Pakistan needs to channelise social media users to spearhead climate education: Experts-News

The experts at a seminar on Monday said the country’s growing footprint on social media platforms having a stron">

Pakistan needs to channelise social media users to spearhead climate education: Experts

The experts at a seminar on Monday said the country’s growing footprint on social media platforms having a strong influence and presence needed to be channelised for enhancing mass awareness on climate change education and awareness.

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) seminar titled “Tweet4Climate: Role of Social Media for Climate Advocacy in Pakistan” convened climate change experts, civil society, climate activists, private sector and media to discuss the pertinent issue.

Associate Research Fellow, SDPI Zainab Naeem moderated the session and elaborated the role of social media in highlighting climate crisis.

In his opening remarks, Executive Director of SDPI Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said the seminar was about the power of social media and the power of social to contain another power called climate change.

He added that in his view the two recognised were difficult to contain. One was climate change and the other was social media. He underlined that there were around 47 million Facebook accounts registered in Pakistan, around six million Twitter users and around 19 million Instagram users and there were many other similar platforms that needed to be considered.

“We have 50-60 million unique users which can be a powerful force for creating awareness on climate change, and reinforce accountability and transparency in implementing our policies and practices,” Dr Suleri said.

The SDPI Executive Director also underlined that there was also a challenge of fake news proliferation on social media where it was the role of the activists in debunking fake news.

He said, “Pakistan is a climate-vulnerable country and social media was a very powerful tool to strengthen public and private system. It can be used to condone wrong and propose alternative solutions.”

He also extended wholehearted support of the SDPI on social media use in terms of training, and content creation, adding, “We also require figure and facts to channelise our passions and SDPI will provide such data.”

Environmental Lawyer, Ahmad Rafay Alam, via zoom joined the seminar. He said the in-time updates on early warning were critical in recent disasters. At the 27th conference of the parties (COP-27) the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) presented a short video on climate shocks faced by the country in 2022 that mostly included visuals from social media.

He said Pakistan was among the world’s only countries to have Climate Change Act that proposed a Climate Change Council and an Authority but the Council had only met once since its creation in September 2022 before COP-27.

Executive Director Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), Asad Baig said social media was not a power but rather a challenge to be dealt with. “We are talking about massive information coming from corporations funding 0.7% posts on climate in 2015. The number one corporations like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are to be taken to account for misinformation. Twitter had banned tweets on climate that were wrong. The Google on YouTube banned ads (15 posts) leading to climate misinformation. Can these companies be held accountable for climate misinformation?,” he said while putting a serious question before the audience.

Lecturer Governance and Public Policy at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Sidra Riaz informed the participants that she started her journey of climate activism by creating student activities on climate issues.

She noted that most of the mainstream electronic and print media was not reporting June 2022 floods whereas the reporting commenced post-disaster in September, 2022.

“I started searching international media reports who have been reporting on floods in Pakistan and reported ground situation of flood-affected areas. I made posts on Canva highlighting different districts starting from Balochistan and then Sindh. It got viral and was shared by many politicians. I used to highlight causalities, donation solutions to help that area. I and my team worked on different posts,” she added.

Riaz informed that she got a lot of opportunities after that as it gave her an opportunity to raise her voice on the issue and the world known Forbes magazine approached her.

“Many news channels invited me to speak on different aspects of flood devastation. Social Media gave me this power, whereas my focus was not sharing disastrous content rather information and tackling misinformation was a major challenge,” she said.

“Youth needs to know about climate change and why Pakistan is facing it’s impacts. Lack of youth’s knowledge on climate change needs to be addressed, as advocacy is not possible without interest and knowledge. It is important because it’s impacting your country and your people,” Lecturer Sidra Riaz said.

Zainab Waheed, a climate activist said the youth faced disparity as youngsters when the average Parliamentarian age was 53. She called for incorporating more younger voices in the stakeholder process of addressing climate change.

“Social media is a very powerful tool and misinformation is a serious issue but there is need to address the root cause of misinformation as its beneficiaries are the fossil fuel industries and the global north,” she added.

She said there was a huge difference in international and Pakistani media perspectives on climate discussions which should be addressed.