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August 17, 2022

REPORT: Journalists Training Workshop on Africa-China Relations and the Climate Crisis, 27 July 2022

"There’s a need for us over the next couple of months to make sure that COP27 is not the COP that’s based in an African country, but that it is a COP that really acts as a platform for a conversation about climate, driven by Africa, bringing across African perspectives"

- Paula fray, ceo - fray college

The Africa-China Reporting Project, held in collaboration with China Dialogue; the Journalists Training Workshop on Africa-China Relations and the Climate Crisis. Earlier this year, within the collaboration with China Dialogue, the Africa-China Reporting Project awarded reporting grants to journalists to investigate issues related to the China-Africa relationship and the climate crisis to explore topics around:

  • Climate impacts, mitigation and adaptation
  • Energy access and energy transitions
  • Just transitions and the social aspects of development
  • Critical mineral mining, especially those related to the global energy transition
  • Low carbon transportation and electrification

It was from the call for reporting grants proposals that the purposeful need of this Workshop was realized; which is to provide further support and capacity building for journalists and professionals investigating, reporting and researching how China’s engagement in Africa is playing out on the ground and in the context of the climate crisis. See full workshop training video and individual session videos below.

Background

Increasingly, China is playing a major role in the development pathways of African countries via the provision of finance and expertise in infrastructure construction, industrial projects, and other areas of economic development. China is also engaging directly with African countries on climate action.

Last year’s 8th Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) issued, for the first time, a declaration on climate. China is also promoting the concept of a “green” Belt and Road Initiative, promising to end support for new overseas coal power plants and increase its support for renewable energy.  It has also issued guidance documents for Chinese companies to promote sustainability in their overseas investments.

In November this year (2022), the United Nations climate negotiations, widely billed as an ‘Africa COP’ will be held in Africa.  As African countries are already facing the impacts of climate change, and engaging in a lively conversation on low-carbon development pathways and adaptation, including calling for greater availability of finance, COP 27 presents an opportunity for a well-orchestrated and coordinated agenda on climate change, which lays out specific priorities and calls for support, can encourage Africans to speak with one voice. It can also strengthen the continent’s international presence and negotiating power, and ultimately help it to attain its climate goals, such as attracting additional climate finance, particularly for adaptation.

This is where the importance and effectiveness of the African Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan (2022–2032) which was endorsed in February 2022 at the AU Heads of State Summit can be tested.  The African Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan is the continent’s first collective climate response framework since 2014, when it was first drafted.

And so understanding what these plans, bodies, frameworks and agreements mean for Africa and its engagement with China is crucial particularly for journalists when investigating these relations as they inform the public.  The relevance and impact of this workshop has further been emphasized by the global reach and interest from participants. With registrations across the globe; from countries in Africa, North and South America, from China, the United States, and even as far as New Zealand.  A clear indication of the interest to close the knowledge gap within these issues.      

The panellists included:

  • Bongiwe Tutu (Africa-China Reporting Project, Project Coordinator), Introducing the purpose of the workshop and moderating
  • Ma Tianjie (China Dialogue, Beijing Editor), discussing Reporting the complexities of China, Africa and the climate crisis
  • Geraud Neema (Francophone Editor, China Global South Project) discussing Africa's position within the climate crisis
  • Li Shuo (Policy Advisor, Greenpeace East Asia) presenting the Overview and expectations of COP27
  • Paula Fray (CEO, Fray College) presenting training on Writing and pitching a good reporting proposal
  • Tom Baxter (Global China Editor at China Dialogue), presenting the Key discussion points and conclusions

WATCH: Full Workshop video below: Online Journalists Training on Africa-China Relations and the Climate Crisis

Reporting the complexities of China, Africa and the climate crisis by Ma Tianjie (China Dialogue, Beijing Editor)

Ma Tianjie presented the complexities of China, Africa and the climate crisis, exploring the new trends and shifting narratives which affect the complex dynamics. According to the Beijing Editor, China is undergoing tectonic shifts and changes which are essential to understand when reporting on China's economy. The Chinese economy is changing and not growing as fast as it should. It is provided that China is experiencing slow economic growth, which is impacting a plateauing energy demand and a more cautious overseas investment. Tianjie further presents China's shifted priorities, focusing more on development and developing economies, quality projects, and the environment and ecology, and presents the complexities of the three different layers of players in China, who shape policies and engagements that impact on China's relations, as it is a non-monolithic entity. The three layers are; Chinese central government; Chinese provincial and local government; and Chinese companies (state owned and private companies and central, provincially and locally owned companies). He provides that all the different entities have different incentives and shape China's overseas projects and behaviors. Recent examples of the complexities, such as President Xi Jinpin's announcement at the UN in September 2021, to halt the building of new coal power projects overseas. The meaning of the halt was received differently by several actors as to the details and implications of the announcement. Particularly as there were already existing coal power projects in operation, with others still under agreement phases. The fine details later emerged, after Central government policy makers scrambled to hash out policy details. The financial sector was the first mover and enforcer of the halt, and state-owned enterprises fell in line more quickly than private firms. Tianjie presents the complexities which remained with private companies particularly that were still invested in building coal power plants in parts of Africa. Further examples of the complex relations are presented such as the concept of the Green Belt and Road initiative which is in principle language, and the important role of journalists in reporting these stories, identifying loopholes and reporting the impacts on the ground, were presented and discussed.

