„When nobody talks, knows or hears about it, you might as well not do it“
by Sven Egenter, GIZ/EUKI
Sven Egenter heads Clean Energy Wire (CLEW) as Editor in Chief and Executive Director. He covered the German, Swiss and British economies during his 12 years at Reuters. He taught journalism at Kingston University and holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a degree in economics from the University of Münster. At the EUKI Conference 20 and 21 September 2022 he spoke in one of the panel discussions about journalism and climate action.
What expectations did you have of the EUKI conference?
I wanted to meet a lot of engaged people who run really interesting and impactful projects across Europe. These expectations have been fulfilled. The other thing which keeps impressing me is that there is a sense of collaboration, working towards a shared goal and a sense of we can learn from and work with each other. That is a positive driving force and inspiring. It gives me hope that Europe as a continent can meet the goals it has set itself.
You are a longtime observer of climate communication. What kind of development do you see?
It is safe to say that in the last three, four years more has happened in terms of awareness and communication around climate change and the climate crisis. I would say even more than in the decades before. It is also clear that wherever you stand on this topic – unless you are a denier of the science – the progress has not been fast enough, still. I would highlight that thanks to the youth movement in Europe, in particular the Fridays for Future movement and the sort of groundwork that has been done in the years before by civil society, but also by engaged players in all levels of government, and fortunately also increasingly in businesses, we are now in a much better place when it comes to tackling the big challenges and making the moves that need to happen.
How important is communication for engagement in climate action and in particular for EUKI projects?
First of all, I think it is important to be aware that you can create great knowledge, great projects, or scientific research, establish facts and figures. But if nobody talks, knows, or hears about it, you might as well not do it. We are now living in an age where we need to move from knowledge to action. We know a lot about climate change and about the things we need to do, but somehow, we can’t get it into action. As diverse and challenging these actions might be, they need to happen much faster. So, communication obviously is key to getting support, getting policy makers to move, getting the people to rally around those ideas.
Regarding EUKI projects I am sure all of them have particular points where they can start talking to their stakeholders and to the public and the media in a way that gives them the resonance they need.
How important is local journalism?
The projects are largely part of the local community, and they should be in touch with this local community on all levels. It should include all stakeholders, the citizens, the local municipal government, and the local media. A lot of these stories also make good media stories. But on the other hand, you have to accept the role of journalism, which is not to cheerlead individual ideas, but to look at it, to find the relevance for their audience and to find the way to put it into context for their readership or viewer. Journalists don’t do PR work, it is different, which is important to highlight. For the democratic process we need critical and context-based journalism.