Latin American Climate Issues Need Increased Coverage

Last 26th September was the deadline for the Escazú Agreement to enter into force. But it didn’t. The treaty, unprecedented in the world as it seeks guarantees of information, participation, and access to justice for environmental leaders, does not yet have the 11 signatures it needs to take effect. It seemed easy (only 11 of 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are needed), but it was not.

Only one signature is left and many countries can join still. But it is sad to see the resistance of governments to improve the standards of transparency and democracy in the region.

Latin America leads year after year the list of murdered environmental defenders of Global Witness. In 2018, more than half of the 164 murders were in this region.

Escazú is an emergency.

We know this by looking at Tierra de Resistentes, a project that uncovered 2,367 attacks and episodes of violence against environmental defenders in Latin America in the last decade. Only 12% of these attacks have convictions in court.

These are numbers that hurt. But we know them, we have them in sight, we can show them to the public and to authorities. And we have them thanks to good collaborative journalism: Tierra de Resistentes is an unprecedented exercise in the region: they brought together 35 journalists from seven countries to investigate the situation of environmental defenders.

Our countries are so different and our stories are so common, that exercises like that should push us all to follow the same path. Because this region of extractions (legal and illegal), of armed groups, drug trafficking, inequalities, ancestral knowledge, imposing mountains, and wonderful foods requires it.

It requires works such as Mongabay, showing that violence and threats did not go into COVID lockdown; such as Anfibia, speaking of this interconnected planet in which we live, where the “flying rivers” of the Amazon affects Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and the glaciers of the Bolivian Andes.

Understanding that the destruction of the Amazon affects us all and the political and diplomatic urgency of it is what good climate journalism achieves.

That has been one of our work motivations during the last two years. We support journalists telling how mega-mining is the industry that consumes the most energy in Chile and Peru, in a debate with no easy solution: we need copper and lithium for the energy transition, but the communities do not want more extractions.

We accompanied two incredible journalists to Vaca Muerta, a mega fossil project in southern Argentina that can change the energy landscape of the region. We now know a little more about the drama of living next to fracking, on how fossil fuels and gender violence interconnects, about that pear capital turned into a sacrifice zone and which countries support fracking in the region.

Did you know that in Argentina they consume Chilean avocados and in Chile Peruvian avocados because the production is destined mainly for China and Europe? It is the pattern of our food, prepared to travel thousands of kilometers consuming tons of fuels that generate CO2 emissions.

We’ve wanted to continue this journey of collaborative climate journalism in the last months. In just a few more weeks, we will have four incredible articles showing the main food challenges in Bolivia, as result of our Sustainable Diets project with Hivos. And by November we will have 10 amazing articles on energy transition in Chile, thanks to the support of FES.

Climate Tracker online workshop for Chilean journalists

We are working on stories of the climate crisis, but stories that do not escape the harsh social and political contexts of both countries: One with a transitory government and elections that never seemed to come, the other with an unprecedented constitutional process on the way. And Covid pandemic in the middle.

Like that, there are many more stories to tell. Stories to be amazed and outraged. That is our goal: more and better climate journalism in Latin America.

Francisco Parra
Climate Tracker's Latin America Programmes Manager. After covering 3 COP’s he’s now passionate about sharing his experience with journalists from across Latin America. Passionate drinker of Fernet and Terramotos. Working from Chile. Also speaks Spanish.