These are the projects and stories on environmental justice, energy transition, conferences and historical processes that made this year a very special one.
Journalism plays a fundamental role for knowledge dissemination, democracy and climate action, especially in developing countries that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental and climate crises.
In 2022 we supported 54 journalists across Latin America through our mentoring and training programs that focussed on issues ranging from the energy transition, agroecology, regional elections, the Escazu agreement and Chilean constitutional reform.
In many media schools, courses on environmental issues and its reporting are excluded or underrepresented.
To fill these gaps, our mentoring programs combine individual and group training sessions to support fellows in their coverage. We also engage them with detailed editing processes and knowledge-building sessions led by prominent speakers where we review scientific evidence, sources of information and tools for journalists with an emphasis on human rights, gender, and indigenous communities. We also encourage fellows to experiment with other formats and platforms, such as newsletters, podcasts, and social media broadcasts.
In 2022, we supported mentoring programs around energy transition, the Escazú Agreement, Chile’s constituent process and COP27, where we supported communicators to develop and strengthen their professional careers.
2021 saw the first environmental treaty of Latin America and the Caribbean—the Escazú Agreement. This March, as the first Conference of Parties (COP) was being convened under the Agreement, we brought together 13 journalists from Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Bolivia.
We prepared thematic sessions for journalists to understand the scope of the Escazú Agreement, the conflicts that affect Latin America, and the tools helpful to cover such Conference Of Parties. In addition, we created a WhatsApp group to share quick information and resolve doubts during the conference. For Doménica Montaño, a fellow from Ecuador, the 12 weeks of the project were “very valuable with a lot of learning. The workshops were very important to guide us in our coverage of COP1”.
In all, our fellows published 48 journalistic pieces, explaining what the Escazú Agreement implies for the countries considered “most dangerous” for environmental defenders, such as Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. In addition, they addressed how the Treaty was already generating positive impacts, while also interviewing the COP president for a final assessment of the COP.
“I really liked the way we shared information in the WhatsApp group and the support that our mentors provided. I like the fact that our mentors stimulated collective work, instead of competition. It was a delight to see the reach, impact, and dissemination of my publications which were replicated on television and in other print media, putting Escazú on the map,” said Azul Cordo from Uruguay.
For Tania Chacón from Mexico, the process was “100% learning. Not only about the Agreement, but also about how to cover an international and regional summit. It was also an inspiring experience, and an encouragement to continue doing environmental and climate journalism, and not to drop the issue of the Escazú Agreement.”
Constitutional process in Chile
In May, we launched the second version of the program to cover the historic constitutional process in Chile, bringing together five journalists who published 16 articles in 13 media outlets.
For Natalia Messer, it was “a very well-structured program, which provided the necessary knowledge to carry out in-depth coverage of the climate crisis.” She also adds that the mentoring “was very rigorous, which without influencing us too much, helped to clarify important concepts in the coverage of the constitutional process.”
Journalists also experimented with new formats, participating in Instagram Live sessions and the “Factor Constituyente” podcast. In addition, some fellows did not work in the press, but during our program they started publishing in new media, with the facilitation of Climate Tracker.
“These were months of constant learning, of going out of the comfort zone, and learning about a historical process and a crucial topic such as the environment. I would describe it as a great opportunity for personal and professional growth,” said Camila González, who added that “I am motivated to learn more about environmental journalism and I hope to continue contributing to it.”
Just energy transition
Despite its relevance, the energy transition has been poorly communicated in the region, according to our media analysis. With an aim to cover this gap, we started a Climate Journalism Mentorship Program, exclusive for Latin America, where we brought together 6 journalists in two periods. With them, we approached the energy transition from different angles, while using various journalistic resources and tools.
“I gained access to digital tools to investigate climate change and learn new concepts that will be useful in future coverage. In addition, the mentors shared topics that I was not aware of earlier, so it helped to enrich my research” said Alma Xochitl Zamora, an indigenous journalist from Mexico.
Camila Parodi, our fellow from Argentina, shared her experience. “We delved into the most common mistakes we make when reporting on issues related to the climate crisis and energy transition, giving us the opportunity to improve upon them” she said.
In fact, the first team of journalists covering Just Energy Transitions published 9 stories, covering lithium paradoxes in Argentina; indigenous youth stopping mining expansion; wind farms affecting indigenous communities in Colombia and Mexico; fracking; and eco-neighbourhoods seeking to adapt to climate change.
“I am very happy with the program and the chance I got to amplify the voices of communities that belong to the territory I live in. The first article had a lot of impact at the local level and was highly valued by the community to make their voices visible,” said Parodi.
The second group of fellows which will wind up in January 2023, have also published shocking stories, such as the “sacrifice zones” calling for decarbonisation in Chile; the constant oil spills in Peru; and the satellites that revealed huge methane leaks from companies in Mexico, exposing gaps in government reporting. The methane leaks had not been reported in the country’s traditional media but, after this groundbreaking article, it was widely reported by Pie de Página and dozens of other media outlets.
In addition, the work of our fellows and collaborators has been republished more than 120 times in more than thirty media outlets throughout the region.
In October, we launched the #COP27Latam Special, where 5 journalists detailed the climate commitments of Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and the Dominican Republic ahead of COP27.
Then, we gathered 6 journalists from the region to cover COP27 in person and virtually, with constant training ,sessions on science, negotiations and climate commitments,and WhatsApp groups to share updates.
They published 34 stories – including articles and TikTok videos– in which they explained with Taylor Swift songs what was at stake at COP27, the different Latin American coalitions, the developments around loss and damages, the “Lulapalooza“, the fierce oil lobby, and the demands of indigenous communities.
This was not easy, as many Latin American media do not consider covering the COP essential. “I dare say that I was one of the few who covered the COP,” said Camila Albuja, fellow from Ecuador, who informed about the conference on TikTok to reach younger people who are not usually informed about such events through traditional media.
For Maximiliano Manzoni, who covered the event in person, the fellowship was intense. “It changed the course of my journalism career,” he says. “The amount of knowledge introduced in my reporting opened up a whole new field and challenges on how to bring climate negotiations closer to the general public and the audiences I work with.”