Press Release – ISSI hosts Round Table Discussion on “Climate Change and the Role of Media”

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Press Release
ISSI hosts Round Table Discussion on
“Climate Change and the Role of Media”
November 28, 2023

The Centre for Strategic Perspectives (CSP) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), organized a Round Table discussion on “Climate Change and the Role of Media.” The keynote Speaker at the event was Ms. Aisha Khan, Chief Executive of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change (CSCCC). Ambassador Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, Foreign Office Spokesperson, and Mr. Asif Hyder Shah, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, were among the prominent speakers.

Dr. Neelum Nigar, Director CSP in her introductory remarks stated that the acknowledgment of Pakistan’s pivotal role in CoP27, particularly in the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, underscores the country’s proactive stance on this global issue. In this context, the role of media was pivotal in the global discourse on climate change, acknowledging its influence in shaping public perceptions, policy priorities, and advocacy endeavors.

In his welcome address, DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood highlighted the escalating seriousness of climate change, noting that it was already acknowledged as an “existential threat” for humanity. He recalled that the UN Secretary General had recently pointed to the shift from “global warming” to “global boiling,” and had underscored the need for immediate, dramatic action to handle the climate crisis. In the wake of this global warming trajectory, Pakistan had faced severe impacts which left no room for complacency. Ambassador Sohail Mahmood asserted that addressing the menace of climate change required a comprehensive, whole-of-society approach, positioning it at the forefront of national priorities. He highlighted the importance and urgency accorded to this issue in the National Security Policy (2022-26), which called for mobilizing a cohesive national response and building a climate-resilient Pakistan. The Director General also highlighted Pakistan’s proactive role on the international stage, raising awareness about the global dimensions of the climate threat faced by the country. Emphasizing the pivotal role of the media, he acknowledged its unique capacity to educate the public on the causes, impacts, and potential solutions of climate change through accurate and evidence-based reporting. He specifically highlighted the significant reach of the Pakistani media, noting its potential to raise awareness, influence public policy, and inspire individuals, businesses, and governments to embrace climate-friendly practices and technologies.

In her remarks, Ms. Aisha Khan emphasized the crucial need to comprehend the meaning of climate change to fully grasp its impact and effects. Regrettably, in Pakistan, the term “climate change” had not resonated with ordinary people. Its usage in diverse contexts had led to a lack of clarity, overshadowing its significance in critical areas such as food security, water security, energy security, and more. Ms. Aisha Khan also highlighted the pervasive confusion surrounding the term and stressed the vital role of the media in resolving this issue. As a widely accessible source of information, the media could play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between the common man and the multifaceted threats and challenges posed by climate change. It served as the missing link, ensuring a clearer understanding and awareness of the issues at hand. With reference to the upcoming CoP28, she highlighted the issues that would be deliberated upon and stressed the importance of a pragmatic approach to ensure forward movement on issues pending for long.

Ambassador Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, in her remarks on the media’s role, highlighted that discussions on climate change could often be overly scientific and technical, posing challenges to general understanding. This was precisely where the media stepped in, breaking down complex information in a way that was accessible and easily comprehensible for the general public. She emphasized the importance of the media’s role in bringing international discussions and debates on climate change to the national audience, avoiding any politicization. Ms. Mumtaz Zahra Baloch stressed the need for the media to educate the masses on the threats and challenges posed by climate change, particularly when discussions occur on a global stage. Identifying a challenge, she noted the dearth of climate change experts in the media and emphasized the importance of developing expertise within media outlets. Furthermore, she underscored the pivotal role of the media in amplifying the voices of local communities. By bringing these voices to the capital, the media could help the government better understand the challenges faced by ordinary individuals dealing with the impacts of climate change on the ground.

In his remarks, Secretary Climate Change Mr. Asif Shah highlighted various government initiatives on addressing climate change and related factors. Among others, he pointed out that the Ministry had formed working groups with provinces to coordinate on diverse climate-related issues. Regarding the media’s role, he emphasized its power to influence the masses with accurate information. He added that the Ministry was actively working on establishing a ‘COP Cell’ dedicated to COP matters, ensuring a sustainable cycle of policy and work continuity despite personnel changes. Additionally, the Ministry was going to launch a ‘COP Portal’ with crucial information and a real-time data bank, providing open public access to information relating to mitigation and adaptation actions and policies. Looking ahead to the upcoming CoP28, Secretary Asif Shah underscored the need to be both “hopeful and realistic.”  He highlighted Pakistan’s focus on showcasing the importance of collective resilience at national level. This collective effort was positioned as a national cause in combatting the challenges posed by climate change, he concluded.

During the interactive discussion, representatives from various media houses shared their views and presented multiple suggestions for mainstreaming the issue of climate change in public discourse. These suggestions included localizing the concept of climate change, ensuring a more sustainable and continuous policy discussion, sensitizing media houses to the issue’s growing importance, emphasizing national data generation, and bolstering the capacity of the media and local reporters.

The event was concluded with a vote of thanks by Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman Board of Governors ISSI.