Biena Magbitang

Published: December 28, 2021

Topic: Insights

Asia is undoubtedly experiencing some of the worst effects of the climate crisis but unfortunately, there are still gaps in the climate change conversation in the region, particularly due to not enough climate stories in local media. 

Coming from the paradigm shift prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we entered 2021 with a dream: help journalists produce quality climate stories in Asia. As journalists ourselves, we know that there is growing interest, especially in younger storytellers, to write more about the impacts of climate change in the region, but they need support.

Assessing the fast-changing media landscape

But as an organization, we don’t want to rely just on what we know especially since the rapid digitization is also changing the media landscape. We listened to our community on what makes it hard to write about climate change in Asia and confirmed that funding, resources, and access to diverse voices remain one of their biggest challenges.

Cross-border collaborative journalism

With the support of the Rainforest Journalism Fund and the Pulitzer Center, Climate Tracker was able to facilitate a cross-border collaborative project between journalists in Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Our fellows reported on how communities in the four Southeast Asian countries have been leading efforts to protect and restore degraded forests and return their function of storing emissions amid the climate crisis. These articles have been published by major publications across the region and have reached a global audience. 

Supporting Climate Storytellers in the Philippines

We partnered with Oxfam Pilipinas to provide grants to eight editor-reporter tandems in the Philippines that will write about Renewable Energy stories. We also sat down with these journalists to break down how newsrooms can report about climate change effectively. 

We also helped the Oscar M. Lopez Center develop the Climate Media Labs; a specialized training program aimed to help Filipino communicators to produce climate stories in the country. 

Media Research on Plastic Reportage

In 2020, Climate Tracker conducted various analyses of the state of media in Southeast Asia. This year, with the support of Break Free from Plastic, we looked into how plastic pollution is being covered in Southeast Asia.

We continued looking at how plastic has been fuelling the climate crisis during our COP26 coverage by assessing government policies on plastic in India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Bringing Asian journalists to Glasgow

While it seemed like impossible at first, Climate Tracker was able to bring journalists from India, Indonesia, China and the Philippines to COP26 in Glasgow, to report on the high stakes summit. 

Our fellows were able to tackle climate finance, loss and damage, net zero pledges, and climate politics.

For Made Anthony Iswara, from Indonesia, the fellowship has allowed him to directly interact with sources he would otherwise struggle to get in touch with — enhancing his overall reportage of climate issues not just on a national but also on a global scale.

Monika Mondal, from India, noted that Climate Tracker has equipped fellows with necessary skills and knowledge to understand and interpret decisions during the climate summit which she said gave them “a better chance to write a story rich with context and insights that we would otherwise write in a surface-level way,”

Saving Asia: An interview series on Climate Justice

During the first week of COP26, Climate Tracker was also able to launch a five-part series on climate justice as more and more youth become interested in participating in climate action.

It featured students from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, asking questions to advocates and experts on climate justice, human rights, green economy, and activism.

New portal for journalists across Asia

This year, we also worked on launching a new portal with the help of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. We want to create an ecosystem of support for environmental journalism in Asia. To do this, we launched an online platform tailored to support journalists across the region to get the context, the sources, and the insights they need to tell powerful climate stories that meet their editorial goals and deadlines. The Climate Tracker Asia included thematically information packages or factsheets, a network of experts, and links to our Asia Newsletter and WhatsApp group. 

The website is also a host platform of the Climate Tracker Asia Journalism Network, where we feature journalists in our community. We know that relationships and networking are crucial to a journalist’s career and we hope to connect budding journalists to their peers in the region.

What we want to do in 2022

Our 2021 started with a dream and we are ending it with a Journalism Hub specifically made to serve the Asian community but more has to be done. 

We acknowledge that we encountered limitations this year, one of which was the diversity in Asian media. While some have publications in English, some countries specially in Southeast Asia prefer engagements in their local languages. Climate Tracker has started publishing information packages in Bahasa, we hope to expand in 2022 to cater to Thailand, Vietnam, and South Asia.

Despite a more connected world, the barrier between scientists and storytellers became more apparent, as it became easier for experts to shy away from journalists needing diverse voices in their stories. We learned that while journalists need to understand science, scientists too need the avenue to put their message across. In 2022, we want to bridge the gap between journalists and civil society organizations, experts, and science communicators. We want to open a platform for stakeholders to interact to deepen the climate conversation. 

2021 also saw some of our media colleagues pursuing other paths and as such, we aim to help newsrooms cultivate next generation journalists in 2022. We want to provide more training and workshops not just for practicing journalists but for upcoming storytellers culled from the best campus papers in Asia.