Journalists “vital” to holding world leaders to account on climate change, says Alok Sharma MP

Posted on: May 11, 2022 by Claire Meadows

Journalists are “vital” to holding world leaders to account on climate change, the COP26 President told delegates at the Society of Editors conference today.

Delivering the keynote address at the Society’s Future of News conference on Wednesday 11 May 2022 at Mary Ward House, Sharma said that while journalistic attention had rightly focused recently on the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, journalists are “vital to ensuring [climate change] receives the column inches and airtime it deserves”.

Detailing the pledges made at the COP26 2021 Glasgow summit including a commitment by countries to revisiting and strengthening their 2030 emissions reduction targets and an agreement to phasedown coal power and phase out fossil fuel subsidies, Sharma, also Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, urged the British media to use its “international clout” to hold governments to account on their commitments.  

He said: “Our task now is to deliver and to achieve that, we need you to do what you do best, and hold governments and businesses to account.  The British media has significant international clout. Editorials written here are read with keen interest in capitals around the globe. You help focus the eyes of the world on those in positions of responsibility, to scrutinise whether or not they deliver on their commitments. And if they do not, you have the tools to hold them to account.”

Calling on journalists to also help audiences understand the reality of climate impacts and “make informed choices”, he predicted that the threat of climate change would be the “biggest story of the twenty-first century”.  

He added: “I believe that the chronic threat of climate change, and its expansive impact, will increasingly be the biggest story of the twenty-first century. I would argue it will ultimately be the biggest story in many of our lifetimes. 

“We need you to tell it. And we need you to shape it. By continuing to do what you do best. Speak truth to power. Report on the reality of the world around us. These are the finest qualities of the British press.” 

Considered a major highlight of the industry calendar, the Society’s first in-person conference since 2019 took place on Wednesday 11 May 2022 at Mary Ward House in London. Topics included coverage of the war in Ukraine, engaging new audiences on social platforms, the next steps for industry inclusion and diversity and the future for Making News Pay. Speakers for the conference included Alison Phillips, Editor at the Daily Mirror, BBC Digital Director Naja Nielsen, Jonathan Levy, Director of Newsgathering and Operations at Sky News, Simon Robinson, Reuters Global Managing Editor and BBC News presenter Ros Atkins

The Society’s campaigning work on behalf of press freedom is made possible thanks to the support of Camelot, Cision and Google.

Coverage of the conference can be found at and via @EditorsUK.