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The highlights of our News Impact Summit on Elevating Climate Journalism


The highlights of our News Impact Summit on Elevating Climate Journalism

Picture of Fleur Leijte
Fleur Leijte — Project manager
November 01, 2023

In October, our team travelled to sunny Lisbon where we organised the 36th edition of the News Impact Summit in partnership with the Google News Initiative (GNI).

Together with 225 journalists, students, climate experts, and media enthusiasts, we delved deep into the topic of climate journalism. It was a day filled with inspiring conversations, networking, and thought-provoking sessions hosted by 15 speakers from all over Europe and beyond. 

In our efforts and plans to become more environmentally sustainable, the EJC has continued to make the summits as sustainable as possible. Neither plastic nor paper was used during the event in Lisbon and name badges contained flower seeds and are recyclable. Don't forget to plant yours if you joined us in person! The menu didn't include meat or fish and the flights from our team and all speakers will be offset by donating to the Dutch tree-planting organisation Trees for All.

The technical and human side

The first keynote speaker, Paul Fisher from the European Space Agency (ESA) underlined the importance of technology in the fight against climate change. He showed the audience how satellites play a significant role in providing data to cover climate change. ESA has a series of high-quality images and videos, including documentaries and b-rolls, available to be used by broadcast journalists and media. 

Paul Fisher emphasising the crucial role of satellites in combating climate change

But how do you translate scientific data into human stories?

This was the central question for the Sinking Cities Project, a cross-border investigation that came out of the collaboration between local journalists across five major cities. Ope Adetayo and Tina Lee from Unbias the News included local journalists to give a more accurate account of the social, political, and economic implications of climate change. Using local voices to resonate with people and increase engagement is also something that Aline Flor of Azul recommends to the audience. Azul is the climate vertical of Publico, one of Portugal’s main media outlets. 

‘’The climate beat should be everyone’s beat. It is one of the biggest challenges for every news desk now.”

-Aline Flor, Azul.

Arguably one of the most impactful ways to tell climate stories is through visualisation. Wim Zwijnenburg from PAX and Cornelia Scholz from Red Crescent have joined forces to create a guide that looks into openly available tools and data that explore climate data and turn it into compelling visualisations. Find out more about the guide in our interview with Cornelia.

3 sessions covering the importance of climate change awareness, community engagement, and sustainable solutions

Killing the journalist won’t kill the story

Climate reporting can be dangerous. Since 2004, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 30 environmental journalists have been killed while reporting in the field. Laurent Richard from Forbidden Stories looked into what governments, international organisations, and newsrooms can do to protect journalists covering the environment.

“We need to better explain why journalism matters to democracy. There is no democracy without access to information.’’ 

-Laurent Richard, Forbidden Stories
Laurent Richard session about environmental risks on the frontlines

Reporting from different angles: local, inclusive, and fair 

After Laurent’s session, the audience was welcomed in three different breakout rooms. For the Portuguese crowd, Manual Banza hosted an interactive workshop on climate journalism from the community. As a data scientist, Manuel focuses on identifying strategies and priorities to mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as improve the quality of life in cities through citizen participation, making them more sustainable and resilient.

For those interested in diversifying their climate reporting, Tina Lee from Unbias the News spoke about the importance of inclusion in newsrooms. 

‘’When you don’t have people in your newsroom that see all the problems, you also do not offer all the solutions - if our newsrooms are not diverse enough then we ignore communities that are affected by climate change first.’’ 

-Tina Lee, Unbias the News

Ivan Couronne and Sophie Nicholson from AFP tested the audience on their knowledge of climate communication. What do buzzwords like ''green'' or ''carbon neutral'' mean? How should journalists cover climate-related corporate announcements? And how can you avoid being fooled by green-washing companies? According to Ivan and Sophie, companies are way ahead of the media in how they frame their climate communication. 

Moments from the Breakout sessions

From anxiety to hope

A panel kicked off after lunch, moderated by Fara Warner, Climate Director at Solutions Journalism Network, with panellists Joi Lee, Head of Editorial, Earthrise Studio, Dana Regev, Senior Editor Social Media at Deutsche Welle, and Lisa Urlbauer, Head of Journalism Training at Bonn Institute. The panel agreed that, although solutions-oriented climate reporting can help fight news avoidance and fuel hope for readers, more than that is needed. We shouldn’t just look at solutions, but we also need to be rich in perspectives and meet people’s information needs. As Fara pointed out:  “Just as fish need water, humans need critical hope.”

The News Impact Summit concluded with two final break-out sessions. Kiyo Dörrer from Deutsche Welle’s Planet A explored the potential of YouTube for climate journalism, while Vincent Ryan from Google News Lab showed the audience how to use Google Earth Engine to create visuals to support climate stories. 

Although each speaker focused on their own story, they all came to the conclusion that technology plays an important role in the fight against climate change, but the human side cannot be forgotten. Bernardo Correia, Portugal Country Manager at Google, summarised this by recognising that climate change is a huge challenge and that technology, although it is not a silver bullet, must be part of the solution.

A group of experts engaging in a meaningful climate discussion

Climate Journalism Award

At the end of the day, we welcomed the winners of the Climate Journalism Award on stage. Journalists from all over Europe were able to submit their stories across five categories. The selected winners were granted an award as well as a cash prize of  €2,000Read more about the winners and their projects here

Keen to explore the entire photo gallery? Click here for the complete experience.

In the coming weeks, we'll be launching recordings on our YouTube channel, where you can revisit the sessions, keynotes, and discussions that took place at the Summit. Don't miss out on this valuable resource that will keep you informed and inspired. Subscribe to our channel to stay updated!


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