The Centre for Investigative Journalism
The Centre for Investigative Journalism

What reporting climate change really means: Reflections from the Open Climate Reporting Initiative after two years, six regions and 53 countries

From April 2022 after months of scoping and ground work, the Open Climate Reporting Initiative (OCRI) of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, London (CIJ) took off with a pilot programme in Nepal. Two years after, OCRI has transferred tangible skills and knowledge by directly training 681 and reaching more than 4000 journalists, researchers, academics, activists/environmentalists, state, and civil society actors in 53 countries. After successfully working in Latin America (excluding Brazil), Anglophone Africa and Francophone Africa for the first implementing year (April 2022 to March 2023), OCRI forged collaborations in Brazil & Lusophone Africa, South Asia and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) for the second implementing year (April 2023 to March 2024).

We have compiled some OCRI tools and resources whether you want to learn how to report COP, are searching for reliable datasets on renewable energy projects, or you need guidance on the digital tools you can use to investigate climate change. Find them here.


Following the completion of Year Two and as we look ahead to build an OCRI-legacy in the next iteration, we are proud of the many outcomes that OCRI is recording across the world, and it is a testament of our approach in going beyond just the ‘what’ but understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘what next’ about reporting climate change.

For actors within the climate change ecosystem especially journalists and newsrooms, these reflections are practical lessons to take away and elements to take note of in reporting the subject matter.


  • The media and the use of investigative tools are crucial for real world actions towards the climate crisis: With 143 OCRI-supported stories published and more than 30 others tracked so far by OCRI-trainees, there continues to be a need to raise the standard of environmental investigations using relevant tools and techniques to tell public interest stories for evidence-based advocacy. However, beyond just publishing stories, we documented at the end of 2023 how this is leading to real world actions. Read here. The media and newsrooms play a massive role to inform, educate and hold power to account on climate change and considering journalists as first responders means investigative tools and techniques must be taught.
  • To hold power accountable, pay attention to the politics and governance of climate change: The climate change subject cuts across virtually all levels of international policy discussion and advocacy. As a science-based concept, journalists also need a foundational level of specialist knowledge to better understand the phenomenon globally and locally from a science, policy and politics perspective. From the structure of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to learning how to report the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) and to tracking Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)​ as well as commitments made by state actors; holding power to account requires knowing what structures exists, where to get the right information and how to use it.
  • Journalists need certain skills to establish and report the ‘why’ of climate change: The pattern of relevant skills journalists need are similar across the regions. Subjects like Data Journalism, Investigative Journalism Methods, Financial Investigations and Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) have reoccurred. However, working in South Asia and India specifically has also revealed fact-checking as a priority due to the prevalence of climate d/misinformation. It again gives credence to OCRI’s approach of ensuring region/country-specific issues are reflected prominently in the training based on proven needs. From myths around climate change denial to the discourses of delay and to the current trends of greenwashing, misinformation and disinformation on climate change is not only widespread but is also one of the major obstacles inhibiting progress in engaging audiences globally about the issue. The clip below by OCRI’s Indian partner DataLEADS says more and our resolution is clear – tackling climate change myths, disinformation and misinformation must be taken head on!
  • Besides reporting the ‘why’, the ‘what next’ must be identified: OCRI has helped journalists understand what climate change is and why it is happening. Beyond these two elements, it is also connecting the dots towards the ‘what next’. This is why paying attention to the governance framework of climate change mitigation is key. So, in putting forward renewable energy solutions for example, sub-themes like just energy transition and tracking renewable energy projects are important areas to pay attention to.
  • Both localised and cross-border reporting are two sides of the same coin: In the two years of OCRI, we adopted a cross-border approach for the first year and a more local/in-country delivery of training by OCRI partners in the second. Specifically, in year one, OCRI reached beneficiaries across multiple countries at the same time and widened the reach based on activities carried out with three OCRI-partners out of 10 training participants from a single country. In year two, seven out of our 10 partners held training sessions for participants from one country and it helped to deepen the OCRI footprint in the specific countries. Both approaches are essential in taking on the reportage of climate change.
  • Collaboration and a cross-sectoral approach is needed to break down the walls: The successes recorded on OCRI have been heavy on partnerships and collaborations. In two years, we have partnered with 20 organisations in the six regions who align with our mission and engage highly skilled experts on the different subjects. They have not only acted as trainers but also as mentors in post-training activities allowing for more impactful application of new skills. At least 190 trainers, mentors and experts have been engaged cutting across data & investigative journalism, law & litigation, energy, political science, research & policy analysis, climate justice, agriculture, and urban planning among many other fields. As the African proverb goes: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together!

  • Conflict and climate change is a double-edged catastrophe: Worthy of a special mention is our work in Sudan amid conflict. We opened conversations in March 2023 with NasActive Network before clashes between the army and the paramilitary in Khartoum escalated in April into what became a full blown conflict thereby slowing things down. It has led to the displacement of many residents including journalists and more hurdles to access information due to the limited access to official resources. The conflict and humanitarian crisis in Sudan made working in the country a very sensitive and complex one. However, the resilience and commitment of journalists to not only get trained but continue to do their work amidst the significant external challenges is commendable (see testimonial in Arabic from a few participants here). A needs assessment report for improving climate change and environmental reporting within conflicts was also done with 94% of the 100 survey respondents agreeing that conflicts have a detrimental influence on climate change and the environment in general.
  • Journalists are not backing down even in tough terrains: For obvious reasons, the constraints relating to press freedom and journalists safety is a threat to reporting climate change especially in cases of holding power accountable. We contended with digital security breaches in the Gulf, delays in securing Government authorisation in Egypt and constraints to the inclusion of female participants from rural and remote areas due to safety and security concerns in Pakistan. Irrespective of these challenges, journalists are standing up to do their jobs while we adopted various strategies to be sensitive to these situations thereby ensuring the safety and security of partners and beneficiaries is not jeopardised.
  • It’s not all ‘doom and gloom’: Gaining expertise in using a solutions journalism approach – which includes both adaptation and mitigation strategies – is necessary for reporting on climate change from another lens. Our partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2023 under the Climate Change in News Media (an OCRI spin-off intervention) went beyond regular news coverage. It strengthened the capacity of the media to hold powerful actors to account, use digital methodologies for news gathering and production, and practise solutions journalism to combat climate change. Working with the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), we developed an Evidence-based reporting on Climate Change Solution Journalism module that was delivered among others by Adisi-Cameroon for Francophone Africa and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) for Anglophone Africa. It emphasises how to use a constructive and ethical approach to report climate change effectively.

Published: 05 Apr 2024