In 2023, Climate Tracker Asia embraced a collective endeavor to empower affected individuals and communities by allowing them to be the architects of their own narratives and ensuring their voices resonate in the broader discourse surrounding the impact of climate change.

Our objective was straightforward: to craft more compelling climate stories directly from the voices of the affected communities. In doing so, our aim is to break down barriers, foster connections, bridge gaps, and ignite a spirit of generosity. We believe that by amplifying these stories, we not only shed light on the real impacts of climate change but also foster a sense of shared responsibility and empathy, urging individuals and communities to come together in the face of these challenges.

Through the power of storytelling, we aspire to open doors to understanding, connect diverse perspectives, and inspire collective action for a more sustainable and resilient future.

Climate stories from the ground up by Gaea Cabico

Last year, we made a commitment: to amplify the voices of those most impacted by climate change in Asia, and to ensure their stories are told by people from within their own communities. We stayed true with that promised and delivered in 2023.

The year kicked off with a bootcamp for fellows of the Philippine Digital Content Creators Hub, bringing together a vibrant mix of talented individuals fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, the LGBTQ+ community, women and children, advocating for climate action, and conserving nature.

Through this program, we, alongside our partner Oxfam, supported the production of multimedia products that highlight the unique challenges and perspectives of different communities: from an indigenous peoples’ community in Palawan struggling to rebuild their honey beekeeping practices after a devastating typhoon, to the residents of Marawi City navigating the challenges of displacement and climate change.

Climate Tracker Asia and Oxfam Philippines teams with fellows from the Philippine Digital Content Creators Hub beaming with smiles at their fellowship dinner.

The program’s success in the Philippines prompted us to launch a second installment of the Content Creators Hub, expanding its reach to empower storytellers not only in the Philippines, but also in Malaysia and Indonesia. We’re really excited to share their awesome work soon!

Climate Tracker Asia, in collaboration with Break Free From Plastic, also offered story grants to journalists and communicators from the Asia Pacific region who highlighted solutions to the twin crises of climate change and plastic pollution.

Our fellows reported on Mongolian NGOs fighting climate change through plastic recycling initiatives, the hazards of Thailand government’s waste-to-energy push, mosques and churches stepping up to address Indonesia’s plastic problem, and the efficient recycling and sorting process in India’s Panaji City.

It’s gratifying to see how fellows with little or no journalism experience gained valuable skills and knowledge about climate reporting through this program. Even professional journalists shared that the program encouraged them to try the solutions approach in their own work.

A story about women waste pickers in Palawan not only raised awareness but also contributed to the expansion of the initiative and prompted policy changes at the local level.

The highlight of this year for me was guiding university students, fresh graduates, and campus journalists explore climate narratives within their communities and humanize the impacts of the climate crisis through a program supported by the US Embassy in Manila. These budding storytellers are, after all, the future of climate journalism.

So far, we’ve delved into an indigenous community in Oriental Mindoro left behind in the clean energy transition, coconut farmers from Quezon grappling with the impacts of cyclones and drought, the role of climate change in the proliferation of a new pest affecting rice fields in the Philippines, and land conversion threatening Central Luzon’s flood “sponge.”

Their youthful energy, fresh perspectives and curiosity were like a breath of fresh air. Seeing their work out there, sparking conversations, was a different kind of fulfillment.

Leveling it up and passing it forward by Celine Murillo

In 2022, I was chosen as one of the fellows for Climate Tracker Asia’s first installment of the Content Creators Hub. Through this experience, I gained insights into the significance of intentional work, effective pivoting, creating impact with minimal effort, and integrating principles and techniques from TV writing and visual arts into content creation. I was able to learn from and with inspiring, talented, and committed Filipinos who share the same passion for the environment and creative activism.

Because of this fellowship, I was able to create a total of three multimedia stories, two solo and one collaborative, about the interconnectedness of the climate crisis with indigenous agroecology, biodiversity, and food heritage. This body of work contributed to mainstreaming the climate discourse, emphasizing that the climate crisis affects all aspects of our lives. I am very proud of this accomplishment.

In early June 2023, Climate Tracker Asia gave me the opportunity to share my experience and learnings with campus journalists from Eastern Visayas. It was an empowering moment, and it was in this instance that I really felt the genuineness of Climate Tracker’s commitment to nurturing and incentivizing journalists and storytellers, regardless of their level of experience.

This is the reason why I was so proud and empowered when Biena, CT Asia’s Director, offered me the role of Fellowship Coordinator in August. I was so happy to help nurture a whole new batch of climate storytellers and creative activists!

We hit the ground running with the #NextGen Climate Bootcamp in early August. Twenty-four young aspiring climate journalists participated in a training session meant to equip them with the skills and the know-how to report climate stories effectively and compassionately. The training culminated into an in-person bootcamp in Quezon City, Metro Manila plus a field trip to Anilao, Batangas to learn about the Verde Island Passage — the center of the center of marine biodiversity. To date, the #NexGen fellowship has published seven climate stories, and more are on their way!

In October, we began Cycle 2 of the Content Creators Hub, and this time, the fellows consisted of not just Filipinos, but also Indonesians and Malaysians. A total of 10 content creators and storytellers make up this cycle’s cohort.

