STATEMENT: High integrity carbon markets and forest carbon projects are critical tools in achieving a climate-safe future

May 6, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va. (May 6, 2024) – Today, Conservation International’s Senior Vice President of Natural Climate Solutions, Will Turner, Ph.D, issued the following statement in support of high quality, high integrity forest carbon credits. The statement is in response to a story broadcast last Thursday by BBC Panorama.

“High-quality, high-integrity forest carbon projects are urgently needed to curb global emissions and protect and restore forests. These efforts work because they use the power of markets to make forests more valuable alive than dead, reversing the economic forces that have, for far too long, driven the destruction of nature.

“Nuanced, deeply researched reporting has underscored this. Just last week, The New York Times published a story on how restoring the Amazon could become more lucrative than cattle ranching, which has been the primary driver of deforestation there. This is the power of the carbon market at work.

“Simplistic, knee-jerk reporting such as the report aired last week by the BBC’s Panorama, take a simpler tack, peddling the idea that companies use carbon credits to greenwash themselves out of climate action. This is a generalization that is largely untrue. Research repeatedly shows that that companies that purchase carbon credits do more to reduce their own emissions directly than those that do not.

“At Conservation International, we work only with companies that use carbon credits to complement — never replace — their Paris-aligned decarbonization targets.

“Without question, humanity cannot offset its way to climate safety. To buy carbon credits without taking action to reduce direct emissions is unethical and inadequate as a climate response. And in a decade where we need to halve emissions to make a climate-safe future possible, making future commitments to decarbonize directly and doing nothing else is also not good enough, especially when forest carbon projects are an established, scalable solution that can help companies accelerate climate action right now.

“As a science-based organization, Conservation International has confidence in high-quality, high-integrity carbon projects; we stand by our projects and will continue to do so. These initiatives undergo extensive and transparent third-party reviews and accounting processes to ensure verifiable emission reductions, benefits for nature and people, and respect for community rights. And when issues emerge, we step in to fix them. This rigorous, ongoing and ground-truthed evaluation is far more meticulous and relevant to projects than research papers such as the one that has been the basis for so much recent press coverage (and whose shortcomings have been well-documented in recent months).

“There is a Global North myopia evident in much of the negative recent press coverage of forest carbon projects, particularly as it relates to the Indigenous peoples and the local communities who benefit heavily from, and whose leadership is critical to, these projects. These largely Global South communities have something climate progress depends on: forests and other ecosystems that can absorb and store climate-warming carbon from the atmosphere. We stand behind these communities’ work to use market dynamics to protect their lands and their rights, and to finally flip a global economic script in their favor.

“We must continue to decarbonize our energy systems and industries, and at a breakneck pace. Yet even if humanity stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, we could not solve our climate problem unless we also end carbon emissions from the destruction of nature. High integrity carbon markets and forest carbon projects are critical tools in achieving a climate-safe future. We cannot afford to lose sight of this.”


About Conservation International: Conservation International protects nature for the benefit of humanity. Through fieldwork, science, policy and finance, we spotlight and secure the most important places in nature for the climate, for biodiversity and for people. With offices in 30 countries and projects in more than 100 countries, Conservation International partners with governments, companies, civil society, Indigenous peoples and local communities to help societies and nature thrive alongside each other. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.