21 Dec 2022, 10:25
  • Milou
    Milou Dirkx is Journalism Network Manager at Clean Energy Wire. She is the first point of contact for the members of the CLEW Journalism Network, and develops events and other opportunities for climate and energy reporters to engage.

From soil to the sea: CLEW’s grant winners go cross-border in covering company climate claims

With corporate net zero targets and climate neutrality claims popping up left and right, there is a multitude of important stories on company climate claims that journalists can dig into. That is why Clean Energy Wire encouraged journalists worldwide to collaborate and enter cross-border pitches to look into international supply chains, corporate promises and carbon offsets. We are proud to present our three winners.

Deep-sea mining, methane reduction pledges and soil carbon credits: Our winning teams truly showed how important a cross-border and international lens is when examining company climate pledges. Read about their plans and pitches below, and stay tuned for 2023 when their stories will be published.

The three winning teams were selected by a jury consisting of eminent journalists Kwangyin Liu, Ugochi Anyaka-Oluigbo and Catherine Boudreau.

Going green at blue cost: The race to mine the deep ocean

By Gabriela Ramírez and Patrick Egwu

The Metals Company (TMC), a Vancouver-based deep-sea mineral exploration company, has received permission from the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to test its machines in the Pacific Ocean for the first time since 1970. The company wants to collect battery metals from the seabed with claims of enabling the transition to electric vehicles with a "lighter planetary touch". Critics fear that this will only tear down the last untouched corner of the environment for the benefit of rich countries.

Journalists Gabriela Ramírez and Patrick Egwu will do a deep dive into the risks of deep-sea mining, what a transition means for the ecosystem and miner communities, and who gets to profit.

The jury was impressed by this pitch, which looks at the lesser-known implications of “going green”, and noted that it is a clear example of a story that warrants an international angle.

Are methane pledges a shell game?

By Michael Buchsbaum, Fermín Koop and Samuel Ajala

One of the world's five largest oil and gas companies, Shell plc, is publicly taking a leading role in international initiatives to reduce hazardous methane emissions. Shell has announced the goal of reducing its emissions intensity to below 0.2% by 2025 by working to identify leaks, deploy new technologies and track reduction measures, but what independent evidence is there that Shell is making progress? Despite efforts to curb them, global methane emissions are rising by at least 0.5% a year, according to the United Nations. With the global oil and gas sector accounting for about 30% of total emissions, Shell, which is responsible for much of these emissions, is under legal pressure to reduce them rapidly.

With fracking, conventional production and liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipping on the rise, journalists Michael Buchsbaum, Fermín Koop and Samuel Ajala will examine what evidence there is that Shell is making progress, as advertised, to actually reduce primary methane emissions in several of its key operating regions.

The jury felt that this pitch well reflected the objective of the grant’s call by exploring the activities and promises of a large fossil fuel company in different regions.

Climate neutrality goals are promoting new forms of extraction. Now big data is getting involved

By Isabel Sutton and Ankita Anand

Soil carbon farming is the “latest solution” for achieving climate neutrality: it involves the generation of carbon credits by restoring carbon in agricultural soils. This may sound like a good thing but, on closer inspection, raises some concerning questions. Last year Yara, one of the world’s largest fertiliser companies, joined forces with car maker Chevron in putting 4 million dollars into a new soil carbon farming programme: Boomitra. The scheme has enlisted hundreds of farmers in India to regenerate the soil on their farms using methods contractually enforced by the company. Boomitra harvests data about the soil and sells it to seed companies who can then target farmers with customised products. Yara and Chevron earn and sell carbon credits if soil carbon storage is improved. IT giants like Microsoft are getting involved. The U.S., Australia, the EU and India are creating the legislation to support soil carbon credits. But what does all this mean for farmers in the global south? Isn’t this yet another way for international companies to take control of our food sources and even the earth itself?

The market for carbon credits has come under scrutiny. Journalists Isabel Sutton and Ankita Anand will cover soil carbon farming programmes and the involvement and potential gains of several big companies.

All the judges agreed that this was an excellent pitch, one which reminded them of previous media reporting on agricultural giant Monsanto.

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