When I was invited to speak on a panel at a UN conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany, I wasn't sure what to expect. I envisioned a large, dimly lit
amphitheatre filled with diplomats in dark suits, whispering to their
colleagues between reading their official, pre-prepared statements out loud.

I was pleasantly surprised. I was there to speak at the 2nd
Dialogue of Article 6
of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
(UNFCCC). While that may sound
terribly formal and bureaucratic, it was anything but.

Article 6 is all about how best to promote public
awareness, public participation and public access to information around climate
change – in other words, how to communicate climate change effectively.

The Dialogue provides a regular forum for stakeholders – government
and global civil society representatives alike – to exchange ideas and
experiences regarding the implementation of Article 6.

And a dialogue it was. An informal, personal tone was
immediately set by the Chair of our panel, Paul Watkinson, who is co-facilitator of the 2nd Dialogue. He began
by encouraging us to have a real conversation – rather than a series of
positions – and to avoid jargon. He also asked country representatives to use
their first names, not their countries, when speaking.

Above all, he reminded us that Article 6 is really about
understanding the effect of communication on people’s lives. The discussion that
ensued centred very much on sharing good practice on climate change
communication – what’s worked for different governments and NGOs as well as
what challenges they've faced and how we could learn from each other.

There were several young panellists who talked about how to mobilise young people to address the challenge of climate change, whether through
peer-to-peer meetings of university students across the globe, social media, or
through video competitions.

Representatives from the governments of Africa, Asia and
Latin America showcased innovative techniques for promoting understanding of climate
change such as education programmes aimed at young children that use music, or
engaging the private sector to provide incentives for things like rain water

I was there to speak about the role of
media and communication in facilitating climate
change adaptation
– how people can lower the risks
posed by the consequences of climatic changes - drawing on our new policy
briefing From
the ground up: Changing the conversation about climate change

The policy briefing uses data from BBC
Media Action’s Climate Asia project
to underscore how
climate change is perceived by those hardest hit by changes in temperature,
rainfall and extreme weather and its impact on their daily lives: their income,
their health and their livelihoods.

I emphasised how important it is to
build an evidence base around these threats to food, water and energy security
and suggested how media and communication can be usefully deployed to help
communities build resilience to them.

I was really pleased to see how much the central thrust of
our findings was echoed in some of the comments made around the room.

Saleemul Huq from the International
Institute for Environment and Development
pointed out that we
don’t need to present the developing world as victims. He referenced some of
the major successes the government, media and non-governmental organisations in
his native Bangladesh have had in building climate change awareness and
adaptation, and the need to disseminate and learn from these solutions.

A representative from Ghana, seated in the audience, talked
about how much we can learn from the health sector in terms of marshalling
media and communication to climate change adaptation strategies.

A panellist representing the St Lucia government, Crispin
D’Auvergne, noted the importance of framing climate change initiatives in a way
that address people’s everyday concerns – such as their health or jobs – rather
than ‘climate change’ as an abstract, scientific issue. 

Reacting to the different speakers around the room, the
panel chair Paul
repeatedly emphasised the need to
keep the focus on adaptation and vulnerable populations.

As he noted when wrapping up the session, “This is about people.” I could not agree more.


Related links

BBC Media Action policy briefing: From
the ground up: Changing the conversation about climate change

Asia data portal – explore the research project’s findings

BBC Media
Action’s resilience work

Follow BBC Media Action on Twitter and

Go back to BBC Media Action