21.03.2018  |  Klima, miljø og energi

Re)planting trees in Panama

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With its CO2ZERO compensation service, KLM offers passengers the opportunity to fly CO2 neutral. By doing so, they contribute to KLM’s new CO2ZERO project, a reforestation initiative in Panama named CO2OL Tropical Mix. Remona van der Zon, Sustainability & Reporting Manager visited the project.

How did you end up going to Panama?
I was doing an internship at KLM for my master thesis in Sustainable Development, a relatively new master programme at the University of Utrecht. My goal was to find a new CO2ZERO project for KLM that would fit the goals of the service and hold a Gold Standard certificate. This means that a project has to have a positive influence on the environment, but also make a positive contribution to the local community. There are not that many reforestation projects in the world with a Gold Standard

certification but this project in Panama did. So, as part of my research, I decided to go there and see if the project would be suitable for KLM’s CO2ZERO service.

What did you do there?
I travelled around the country for 3,5 weeks to visit four provinces in which the reforestation project is situated. I interviewed local workers about the project’s environmental impact, the working conditions and what it meant to them personally. People were very eager to cooperate, even though they were hesitant to state their true opinions at first.

What were your main findings?
All in all, the outcome was very hopeful and positive. In just a few years’ time, they were able to turn large former pastures into new forests with diverse eco-systems. That’s important, because the aim is not just to plant one type of tree, but to create mixed forests with a rich and diverse biodiversity. Plus, people working in the project were able to improve their living conditions by having a steady income and enhance their skills and knowledge.

It’s important to invest in local knowledge by educating people on sustainability, ecological alternatives and the importance of higher education for generations to come. In total, I visited 12 different locations, and in every single place the people were positive about their role and the change the project had made in their lives.

What did you do with your research results?
Back home, I made an analysis of my findings and gave KLM a positive advice to support this project. What this means, is that the contribution of passengers through the CO2ZERO service will be directly invested in planting new trees, maintaining existing forests and supporting the local community.

How can passengers contribute?
KLM’s CO2ZERO service offers the passenger a simple, effective and least costly way to fly CO2 neutral. This voluntary CO2 compensation enables a passenger to compensate the flight-related carbon emissions, thus making their flight carbon neutral. CO2 emission is calculated for all the flights in the KLM booking. Per flight, the calculation is based on the type of aircraft used, the distance flown and the historical load factor of that specific flight. Passengers can choose the CO2ZERO option when making a booking on the KLM website.

Gold Standard for the Global Goals
Around the world, hundreds of organisations are running projects designed to help combat global warming by preventing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from entering our atmosphere. Established in 2003 by WWF, Gold Standard has set the benchmark for climate initiatives such as these. All Gold Standard projects have to contribute to at least two UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not only by having a positive impact on the climate, but also by benefitting local communities as much as possible.

Every step counts
Compensating via CO2ZERO might seem like a small step, but our experience with the selected CO2ZERO projects prove that it actually works. Take the former CO2ZERO project Toyola Coalpot in Ghana, which provided 50 000 African Families with new cooking stoves due to the contribution of the KLM passengers. Besides, one of the results of the project is that the annual savings per capital of consumption are circa 180kg of charcoal, and the total annual savings are approximately 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

The reforestation project in Panama contributes to the following Sustainable Development of the United Nations: Work en Economic Growth (8), Responsible Consumption (12), Climate Action (13) en Life on Land (15). Please follow this link for more information on the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

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