May 4, 2021

Arlington, VA (May 4, 2021) – Conservation International released the following statement in response to today’s Guardian story on carbon offsets:

“To prevent climate catastrophe, humanity must do two things: Rapidly wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and protect nature on a massive scale — and we’re on a short deadline.

“One of the most critical tools for protecting nature is forest-carbon investments.

“These investments, among them the initiative known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), seek to upend the destructive economic equation that values dead trees more than live ones. Forest-carbon projects bolster rural communities and incentivize them to keep their forests standing, while enabling companies and individuals to neutralize a portion of their carbon footprints.

“If implemented carefully, such investments in forests represent a net benefit for the climate, for nature and for people. 

“That’s why Conservation International was disappointed by two new stories published jointly by The Guardian and Unearthed (a branch of Greenpeace) that relied on an opaque “analysis” to cast doubt on a handful of forest-carbon offsets projects — and indeed the entire foundation upon which offsets have been painstakingly built.

“The stories correctly pointed up the complexities and challenges associated with such projects. Forest-carbon offsets are a relatively new tool that must be examined and updated to guard against the risk of “low-quality” offsets that don’t actually make any climate impact.

“But high-quality forest-carbon projects are subject to scientifically rigorous, independently verified review. They are implemented after a lengthy process including the establishment of safeguards to assure that they make a climate impact, that they don’t merely shift deforestation instead of reduce it, and that they benefit local and Indigenous people in the areas where they are implemented (through improved health care, schools and access to markets, among others). And the basis against which such projects can sell carbon offsets are reviewed periodically to account for new information and new science.

“Conservation International could not agree more on the need for continuous improvement and rigorous standards for forest-carbon offsets. Science has improved tremendously in the past decade, and these improvements must be incorporated into carbon projects. Furthermore, we support efforts such as the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets, which proposes the establishment of formalized strictures and an international governing body for carbon offsets.

“Carbon offsets must not be above scrutiny. But such assessments should also include the many well-documented positive impacts of such projects; the voices of those who have directly benefited from these projects; and a more detailed and transparent view of the science behind the projects themselves. 

“Globally, deforestation surged in 2020, putting the welfare of our own species (not to mention countless others) at risk. In times like these, we need more investments in nature, not less. To this end, we cannot risk needlessly pitting environmental groups against each other. The urgency of the climate crisis requires action on every front to make critical investments in nature as efficient and effective as they can be.”


About Conservation International Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature. Conservation International works in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.