The fact that climate change continues to worry all the nations, is firmly in the public domain and no longer a secret. The type of climate action strategies and dossiers that the people are being served with, can only work as the surface rather than a deeper meaning, and this continues to be our main worry. Something is hidden from the public and concerned stakeholders can hardly participate in climate action strategies which are designed to serve both the environment and their lives. Failure to sufficiently engage the people by failing to articulate their local and global concerns, have left them confused and stranded in their own immediate environments.
guest column: Peter Makwanya
The main problem appears to hinge on the nature of communication strategies that have been used and are still being used, in attempts to make the people understand, move together with them without leaving anyone behind, as the SDGs mantra clearly suggests.
The people, as the most important stakeholders, need to be able to streamline amongst the following terms: adaptation, climate action, greening, resilience or climate solutions, among a host of many. Of course, these above discourses may not be exactly synonymous, but they can easily be interchangeable, as they highly influence each other and above all, they are designed to serve the same purpose and achieve the same goal.
Before the climate action strategies can go collectively global, they need to be locally and community driven, in the first place. These climate action strategies are designed to change the environment and the people’s livelihoods for the better and should not be designed in isolation. Indeed, they need to serve a purpose and achieve desired outcomes in measurable terms, as well as being able to solve environmental challenges, which are making it difficult for the people to cope.
In this regard, a host of environmental challenges requiring climate action strategies are rapid forest destructions, land degradations, toxic pollution levels, water scarcities, over-population, deteriorating biodiversity management, reduced agricultural yields, inappropriate communication strategies and ecological imbalances, including uncontrollable carbon emissions. All of these have the potential to not only harm the environment, but also to make it inhabitable.
Some of the goals of climate action strategies are not only designed to improve the environment, but also to manage poverty levels and improve the people’s livelihoods.
In this regard, climate action strategies need to foster research as a critical and fundamental element in transforming the way people view or interact with their immediate environment.
Research is important for unearthing new discoveries and knowledge-based economy for the patents which move the countries up the economic ladder.
In this regard, the academia and relevant research bodies and communities need funding, sufficient enough to add value to the living standards of the people and sustainable development.
In coming up with new knowledge breakthroughs and impetuses, research communities need to collaborate, network and engage each other because we have only one earth.
Central and critical to the climate action strategies, are environmental and people-driven initiatives which ought to be communicated strategically so that the communities, as very important stakeholders, have to be sufficiently empowered.
These initiatives should not deviate from the countries’ laws and policies for the enlightenment and survival of their people. When local communities are not empowered and capacitated to solve their own community-based adaptation problems, it means that climate action strategies will remain a pipe dream for quite some time.
Until and unless local communities are able to link what affects them and their livelihoods to the fast-changing climate, then the idea of climate action strategies for sustainable development remain wishful desires.
The other critical element and factor that climate stakeholders and authorities tend to background in this community of practice is lack of strategic communication which would help in simplifying these strategies for the benefit of lay-persons alike.
Climate change communication strategies should not be designed for speculative, grandstanding and communication massaging purposes, but should help connect and link with the people who are in need of these fundamental communication services. If the same people being targeted for connection are alienated from this supposedly empowering and life-saving discourse, then the whole idea of communication is strongly undermined. Above all, it ceases to be effective and potentially empowering.
The failure to appropriately engage stakeholders in climate action strategies, normally emanates from communication challenges and institutional barriers. Although the subject of climate change is highly urgent and immediate, an element of empathy and some persuasive appeals are required to be practised in order to permeate all levels of the society.
Above all and everything else, as stakeholders, the people desire to be connected, networked and engaged in simple and clearer terms. The people need to be brought together so that the intended collective efforts succeed.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org