Behind the scenes of an environmental investigation: Q&A with InfoAmazonia’s Fabio Bispo

By Letícia Duarte & Nathan Tisdale

Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs became popular a couple of years ago as a way to certify ownership and authenticity of digital assets. So what does that have to do with the carbon market and the conservation of indigenous lands in the Amazon? The answer is much more complex than it appears and it goes beyond the rainforest and into the halls of multinationals across the ocean.

Following a tip from a source, and with the support of Journalism Fund Europe, Report for the World corps member Fabio Bispo spent months delving into the opaque world of carbon credits linked to lands in the Brazilian Amazon. His investigation uncovered how companies were infringing the rights of indigenous communities and ignoring the Brazilian regulators by persuading indigenous leaders to sign carbon credit contracts in exchange for development projects that never materialized.

His series on this topic, published in InfoAmazonia, Mongabay and Colombian media, from where some of the companies were based, prompted regulators to look into the matter and brought attention to a topic that had been rarely discussed in Brazilian media before.

We spoke with Bispo to learn more about this series and how he developed it. As with most stories, the trail started with the impact these practices were having on the local communities:

Given that the topic had very little background, Bispo was particularly attentive to his research, preparing extensively before traveling to report on the ground.

Bispo also highlighted the importance of having the resources to conduct the field reporting:

One of the biggest takeaways of the project was how both reporters and the public have to broaden their scope to understand the consequences of the policies and initiatives that aim to protect the environment, and how some might exploit them for personal gain.