Minister urges media to step up climate coverage with 'future of planet on the line'

Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, says it is imperative that pressing environmental challenges be put in the spotlight

Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, speaks during the Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National
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An Emirati minister has called on the media to ensure climate change is at the top of the news agenda, as she warned the “future of the planet” was on the line.

Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, said the pressing environmental challenges facing the globe should be the “most critical story every single day”.

Ms Al Mazrui delivered the message during her keynote address at the inaugural Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi.

More than 1,200 media industry experts, influencers and investors have gathered for the three-day event, held at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

“How can we talk about the future of the media if the future of the planet is on the line? And we are not bold enough to feature it as the most critical story every single day?” the minister asked.

Although reporters from around the world have descended on Egypt for the Cop27 summit, there have been concerns the climate crisis has been overshadowed by other global stories such as the war in Ukraine and even Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter.

She said media outlets wield a huge influence over society — particularly young people — and they should use their significant reach wisely.

Many youths are shaped more by the news they consume than by their teachers, peers or parents, she added.

“I want to be able to trust that you will all make decisions in their best interests, as well as the best interests of the three billion young people under the age of 30 living today,” she said.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Co-existence, urged the media to champion diversity and inclusion in an address on Wednesday.

“The media must highlight how diversity is a source of strength for societies, and help combat misinformation and fake news that breed narrow-mindedness,” said Sheikh Nahyan.

“In essence, media professionals and companies must be role models in diversity and honesty because an honest and transparent media is the only real way to shape social awareness and inclusion.”

Exploring the metaverse

The rise of the metaverse and Web 3 — the third generation of the World Wide Web — and their importance to the media landscape were also under discussion at the conference.

A booth giving visitors a “vision of the metaverse” was set up by Dubai Media Incorporated — the media arm of the emirate's government — to offer a glimpse into a virtual world.

Visitors slipped on virtual reality headsets to experience Dubai Media's presence in the emerging metaverse.

The metaverse is envisaged as a new online world where people use 3D avatars to go to concerts, work, socialise and gain access to a range of services.

“This is the future — I can see it,” Masoon Al Riyani, an Emirati student, told The National after stepping into the booth.

Khaled Al Rayhi, the content manager who created the presentation, was keen to allow people to experience a concept that still remains a mystery to many.

“Imagine video games. And add Zoom to it. That is metaverse in a nutshell,” he said.

“Everybody is talking about it. But no one knows what it is.”

He said he had developed three scenarios — a video game, a short video and a news show — in the metaverse to give visitors an idea of how it can be used and how people can interact.

Sofie Hvitved, a futurist and senior adviser at the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies, said the metaverse was on its way but has not yet been fully realised.

“In my opinion, the metaverse is not really here yet. We are only seeing the smallest steps that are moving towards what the metaverse will be,” she said.

“Metaverse is much more than Meta. It is much more than one technology like VR [virtual reality]. It is a whole new direction we are taking.

“By 2030, it's entirely possible that more than 50 per cent of live events could be held in the metaverse. I find that very interesting.”

Updated: November 16, 2022, 5:03 PM