Support for extreme weather mitigation and adaptation efforts in the Asia and Pacific region can only be achieved through effective communication of climate change issues.
As economies in Asia and the Pacific continue to grow, the region is fast becoming a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. There is an urgent need to build awareness of the devastating impact of climate change and mobilize a critical mass of people to support mitigation and adaptation efforts.
"Communication is key to making people aware of the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change now," says Oscar M. Lopez, head of a Philippine conglomerate that set up the OML Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management.
Communications professionals are increasingly taking stock of this issue, as the advertising, marketing, and public relations sectors acknowledge the fact that they are uniquely positioned to support campaigns that raise awareness of climate change issues and lead to behavioral changes in people.
"Even if a majority of Filipinos have personally felt the effects of climate change, most have done nothing to reduce it," says Secretary Lucille Sering of the Climate Change Commission in the Philippines. "And worse still, a portion of the population does not even know what climate change is."
Going critical in Asia and the Pacific
ADB is working to rally support for communicating climate change across Asia and the Pacific. In August 2013, the Philippines was the first country to host an ADB-supported seminar dedicated to building critical mass awareness of climate change. Thailand and Viet Nam are due to follow in the near future. This activity is part of Redraw the Line, a regional climate change awareness campaign supported by ADB and Sida, Sweden's development aid agency.
The seminar series is designed to engage the media, advertising, and entertainment industry, which are important partners in delivering the urgent message on climate change.
Spread the message
Social issue campaigns can have high impact by using media and advertising know-how. One example is the collaboration between Clean Air Asia and advertising agency BBDO Guerrero. As part of Clean Air Asia's rebranding, they came up with the "nose hair index" campaign to provoke discussion on and public action against air pollution.
Regina Reyes, head of integrated news and current affairs of broadcast network ABS-CBN, says Philippine media is by default already raising climate change awareness in the country through news reports of natural disasters.
"Even if a majority of Filipinos have personally felt the effects of climate change, most have done nothing to reduce it."
- Secretary Lucille Sering of the Climate Change Commission in the Philippines
However, stories on climate change have limited appeal to viewers, observes Voltaire Tupaz, reporter for news and social media site Rappler.com. He says the media must give a face to climate change to get the public's attention and suggests using citizen journalists to provide the layman's point of view.
Advertising can help support behavior change campaigns, such as the US-based No Impact Project, also endorsed by ADB, which encourages people to reduce their carbon emissions by reusing and recycling goods, taking a bicycle to work, etc.
High-profile companies that account for a major share of advertising sales have started to embrace environment sustainability through the campaigns that they support. For example, BDO Unibank, Inc., one of the largest banks in the Philippines, has helped raise funds for the environmental education and conservation programs of the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF).
The task is a mammoth one and the road long, but mobilizing a critical mass of people in support of extreme weather mitigation and adaptation efforts remains crucial to mankind's success in the fight against climate change.