For many years now, the Earth Journalism Network has elected to purchase carbon offsets to reduce the impact of necessary staff travel, such as the international flights required for our fellowship programs to international conferences or to in-person workshops.
In early 2021, on the heels of discussions about our internal environmental policy and values with our parent organization, Internews made the decision to offset travel organization-wide for the first time.
Carbon offsets are reductions in emissions or increases in carbon storage that are used to compensate for emissions that occur elsewhere. They can be produced through multiple activities, including renewable energy development that reduces the need for fossil fuels, the capture of methane or other greenhouse gases, or the prevention of deforestation, since forests act as a carbon sink.
Such projects often provide many other benefits for nearby communities, including improved air and water quality, biodiversity conservation, livelihood support, increased access to health care and education and more.
These projects are certified by governments or independent entities to ensure the offsets represent a designated amount of carbon emissions, and once purchased, offsets can be “retired,” meaning they cannot be purchased by anyone else. Organizations, companies and individuals can purchase offsets to help ensure their staff or personal travel, electricity usage or other operations produce net zero emissions.
In service of this goal, Internews began a partnership with Sustainable Travel International, a United States-based offsets provider that seeks to protect and conserve the planet by providing opportunities to reduce the impact of travel on the environment. Through them, we offset more than 2,800 metric tons of carbon in 2021, representing staff international travel between 2018 and 2020.
STI uses the money provided by organizations like Internews to invest in community groups and organizations with certified carbon offset projects around the world. To ensure we are selecting projects that match our values, Internews carefully reviews and verifies the organizations and entities we select. When possible, we aim to support projects in regions and communities where we regularly work.
Last year, we supported three projects across the Brazilian Amazon led by Grupo Jari, an organization in the Amapá and Pará states of Brazil. These projects support sustainable forest management, curb deforestation, provide technical and livelihood assistance to local communities, fund biodiversity research and more.
Now, in 2022, we have worked with STI again to offset 300 metric tons of carbon emissions, representing the amount produced by the company’s air travel for the previous calendar year.
This year, our offset is supporting the Trocano Araretama Conservation Project, also located in Brazil. The project’s main objectives include the protection of 1.3 million hectares of rainforest at risk of deforestation – an investment in the forest’s role as a carbon sink and as a habitat for biodiversity. The project works closely with local communities and provides clean drinking water for residents.
At EJN, we recognize that offsets are not always an ideal solution. Carbon offsets can be difficult to measure and verify, and can allow companies to displace their responsibility to the planet onto other countries and organizations. They can also physically displace impacts – while the communities with carbon offset projects may benefit from improved air and water quality, the pollution and environmental degradation created by fossil fuel producers in offset buyers’ home locations can remain unchallenged.
We also recognize that carbon offsets aren’t a primary solution for climate change mitigation or a substitute for more robust climate action, and that the world’s governments and corporations will need to do much more to cut emissions if the world is to avoid catastrophic change.
Our organizational priority will remain the reduction of emissions before they are produced, when possible. However, we have made the choice to invest in offsets because they do enable EJN and Internews to implement important programs supporting journalists and media worldwide while also acknowledging – and attempting to mitigate – our impact on the planet.
“Internews is committed to reducing our carbon footprint,” said Myles Smith, Internews’ Vice President for Strategy, Planning and Budgeting. “We will continue to purchase carbon offsets yearly as a matter of organization-wide policy and will continually evaluate our environmental practices to align them with our mission and values.”
Internews staff are also working to develop a methodology to offset more than our flights, and to account for the emissions generated by core business functions, such as office electricity and commutes, in the support we give to carbon offset projects.
Banner image: The Amazon rainforest in Amazonas, Brazil / Credit: Nathalia Segato via Unsplash.