Media Matters’ Evlondo Cooper joins The Climate Conversation podcast to discuss a few issues national TV news should include in its COP28 coverage

“It's not just about policy — it's about the people affected by these policies. And you know, good coverage of a story like this can drive change, can empower viewers, and it can help viewers understand the gravity and immediacy of what's at stake."

Full Episode here.

On November 30, representatives from nearly 200 countries will gather in Dubai for COP28, the United Nations’ annual climate meeting. The “Conference of the Parties” invites nations “party to” the international treaty known as the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to negotiate goals and steps related to the mitigation of human-induced climate change. Per, all parties to the treaty “have committed to take voluntary actions to prevent ‘dangerous anthropogenic [human-caused] interference with the climate system.’”

The Climate Conversation (November 28, 2023)

The Climate Conversation
Audio file

Citation From the November 28, 2023 episode of EESI's The Climate Conversation

DAN BRESETTE (HOST, THE CLIMATE CONVERSATION) : … And one of the findings that we haven't talked to yet was about media coverage of COP27, which last year took place in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. And according to this analysis, coverage of the United Nations’ annual global climate change negotiations decreased from 11% in 2021 to 2% of all climate coverage in 2022. And, you know, just a few weeks away from going to Dubai for COP28. Do you have any theories or hypotheses about why broadcast coverage of COP27 was so low last year? And do you have any hope that news outlets will focus this year a little bit more of their coverage on the negotiations in Dubai?

EVLONDO COOPER (SENIOR RESEARCHER, MEDIA MATTERS): So COP26 received a lot of coverage because it was the first under Biden, and it was the Biden administration signaling a return of the United States to international climate talks. So expectations were high,  and, as a result, it received a little bit more media coverage than probably normal. Now, looking back at last year's COP, we suspect that the reason for scant coverage was just how these outlets perceived its importance, right? There were very complicated issues at play, very complicated negotiations, which, one thing national TV news doesn't really do well, unfortunately, is nuance and complexity. But they have the capacity for doing so, but they don't do it very well. And so it kind of boiled down to that they didn't think it was very important, and so they didn't cover it as much. You know, it's just another round of talks, it won’t be anything groundbreaking. But I think that was a very big misstep because those discussions had real world impacts that affected real people.

This year's COP, I hope they cover with a little more urgency because the stakes are very different. And viewers need to recognize this. There's the loss and damage fund. That's a significant development. And it's about putting actual resources into the hands of those who are bearing the brunt of climate change right now. It's a model for potential approaches to climate justice. And it could have a tangible impact on millions of people's lives, and I think that's one issue that deserves airtime.

There's also the issue of ongoing carbon bomb projects, right. And the UN even published a report about this. There's a huge disconnect between what countries are pledging to do and what they're actually doing, right. So despite all the talk about cutting emissions, these projects are moving full steam ahead, and that's a narrative that needs to be highlighted. People need to be aware of that, you know, there's a contrast and a conflict between what's being said in these conferences and what's actually happening on the ground, that we're deepening our reliance on fossil fuels at a time where we need to be rapidly transitioning away from them.

Another potential good angle to cover is: divisions among countries over the future of fossil fuels. There is legitimate debate right now with the various global conflicts we’re seeing, starting with Russia's war in Ukraine last year. Some countries are making a concerted push for renewables, while others are deepening their reliance on fossil fuels. And many don't have much of a plan or don't have the resources to actually make the transitions that they want to do. So this isn't just about political wrangling; it's about choices that are going to be made that will determine our planet's future. So I think — for this COP — I think it's extremely important, I think there are a lot of potential good informative news angles, and I think they have to step up and cover these issues in depth. Because it's not just about policy — it's about the people affected by these policies. And you know, good coverage of a story like this can drive change, can empower viewers, and it can help viewers understand the gravity and immediacy of what's at stake. So I hope they step up.

To see Media Matters’ full analysis of how broadcast networks covered climate change in 2022, click here.