Through the Climate Lens: A Conference on Climate Storytelling in Southeast Asia

Climate change is the defining issue of our present and future. There is an urgent need to help people understand its impacts on every aspect of their lives and shine a light on solutions that can mitigate the danger such as transition to renewable energy.

To help Southeast Asian journalists tell impactful climate stories, Climate Tracker held a digital conference from November 25 and 26 on the state of climate and energy reporting in Southeast Asia.

The virtual conference featured more than 30 speakers including leading experts on climate change and energy transition, representatives from civil society organizations, and amazing journalists who are part of our network.

More than 500 participants joined the event but in case you missed some sessions or you want to look back at your favorite moments here they are.

Keynote Address

Secretary Robert E.A. Borje, the vice chairman and executive director of the Philippine Climate Change Commission delivered his keynote address.

CCC is the policy-making body of the Philippine government tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change.

Climate Storytelling in Southeast Asia

In this session, esteemed journalists in Southeast Asia talked about the challenges and opportunities in climate change journalism in the region. They also shared some tips and tricks to improve the reporting of journalists on the issue.

Moderated by Ushar Daniele, Climate Tracker Fellow

Most journalists approach the climate change story as science reporting. I think we have to move from that typical approach… we have to move to give faces, more people, general people getting interviewed than scientists – how they think, how they cope with this impact of climate change, and how their daily activity is changing.

— Harry Surjadi
Southeast Asia Rainforest Journalism Fund Coordinator, Pulitzer Center

Our mission is still to educate audiences about pressing environmental issues and make an overwhelming topic on relatable and comprehensible issues. So we play a vital role in (giving) a sense of hope and urgency and spurring the collective action required to tackle a challenge of this important scale.

— Imelda Abano
Senior Content Coordinator for Philippines and the Pacific, Earth Journalism Network

Climate change reporting is not a one and done story. You cannot end your day and write a story. You have to follow it. There has to be endurance, there has to be resilience when you’re doing a climate story because you have to get all the sides.

— Biena Magbitang
Asia Regional Director, Climate Tracker

The way I do is like how can I translate those academic paper or those complex information into easy-to-digest information which appeal to the people to understand the climate change story. My goal is to portray what is happening right in front of their house. (Climate Change) is not that far from their personal life at all.

— Napat Wesshasartar
Climate Tracker Fellow

Covering Energy Under the Climate Lens

Energy stories in the region are usually told from a business lens, with only a few stories highlighting the role of clean energy in the climate fight. In this session, journalists and clean energy advocates will emphasize the need to cover Southeast Asia’s energy transition from a climate lens, and the tools needed to report on it effectively.

Moderated by Ping Manongdo, Southeast Asia Partnerships Manager and Philippines Country Head, Ecobusiness

“While the rest of the world is divesting from coal and facing out and not rolling coal projects, Southeast Asia is going against the tide.

But you know, years of opposition, and work from communities, civil society and people’s organizations coming together have brought us to this point where finally the industry is sunsetting…”

— Atty. Avril de Torres
Deputy Executive Director, Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED)

“We basically need to reconfigure the whole system–not only about the network infrastructure–but also include market mechanisms, regulatory framework, consumer behavior, gathering process, and so on.

So all constitutive elements of the system needs to be adapted for a clean energy future in order to support technology change in the generation mix.”

—Dr. Muyi Yang
Asia Senior Electricity Policy Analyst, Ember
(On the state of the energy transition in Southeast Asia)

“Taking the human element is the way to cover climate change.

We know the consequences of climate change, and those who are the vulnerable, the marginalized are the ones who face the brunt of it, and in a way, they’re the ones who are the most powerless. So it’s good to get their voices.”

— Nithi Nesadurai
Director and Regional Coordinator, Climate Action Network South East Asia (CANSEA)

“I’ve seen a lot of my fellow journalists saying, “Oh, I’m not an environmental journalist. So why should I write something about environment?” even though they’re writing about energy, palm oil, all these things that are really closely related.

But climate change permeates all of these aspects of our lives. So I think the change has to happen from within the newsroom.”

— Hans Nicholas Jong
Climate Tracker Fellow

Energy Reporting Guide

Climate Tracker launched a digital reporting guide for Southeast Asian journalists covering energy and climate change. Authors and participating journalists discussed how the guide will help reporters contextualize the two complex and interrelated topics.

Moderated by Langit Rinesti, Climate Tracker Energy Reporting Guide Project Lead

Importance of Inclusivity and Diversity in Climate Change Reporting

Climate change impacts communities in different ways. Join journalists and advocates in discussing ways to bring fresh perspectives to the climate change discourse, and amplifying underrepresented voices.

Moderated by Kristine Sabillo, Senior Officer for Media and Digital Influencing, Oxfam Pilipinas

“I can already see that we could already offer layered perspectives, because there are a lot of women journalists working on climate stories. In terms of what we’re lacking, perhaps more depth and coverage on mainstream TV and radio.”

— Geela Garcia
Multimedia Journalist and Peasant Advocate & Climate Tracker Fellow

“I think the best way to really elevate their voices is first, just speak to them. Sometimes, when we do cover stories, we go with these assumptions and paint a scene of the hardships of all this stuff, but sometimes maybe they’re not actually feeling that way. Maybe that’s up to them.”

— Nanticha Ocharoenchai (Lyn)
Youth climate activist & Climate Tracker Fellow

“I think we really need to highlight, for the scientists, but also for the policymakers exactly what traditional knowledge being part of the solution means we have to unpack it, because it’s also technical.”

