it was the responsibility of media and journalists to correctly interpret technical issues to the society and policymakers, and appeal to the latter to at least prioritize matters of climate change, even though the COVID-19 is also a crisis.
“As journalists, we are also in this same environment and are equally affected by the crises of climate change and even this coronavirus. What we must do is keep abreast of the developments by always knowing how to merge expert opinion, our observations, and the society’s opinion to bring out what will in the end cause action from all quarters in tackling any crisis that befalls us,” said Ms. Odera.
She said even though critical issues made it hard for journalists to give climate change adequate attention, all was not lost.
Kofi Adu Domfeh of Ghana, who is also a two-time winner of the ACCER Awards, asked journalists to recognize their role and the opportunity they have in saving humanity by highlighting matters of climate change and not also shy away from competing for the awards that would reward them for such acts. Kofi urged journalists to appropriately link the coronavirus pandemic to other problems such as the climate crisis.
Deputy Director-General of Cameroon Radio TV Emmanuel Wongibe, said climate change and COVID-19 are twin crises that the world economies must balance between in response. He was sad that the pandemic had pushed all other topics, including climate change to the back burner, but said there was hope for journalists to link the disease and its effects to several other issues, the climate crisis included. He said journalists needed to think beyond in their push for prioritization of environment and climate change in as far as allocation of financial resources was concerned.
Senior Policy Officer, Climate Change and Desertification Control at African Union Commission Leah Wanambwa Naess, called for a balance between science, policy public opinion in stories from journalists, as well as checking of facts at a time of crisis like the world was in.
“Give us something solid, research and fact check, so that the stories do not give room for speculation but answer all the questions that the audience might otherwise seek from unreliable sources and cause unnecessary negative effects,” she said.
The webinar moderator Mr. Eugene Nfrongwa, who is an environment journalist from Cameroon and an Energy Thematic Lead at PACJA, said it was painful how African journalists knew everything happening in the global scene but paid little attention to the developments within the continent concerning climate change and policies.
Augustine Njamnshi, the continental Africa Coalition for Sustainable Energy and Access coordinator, who is based in Cameroon sought media’s help in pushing for economies to accord climate change adequate attention to prevent destruction and deaths.
“Where has the money for stimulus projects for countries suddenly come from? They are only helping now because COVID-19 is running a 100-meter race, while climate change, which is here to stay, is running a marathon,” he said.
Several participants present during the ACCER Awards webinar raised questions, and some were addressed right there by the panelists.
“Do we envision a greener recovery path,” said Joe Ageyo a journalist at Citizen TV and a communication practitioner in Kenya.
“Are citizens taking ownership of the climate issue as a result of journalists’ work? A journalist has to look for a sexy topic. That has not helped address the climate crisis,” said Ibrahim Sane, a media specialist in Senegal.
The committee steering the ACCER Awards is composed of media personalities from Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, and several non-media stakeholders working with the UN, AUC, Oxfam, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Journalists have until September 30th, 2020 to present their direct entries by providing their full names (and signed letter from their editors confirming the authenticity of the submitted work), the title of the story, with brief citations demonstrating how their journalism may have practically enhanced access to information delivery in a specified area. The stories must have been published between August 2018 and August 2020, either in English or French.
The ACCER Awards committee will set an independent panel of judges to review the entries and make decisions on the winners and runners-up for each category.
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