Online training sessions have just wrapped up, and fellows are now currently working on their first output which we will work on during our in–person training in January 2024. Specialized training sessions on multimedia storytelling, one-on-one mentoring, and personalized tips will be done during this workshop to improve their outputs as well as inform how they will approach their collaborative project in the next part of the fellowship.

Juggling being a storyteller and a mentor/coordinator had its challenges, but, at the end of the day, and I think I speak for everyone on the team, seeing the outputs of our fellows and witnessing their growth, make it all worth it.

I’ll always be grateful to Climate Tracker Asia for opening doors for me, and giving me the chance to pass whatever I’ve gained forward, for believing in the power of community and working together, and seeing the potential in people and places that are often sidelined.

Advocacy and meaningful interactions: we are telling the stories of our time by Aishwaryaa Kunwar

As a young communicator, I have struggled in finding climate conversations on the internet that would speak from a human angle. The messaging, research, and stories were mostly jargon-heavy and ones which expected readers to know-it-all in a preachy manner of sorts. What we lack is a side of climate change that impacts us on a daily and personal level. What we lack is the representation of our communities and people. What we lack are powerful local stories that resonate with us and inspire us to take action.

I joined Climate Tracker Asia in June 2023 with the aim to amplify underrepresented voices and create space for stories that can empower people to make informed choices. In the next six months, we successfully engaged 400+ journalists and climate storytellers with our training workshops, networking opportunities, fellowships and toolkits. In different capacities for each, it was gratifying to support and empower climate storytellers from across Asia – from a 16-year old budding writer-activist in Pakistan to senior reporters in Indonesia. Our goal has been simple – to support better climate journalism around the world.

We facilitated informative webinars and masterclasses for our community on topics like Health Impacts of Fossil Fuels, Gas and LNG Developments, Climate Finance, Breaking Down Asia Pacific’s Plastic Cycle and the Art of Self Expression in Advocacy. We invited speakers who are well-known in climate change circles to share insights and learnings for our participants. Their expertise ranged from diverse fields like policy, activism, communications, law, journalism, data research among others. It was truly heartwarming to see these sessions buzzing with questions and interaction from our attendees – a reminder of why we do what we do, and why is it important!

We also hosted monthly community hangouts where our former fellows and mentors got together to talk about their experiences, shedding light on topics like how to ace fellowship applications, creating climate content in Southeast Asia and more. A virtual networking session like no other – our community hangouts saw loads of tips, story ideas, pitching advice and relevant research being shared. At Climate Tracker Asia, we don’t gatekeep. There’s something to learn for everyone!

The coolest thing about 2023 was meeting the fiercely passionate Asia team and our brilliant fellows in person. I traveled all the way from India to join our #NextGen Climate Bootcamp in Quezon City and it was the most fulfilling week. As we all work remotely, I really cherish the time our team sat together, shared our vision and goals for the coming year and brainstormed over great food and greater laughter.

We facilitated a series of hands-on workshops, intensive pitching sessions and I got to collaborate with young journalists from across the Philippines. Our GenZ squad went island hopping in Batangas, creating uber cool TikToks and learning new things without missing out on the fun! I bring back home amazing memories with the kindest and most talented people I met on this trip along with a striking reminder of the power we hold as young people. We can and we will change the world.

This year, we started an Asia-focussed weekly newsletter for our community members across the region. Through this, our aim is to keep enriching our network by sharing opportunities, highlighting stories and publications that our fellows are working on and providing value to our readers around different aspects of climate change. So far, we have covered themes like indigenous communities leading climate resilience, role of forests in mitigating climate change, climate justice efforts in Asia, intersectionality and gender, just energy transition, GenZ climate content creation and more. We worked hard to ensure that our newsletter was info-packed with the latest briefings that will help our journo readers with their reporting and non-journo readers with their research! We are proud and grateful to have an ever-growing community of climate storytellers who are shaping climate conversations for the years to come.

Charting new directions, but continuing to be changemakers by Jom Daclan

We pushed out a lot of funding proposals this year, but the application we sent to the Ashoka Green Changemakers Challenge is the one that stands out for me. Out of more than 400 organizations that applied for a grant, Climate Tracker Asia was selected as a finalist. It was quite affirming to read the judges’ comments. They validated the strengths of our organization and the significant impact we continue to have on the climate movement. The judges recognized that the work that we do to identify and build up climate storytellers across different communities in Asia is a powerful tool for climate action. They also highlighted how our ability to reach out to and engage with large numbers of people across Asia with our climate stories is helping to give a voice to those most impacted by the climate crisis. To have change leaders such as those in Ashoka appreciate the value of our work and the impact it creates reinforces our commitment to tell better climate stories about the impacts of both global warming and the transition to a renewable energy future.

Throughout the year, It has also been quite insightful working with the new members of our board of directors and advisory board. We brought several personalities who are well-known in climate change circles onboard this year to help set the direction of the organization and provide strategic advice. Our new board members bring with them different sets of skills and experiences that can complement the capabilities of Climate Tracker Asia’s current staff. The discussions we have had with climate communicator Ludwig Federigan, activists Marinel Ubaldo and AG Saño, climate policy expert Rex Barrer, environmentalist Rodne Galicha, and journalist Kharishar Kahfi have helped us to broaden our perspectives and think of new ways to approach the work that we do.