— Jennifer ‘Jing’ Corpuz
Global Policy and Advocacy lead, Nia Tero

“There is no climate justice without gender justice. We always have to put the issues of women, girls, members of the LGBTQIA+ and other members of the marginalized sectors at the front and center of everything that we report about the climate crisis.”

— April Bulanadi
Policy, Advocacy and Communications Manager, Oxfam Pilipinas

Why Collaborative Journalism Is the Future of Climate Change Reporting

“I think the biggest benefit is that we can access a bigger amount of information because when we’re working in a team, we have bigger human resources to do different work and then we can accumulate all the information together and discuss how we can use the information… We can have a lot of opinions coming to the same table and then pick the best idea to approach… When we are working in a team, we are not alone, we can have fellows to discuss our ideas to and we can expand the storylines because we can share the contacts and sources with other fellows.”

— Trang Do
Climate Tracker Fellow

Through collaborative journalism, you get to know more about the landscape of other countries, what’s happening in their home countries, and compare the similarities and differences with your own country. Journalism should become more global and we need to break down the silos between journalists, between countries. Collaborative journalism will lead to bigger impacts. There are a lot of investigative, collaborative initiatives across the world that have led to greater impacts in the society of uncovering corruption and crime and impunity and we hope that we get to have more of those collaborations in terms of climate and environment reporting.”

— Gaea Cabico
Climate Tracker Asia Journalism Mentor

“Sometimes you don’t meet eye to eye. You have different standards. You have different ways of gathering different thoughts. It would take a lot of time and discussion so that you would be on the same page. And when you would be collaborating especially with competing newsrooms and news outlets, maybe you, as journalists reporting for the climate, you have to get to the bottom of the purpose– why you are collaborating and creating the story so that you will have an output that’s not just useful, but something that you can ignite the audience for a call to action because we are in one way or another in the same page of addressing the issue of the environment.”

— Annie Perez
Climate Tracker Fellow

“Even in Indonesia, the media ecosystem is very diverse so each media still has a different angle on how they do stories. So we pretty much had to come to a compromise. We have come up with a singular team and a singular angle, but for the presentation of the story, all three of us, the in-country collaborative journalists, pretty much present the stories according to each of our publications’ angles.”

— Aqil Andi
Climate Tracker Fellow

Youth in Climate Storytelling

“I always say that indigenous youth are truly at the forefront of environmental defense because for the longest time indigenous peoples have been protecting the mountains, rivers, and the depleting forests of the country with their lives as well as defining economic development with regard to the environment and all living things within it, so since their culture also it ingrains their spirit while in material relationship with their environment, it compels them to live sustainably. We can say that they contribute the least carbon emission to the country. However, they continue to be one of the most vulnerable groups to the effects of the climate crisis such as human landslides, humanity, typhoons, human droughts, and they also lack assistance in separation and rehabilitation. Apart from this, they are subjected to widespread discrimination of human rights violations committed by businesses and even the government.”

— Prince Turtogo
Climate Tracker Fellow

“Keep being hungry for learning and don’t numb yourself to the stories of others and let your own fears and worries guide you because there’s a lot of fear around right now, especially just around a lot of climate change anxiety go around right now and that shouldn’t paralyze or numb you instead that should actually incite you to call for the change that you want to see in your own life. Because the fear will always be there but that should be the one guiding you to pursue the stories that you think need to be told.”

— Ann Domingo
Climate Tracker Fellow

“Keep an eye on simple details that matter to you and your people regardless of how small it may seem, it carries stories and will inspire others. May we not overburden ourselves on the grand things but we should always go back to our core and grounding the very main reason why we are in this movement in the first place. Acknowledge your power and what it can do to inspire action and how it can change the course of discussions and how it will lead us to a more equitable, sustainable, and comfortable future. Use your power to influence action and engagement among common voices who feel powerless, like what we are doing in Balud, as young advocates coming from rural communities and provinces who were just fortunate and privileged to have been guided and supported by a lot of people and organizations such as Climate Tracker and Oxfam Philippines, we owe it to others to give back and ridge them into opportunities like how we were supported and helped by others and once you recognize and claim your platform and voice, we hope that you pass it on to others, share it with others so they can also claim their power and voice. Padayon.”

— Ronan Napoto
Climate Tracker Fellow

“Continue telling stories, listen to experts and challenge the institutions who can make changes in our climate situation today. Because whatever it is that we are doing right now, whatever it is that we are writing right now, it’s critical because we are talking about our future. We should bear in mind the projection of elevation of sea levels, the rapid rise of our world and other factors leading to the worsening climate change. Whatever it is that will happen in 2030 or 2050, will directly affect our food and housing security, it will affect your job security, it will affect our economy, it will affect everything, including your future. So, climate as we know it is directly connected to our guts. So tell stories as much as you can.”

— Siegfred Lacerna
Climate Tracker Fellow

“Do not be afraid of writing bad stories. There will always be times that you feel that you cannot express or you cannot communicate what is in your mind or what you feel. So stay open to criticisms and everyday is a learning opportunity for us. The act itself that you volunteered or decided to write for climate is already an admirable act. Apart from that, continue what you’re doing because you have no idea, maybe you inspire other people to also do or to pursue climate storytelling. Be open to change, be open to new knowledge and just keep on doing what you want or what you like and embrace your fears because that will be your biggest motivation to pursue greater things.”

— Lance Fuentes
Climate Tracker Fellow