Africa's position within the climate crisis by Geraud Neema (Francophone Editor, China Global South Project)

Geraud Neema presented the climate crisis in Africa and the role Africa is playing, and its relations with China within the energy transition. Despite that Africa has contributed less CO2 emissions than other entities in the world, notably the United States, Japan, China, and Europe, and accounts for less than 6% of global energy consumption and 2% of cumulative global emissions, Africa remains most vulnerable to the climate change and the energy transition. Africa is disproportionately experiencing the negative effects of climate change, including water stress, reduced food production, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and lower economic growth. Several countries in East Africa have been impacted by flooding, including; South Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda, DR Congo, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi. Climate change amplifies the instability in Africa, particularly in the Sahel, Sudan, Congo and Mozambique. Within the Africa energy crisis, the continent also has potential for renewable energies such as geothermal, wind and solar energy, furthermore within the mining resources of lithium and cobalt. Neema presents the opportunities that exist within each of the notable African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, DRC and South Africa. And the challenges which exist that inhibit several African countries from their potentials. The challenges include low funding and financing of renewable projects in Africa, lack of bankable projects, regulatory and policy barriers, poorly structured and packaged projects, an enabling environment and good governance. Neema further presents tips for reporting and resources for journalists when investigating and researching on these issues. The tips for journalists include; understanding China's global stance and position on climate change energy transition, understanding China's internal situation on climate change, understanding Africa's energy needs, challenges and opportunities in the energy transition, understanding the geopolitics of the energy transition, understanding the African and Chinese actors in the energy transition in Africa; technical and financial actors, and understanding China's energy financing and approaches.

Overview and expectations of COP27 by Li Shuo (Policy Advisor, Greenpeace East Asia)

Li Shuo presented the overview and expectations of COP27; the UN Climate Summit, which will be taking place in Egypt, Africa in November this year. That COP27 will be one of the most important international events within the climate discussions and climate diplomacy, particularly as it is taking place under African leadership. Shuo held that the most important thing when looking at the UN climate negotiations, it is important to understand that the negotiations are undergoing transitions in terms of ambitions and implementation; what countries should do within their climate targets. Increasingly, countries' domestic climate actions will be as important as the international negotiations. Furthermore, the COP27 will see a number of important issues to be addressed. According to Shuo, two pairs of imbalance have come as a result the previous climate summits. The first imbalance is that which lies between the issues of mitigation and adaptation; to reduce emissions versus how to adopt and respond to the impacts of climate change. The second imbalance is that which lies between ambition and climate finance. Shuo held that COP27 will address these two pairs of imbalance by advancing three important issues, namely; climate finance, climate adaptation, and loss and damage. Noting historical lessons from climate finance, Shuo refers to the largely unfulfilled promise by industrialized countries, who in 2009, pledged to provide at least US$ 100 billion to developing countries by 2020. And so it is the role of COP27 to urge countries to the fulfilment of their commitments. COP27 will thereby address the quantity and quality of climate finance; to better balance financing that goes into mitigation and adaptation; and to look at how we can strengthen and enhance the share of rights in international climate finance. The issue of climate adaptation has long been neglected versus that of mitigation. According to Shuo the issue of adaption is much more diffused, and difficult to attract finance, and highly regional or national specific. However, it can be hoped that the African COP can address these difficulties accordingly, as a key issue that will be discussed in COP27 is a future global goal for adaption. The third issue of loss and damage has been a highly political and politicized issue which is also gaining momentum, as it brings to question of the compensation for the climate crisis impacts to loss and damages, and if compensation should exist whether it should come from rich countries to vulnerable countries. Shuo further reflects on the politics around COP27, analyzing the tensions between the North and the South, EU-China engagements, the US's Build Back Better Bill, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Russia-Ukraine war. The Policy Advisor also presents what we can look forward to from China in the COP27 and its significant role.

Writing and pitching a good reporting proposal by Paula Fray (CEO, Fray College)

Paula Fray presented tools to writing and pitching a good reporting proposal, highlighting the art of a good proposal, getting the basics right, finding the stand out elements, avoiding common mistakes and pitching to the editor. She noted that writing a good proposal is like telling a good story; that it needs to have a targeted audience, be well researched, written logically, clearly presented and meet the deadlines. Furthermore, the proposal stages were highlighted from submissions it was emphasized that journalists read carefully the application requirements to submit. That the journalists remember that the information presented is wholistic and relevant, written for understanding and with context. That journalists needed to remember that proposals are reviewed by a panel which could be from various parts of the world. "The Africa-China Reporting Project requires reporting proposals submitted to be relevant and focused, and to be detailed and thorough", said Paula, adding that it is important to present clear proposal that are not 'cut and paste' but rather directly linked and focused to each specifications of a call for proposals. The importance of providing on-the-ground perspectives and human interest stories was also highlighted. Paula provided all practical insight and tools to writing an effective and impactful reporting proposal, and outlined the vast topics and story proposals with potential within climate reporting which remain untold. She said; "There’s a need for us over the next couple of months to make sure that COP27 is not the COP that’s based in an African country, but that it is a COP that really acts as a platform for a conversation about climate, driven by Africa, bringing across African perspectives".


The Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP) aims to improve the quality of reporting on African and Africa-China issues by providing facilitation and capacity building for journalists via reporting grants, skills training workshops and other opportunities. The ACRP facilitates journalists to investigate complex dynamics and uncover untold stories, with an emphasis on on-the-ground impact and perspectives to illustrate how the lives of the people of Africa are changing amid the comprehensive phenomenon of Africa-China interactions.

China Dialogue is a bilingual website covering China from diverse perspectives. China Dialogue is an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting a common understanding of, and constructive dialogue on China, its environmental challenges, and its growing role in the world.

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