EJN Delegation Reports from Fiji-Led Climate Negotiations in Bonn, Germany

A delegation of journalists from outlets across Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific Islands gathered in Bonn for the United Nations climate conference as part of the Climate Change Media Partnership’s annual Fellowship program. This year’s partnership between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation, with support from the Full Circle Fund of RSF Social Finance, brought 14 reporters from TV, radio and print outlets to the event where they interviewed prominent policy makers, attended high-level press conferences and produced dozens of stories that reached diverse audiences around the world.   

Largely a technical discussion, country delegates at the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP 23) clashed over pre-2020 reduction targets, hammered out the details of action under the Paris Agreement and discussed how to approach next year’s progress ‘check-in’, known formally as the Talanoa Dialogue. The event marked the second meeting of the Agreement’s governing body and the first conference to be presided over by a small island state.

With the rights of vulnerable and indigenous communities at the center of the Fiji-led talks, the participating journalists elevated diverse voices and brought new audiences into the global conversation about climate change. In addition to the 14 countries represented, the group included six indigenous reporters, three of whom are from island nations.

“The islands are sinking and they want assistance,” said Fiji Prime Minister and COP 23 president Frank Bainimarama during a one-on-one interview with Joyetter Luamanu from the Samoa Observer. “No one is immune to this.” Fiji received mixed reviews for its leadership during the talks, but its push to create action plans to address the role of women and indigenous groups in climate action was seen as a major highlight. Progress on the inclusion of women and indigenous communities in the negotiations also received coverage from Fellows Priestley Habru of Island Sun Newspaper (Solomon Islands) and Tina Carmillia from BFM89.9: The Business Station(Malaysia).

This conference also marked the first meeting of the parties since U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. “The Trump administration will only slow down the pace of the implementation, but it will not stop the changes from taking place,” former Obama energy advisor Paul Bodnar told Fellows during a quick interview in the conference hall. “We should stop negotiating at the higher level and start acting.”

The CCMP journalists published stories in six languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Bulgarian, English, Vietnamese and Khmer. Their work examined conference progress from local and regional perspectives, and in some cases produced reports that can help hold governments accountable to their commitments. Fellow Sao Phal Niseiy from Cambodian outlet Thmey Thmey Media, for example, wrote on the low likelihood that his country would reach its forest protection goals under the Paris Agreement.

Prior to attending the conference, Fellows participated in a day-long orientation session where they received briefings on the latest climate science and key issues at the center of the negotiations. Fellows also had the opportunity to travel to Saerbeck, a town pioneering renewable energy in northwest Germany, and sit down for interviews the following week with Erik Solheim (see radio coverage on Emissions Gap Report) and Monique Barbut, heads of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), respectively.

Since 2007, the Climate Change Media Partnership has been providing fellowships for developing country journalists to go to the UN climate negotiations and other major events that they would otherwise be unable to attend. It aims to improve media coverage of climate change, and therefore increase public engagement on the issue with a focus on developing countries and critically affected regions. Many of the reports produced by the CCMP Fellows can be read on the EJN website.