This article is part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting///CRIMSON TAZVINZWA///
In Japan, it’s not uncommon to see people wearing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lapel pins.
The popularity of the pin may be because Japanese media covers the SDGs – and the growing problem of climate change – extensively.
What role can and should the news media play in raising awareness of the goals and the need for climate action?
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The BBC recently issued internal guidance on how to report on climate change, which links to every goal, while The Guardian updated its style guide in 2019 to introduce terms like “climate emergency” and “climate crisis” though the use of “climate change” remains accepted, too.
In September 2018, the United Nations organized the SDG Media Compact, currently consisting of 85 major news media companies around the world, to propel the media toward more active SDGs-related coverage.
What’s intriguing is the way the organization is structured: 20 outlets from Europe, 14 from the Americas, 15 from Africa, nine from the Middle East and 27 from Asia, with 12 from Japan, including The Asahi Shimbun.
Why does Japan have the biggest representation?
Japan, which relies almost totally on imports for its consumption of oil, went through a major economic crisis during the so-called “oil shock” of the 1970s. Since then, Japan’s government, business community and people have put a focus on making energy-saving efforts. However, in 2011, Japan experienced tsunami-induced reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, when eastern Japan was rocked by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake. Most of the 54 nuclear reactors in operation at the time of the disaster were shut down, which has led to an increase in the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.
According to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, nuclear power generation, which accounted for about 30% of the nation’s energy supply before the 2011 disaster, represented only 3% of the supply in 2017. Natural gas (39%) and coal (35%) account for more than 70% of the supply. In contrast, renewable energy represents only 16%.
A report by the Brookings Institution, a think-tank based in Washington D.C., kept track of SDGs-related coverage of the media between 2000 and 2016. They uncovered an interesting phenomenon: coverage of SDG issues by the US and European media has increased in years with UN conferences and events and decreased in years without such events. Meanwhile, media coverage has been continuously visible in developing nations such as India, South Africa and Nigeria.
The reason SDGs-related coverage remains in abundance in Japan and developing nations is clear: they view a plethora of global issues as “pressing crises” particularly affecting them.
- News media can play an important role in raising awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- 84 news organizations from around the world – including 11 from Japan – joined the SDG Media Compact.
- Japanese media sets the example in covering environmental topics and educating the public about the need for action on climate change.