In April 2009, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service Trust (WST) launched an initiative to improve media coverage of climate change in 6 countries across South America. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)-funded initiative is also designed to encourage government officials to make the issue a priority and to highlight the importance of the 15th Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) (Copenhagen, Denmark, December 7-18 2009).
In recognition of the fact that an educated media corps is empowered to raise awareness of climate change, organisers developed a series of seminars for government officials, politicians, and journalists. Designed to maximise the sharing of accurate environmental information ahead of the COP15 summit, the seminars were held in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.
The journalism training focused on giving stories about the climate a news element, so they are no longer confined to the specialist press. As part of the strategy of highlighting climate change information to governmental authorities, the BBC WST welcomed Peru's Minister for Environment to the seminar within that country, while in Colombia and Bolivia the British Ambassador opened the event. The project is also engaged in more direct advocacy through work with government ministries in the six countries.
The seminars were followed by interviews with local media. According to the Project Manager, "A phone-in for listeners to Colombian National Public Radio lasted for three hours and generated a lot of interest. As well as asking questions listeners were telling us about their experiences. Many people knew that things had changed but didn't realise that this was a result of climate change. For example, cases of malaria and dengue fever on Colombia's tropical islands doubled between the 1970s and 1990s. Local people knew about the increase but not that it was caused by changing rain patterns and increasing temperatures..."
To support this process, modules on reporting climate change have been prepared for the BBC WST's online journalism training resource, iLearn.
More than 15,000 environment ministers, officials, diplomats, campaigners, journalists, and heads of state are expected to attend COP15, representing the 192 countries that have signed the UN climate change convention. Participants will work toward a successor to the Kyoto protocol.