Dreams coming true and believing that anything is possible by Agnes Saycon

2023, what a year it has been!

After a challenging and emotionally taxing 2022, I entered the new year not at my best. I anticipated it to be the worst, expecting no positive turn of events. Little did I know, 2023 would turn out to be a year where dreams materialized and goals were not only set but achieved.

Despite the challenges faced by Climate Tracker Asia, our unwavering belief in the mission to support and incentivize young journalists globally in writing impactful climate stories kept us going.

In my financial role, the day-to-day rarely involves direct interactions with our fellows. Dreaming of a project that would bridge this gap, I aspired to meet our fellows in person and engage in workshops with field exposure. Remarkably, in 2023, everything fell into place as we successfully organized a workshop with 24 fellows, featuring outstanding speakers and mentors.

Executing an in-person event posed challenges, from canceled flights to unexpected illnesses among the fellows. Yet, we overcame every obstacle, ensuring a successful gathering.

Participating in the entire process of crafting a climate story firsthand, from inception to fact-checking, was an eye-opener. Each story vividly portrayed the profound impact of climate change on different communities, underscoring the urgency of addressing these issues on a national and global scale. The diverse narratives from the young journalists left an indelible mark, and I eagerly anticipate their publication.

After the exhaustive workshop and strategic planning sessions, we decided to unwind with a nice dinner. We were all worn out, simply craving a good meal and some much-needed rest after the grueling days. Amid the fatigue, what kept our spirits alive were the inside jokes we shared, particularly my not-so-secret admiration for the Philippine matinee idol, Piolo Pascual. The entire Climate Tracker team was well aware of my significant crush on Piolo – I even went to the extent of naming my dog after him. Coming from the province, the dream of seeing him in person during my travels to Manila was a recurring fantasy, though I had only been left with glimpses of his billboards during our field trips with the fellows.

However, fate had an unexpected surprise in store for me that night. Who would have thought that an extra wish would be granted? A core memory was etched into the hearts of the entire team when Piolo suddenly walked past us in the restaurant while we were quietly savoring our meal, eagerly anticipating the comforts of home. Our collective energy transformed into a beautiful mixture of laughter and tears – a truly magical moment that capped off the night.

Dreams, once mere figments of imagination, materialized before our eyes, making us believe that anything is possible.

Stepping into the limelight, guiding the team by Biena Magbitang

Over my decade-long journey as a journalist, leading Climate Tracker Asia has emerged as my most formidable challenge. I always take pride in stating that we are an organization composed of journalists, for journalists, but this path is not without its share of difficulties. Journalists are inherently trained to craft compelling stories, not to be managers and entrepreneurs. The balancing act between managing projects, ensuring our fellows are well-prepared for reporting assignments, and navigating budget considerations has been particularly demanding.

In the midst of it all, 2023 unfolded as a year of profound personal growth. It brought me a crucial lesson: the pursuit of ambitious dreams demands more than a mere vision. It’s an intimate, collaborative dance, grounded in trust and a deep commitment to both the dream and the individuals involved. It’s a journey of delicately threading through relationships, fostering open communication, and, most importantly, consistently delivering on promises. It wasn’t just about the dream itself; it was about revealing the depth of integrity and competence needed to see it through.

As I look back on my role in leading the Climate Tracker Asia team in 2023, a notable aspect centers around my decision to step into the spotlight and highlight the remarkable work accomplished by my colleagues.

I’ve been someone who prefers the backstage, avoiding the limelight. However, to support our ambitious goals for 2023, I knew it was time to step out of my own little box and explore unconventional approaches.

This required me to become more visible. I willingly took on speaking and moderating roles, immersing myself in events like the 7th ABU Media Summit on Climate Action & Disaster Prevention, Asia Pacific Climate Week, Mindanao Clean Energy Forum x Renewable Energy Congress, and COP28. The goal was to represent our team with excellence, and in doing so, I unexpectedly found a reservoir of confidence within myself. It’s been a personal revelation, realizing that sometimes growth means embracing the spotlight, even when it’s outside your comfort zone.

These conferences were not just platforms for representation; they also allowed us to tell stories that might have remained untold. We documented narratives from the Asia Pacific Climate Week and brought two Asian journalists to COP28, shedding light on less-covered stories like Taiwan’s participation at COPs and Malaysia’s renewable energy challenges.

I find myself deeply moved by the authenticity and impact we’ve cultivated. Our commitment to shedding light on the often-overlooked narratives of those disproportionately affected by climate change in Asia stands as a testament to our core values. The strides made by our small but dedicated team fill me with immense pride, yet the realization persists that there is more work ahead on this critical path.

Looking forward to 2024, our mission remains clear: to persistently champion local voices across Asia and ensure that the urgent matter of climate change receives the sustained coverage it deserves.

Here’s to an even more remarkable and impactful journey ahead!

Categories: 2023 Wrap, Our Work, Stories