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Jay Gunning
PartnerDefend the Planet

Delta Flights Help to Protect Forests and Empower Women in Guatemala


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Carbon offset programs allow governments, companies, and individuals to minimize their environmental impact. The United Nations Global Goal 13 for climate action urges countries to offset their emissions on their way to achieving zero emissions in the years ahead. You can join us in taking action to help protect the environment here

The Guatemalan Caribbean coast is a lush, forested area, home to nearly 7% of the world’s known bird species, rare amphibians, and endangered mammals.

It’s also the site of the Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project, a coalition of nonprofit, corporate, and community actors such as nonprofit Fundaeco. The partnership works to protect the wildlife of the region, empower women and indigenous communities, fund sustainable forms of agriculture and tourism, and reduce carbon emissions. This holistic, community-focused conservation project is becoming an increasingly common model around the world. 

And this particular effort is being funded in part by the flights you take.

In March 2020, Delta Air Lines committed to becoming a carbon neutral airline. This means finding ways to address all the carbon dioxide emissions from its business. And currently, one of the ways to do that is via the purchase of carbon offsets through organizations like the Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project, which also works to protect forests that help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project

Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project
Jay Gunning

Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project

Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project
Jay Gunning

Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project

Guatemalan Conservation Coast Project
Jay Gunning

Carbon offsetting programs generally take three common paths: nature-based solutions like forest conservation, renewable energy investment, and community development, such as improving cook stoves.

Investment in these projects can pay dividends into the future as opposed to simply offsetting emissions from a given flight. These programs invest in things that will remove carbon and other emissions from the air over time, but the only way they can work is if they’re indefinitely maintained, otherwise the emissions will just be released back into the atmosphere. In this way, carbon offset programs act as a sort of down payment on the future by conserving land and marine habitats.  

The aviation industry is responsible for around 2.4% of global emissions, which means that if the industry were a country, it would rank sixth in the world for emissions, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. The future of the industry depends in part on its ability to become more sustainable. Delta, for its part, has repeatedly acknowledged the threat of climate change and vowed to be a leader in creating a more sustainable future for the aviation industry. 

Related Stories April 27, 2020 Carbon Offsetting: What You Need to Know and How You Can Get Involved

"There is no substitute for the power that travel has to connect people, which our world needs today more than ever before. As we connect customers around the globe, it is our responsibility to deliver on our promise to bring people together and ensure the utmost care for our environment,” Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, said in a statement

In Guatemala, the offset program along the country’s Caribbean coast has had impressive results to date. 

According to Ecosphere+, which helps to oversee the program, an estimated 644 local people, 26% of whom are women, have been supported through job creation, and 1,131 families have been able to access reproductive health services. By 2022, the program aims to generate 6.1 million tons of offsets, reforest more than 2,406 hectares of forest, and help provide additional protections for 30 endangered species.

The program has also funded seven sustainable businesses, allowing local people to cultivate agricultural commodities such as cardamom, xate (jungle leaf), pepper, rambutan, lychee, and cinnamon in more sustainable ways. 

Related Stories May 14, 2020 These Communities Are Fighting Poverty and Protecting Forests Amid COVID-19

But the project can also be measured by the potential unlocked in each impacted person. 

For Nohemí Salam, a 22-year-old member of the mayan indigenous group Q'eqchi in the Plan Grande Tatin community, the funding has helped her continue her education and given her new hope for the future.

“I want to continue studying and also own my own businesses to create opportunities for others and help them finish their studies,” she said.

GCxDelta_Guatemala_Jay_Gunning-02224.jpgImage: Jay Gunning