Georgetown, Guyana – (August 4, 2017) The Office of Climate Change, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Presidency, on July 28-29, 2017 hosted a series of workshops for Journalists and Government Public Relations Officers, which focused on the communication and dissemination of information on the country’s steps to mitigating and adapting to the effects of Climate Change.
The sessions, which were hosted at the Cara Lodge Hotel, were conducted by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD) with funding from the United States’ Department of State. It is part of the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Communication Strategy development process. The NAP will be used as a means of identifying medium and long-term climate change adaptation needs. It will also seek to develop and implement strategies and actions to address those needs.
The workshops, which laid the groundwork for a communications strategy for the NAP, trained government representatives in Climate Change communications skills while the other for Journalists focused on strategies for telling stories about climate change adaptation.
Head of the Office of Climate Change, Ms. Janelle Christian, while delivering brief remarks at the opening of the workshop for Journalists, said that the National Adaptation Plan process is an essential part of Guyana’s fight against Climate Change. Through national consultations on climate change, she noted that the country can prioritise actions that will build its climate resilience. To aid this process, she noted that effective communication is vital.
“Climate Change is an existential threat to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which undermines their sustainable development. SIDS as they are called are influenced mainly by ocean, atmosphere and interaction, which often extend themselves in extreme weather events such as hurricanes and cyclones. These events are associated with storm surges [and] inundation of land and erosion. These climate scenarios and their serious economic situations make SIDS some of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. I would like to note that Guyana is inherently vulnerable because we lie below sea level. This is now compounded by the threats of climate change,” she said.
As Guyana continues to experience the adverse effects of Climate Change, compounded with its location, Ms. Christian said that to reduce the country’s vulnerability to climate change, it is important that adaptation steps be taken.
“It means anticipating the adverse effects of Climate Change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage it can cause or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. NAP is a process, it involves consultation, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation and communicating,” she said.
Programme Manager for the National Adaptation Plan Global Network, (IISD), Mr. Kaitlyn Finner, whose letter was received by all participants at the event, said that Government spokespersons as well as journalists can face many challenges in communicating through the media; from short attention spans to sensationalised reporting. These challenges, she said, are amplified for spokespersons, who must communicate public policy and science, where accuracy, nuance and context are of utmost importance.
“These workshops help both experienced and novice spokespersons to create messages that resonate with the public, tailor the approach for television, print and radio, use body language to convey the message convincingly and to anticipate and respond to tough questions. The workshop provides an opportunity to refine the Government of Guyana’s messages on climate change adaptation so that they can connect as best as possible with the audience,” she said.
Communications Expert at the IISD, Mr. Damon Vis-Dunbar, who facilitated the sessions, said that it is heartening to see that Guyana has already begun putting steps in place to combat the effects of the climate change and global warming phenomena. The workshop, therefore, is a step in ensuring that effective messages are communicated for the country’s drive to be successful.
Executive Director of the Trade and Investment Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Rawle Lucas, who presented at the workshop, focused on the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which made historic strides in ensuring global action to limit climate change, and adapt to the changes already underway.
Local journalists were also provided with the opportunity to share their experiences in the coverage of climate change related matters and speak on the challenges and opportunities, which are presented.
The National Adaptation Plan process was created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an opportunity for countries to plan for sustainable development in the face of climate change. Recently, under the Paris Agreement, countries have been requested to implement their adaptation commitments under a five-year assessment. Each country’s NAP is driven by its unique adaptation needs.