Keep it in the Ground: One Newspaper’s Campaign to Highlight Climate Change

Keep it in the Ground: One Newspaper’s Campaign to Highlight Climate Change

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Discover @guardian's award-winning campaign which puts media spotlight on #climatechange via @GRI_Secretariat #COP21

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With the word’s hopes on Paris this week and the start of the 21st annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP21), we spoke to Nabeelah Shabbir, Journalist at the Guardian, to find out about their award-winning campaign (accolades include the British Journalism Award for Cmpaign of the Year 2015) which brings climate change into firm focus.

Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 1:00pm

CAMPAIGN: Beyond Carbon, Beyond Reports

CONTENT: Article

Why was the ‘Keep it in the ground’ campaign created and what does it entail?
Around Christmas 2014, the outgoing Editor in Chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, was mulling over what regrets he had in 20 years of running the newspaper. Very few – except for coverage of climate change. And that was not to criticize the Guardian's work itself – we have always had a huge desk of environment editors, reporters, correspondents around the world. It was more a reflection on journalism, and how it has failed when it comes to talking about climate change. It's like a rear-view mirror, Rusbridger reasoned, and found it very hard to talk about a phenomenon happening right in front of our eyes, so slowly. I don't think the decision to spend his last few months as editor doing campaigning journalism was an easy decision, but I think it's the conclusion Rusbridger came to: the climate change threat is central to everything.

And so we went about crafting our journalism, in investigations, campaigning, multimedia, across all desks at the Guardian, in a very focused way. We teamed up with to launch a petition asking the world's two largest philanthropic organisations, Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation, to take their investments out of fossil fuels. The Guardian News and Media group itself took the decision to divest its own funds. We investigated oil and gas companies – the six dirtiest at least – and we asked Britain's poet laureate to curate the best of climate change poetry for us – actors such as James Franco, Maxine Peake and Jeremy Irons later did readings for us. We investigated 'carbon bombs' around the world in interactive format. We even released merchandise around #keepitintheground and we keep in touch with all interested readers. We ran an entire podcast dedicated to climate change, divestment, and the Guardian's role in it. It's called the Biggest Story in the World.

What do you hope will be achieved/agreed at COP21?
There will be a deal – weak, strong, we don't know, but for us it is important to know at what cost, especially for the countries where 'development' is a bigger key word than 'environment'. We'll be figuring that out this week.

In a recent article you mention the ‘stratospheric growth of the fossil fuel divestment movement’. Could you expand on that for us? If the money is being taking out of fossil fuels, where is it going?
I put this question to a business journalist colleague, who said the divest/invest option is certainly an option but not a popular one, as it simply doesn't pay dividends. The Guardian will also be divesting and has said it would be willing to reinvest in renewables. The more popular option most likely involves spreading reinvested funds widely among non-fossil fuel stocks.

Over 400 institutions have divested worldwide, as well as actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, cities, like San Francisco, and sovereign wealth funds, like Norway. There is real movement. We noticed other newspapers like the Financial Times giving more awareness to the theme, when previously they were openly skeptical.

To roll into #COP21 we decided to launch the next phase of the campaign – with a positive view on renewable energy, and what the world can do and achieve. My personal opinion is that the forums matter, the moral argument matters, and so even if divestment is a 'minority sport' as a colleague said, the implications surrounding it may be infectious – wanting to change our world for the better.

CATEGORY: Environment