Stabilizing our climate by protecting and restoring nature
To prevent irreversible harm to the climate that supports us, humanity must emit less climate-warming greenhouse gases while also removing excess carbon from the atmosphere. But even if the world instantly stopped using fossil fuels, we would fail to avert a disastrous climate scenario if we did not also reverse the destruction of ecosystems that absorb and store carbon.
In other words: If we don’t protect and restore nature, we won’t save the climate.
Natural climate solutions are at the heart of Conservation International’s work. These are actions that conserve, restore or improve the use or management of ecosystems while maintaining their capacity to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. These solutions also provide a host of additional benefits — filtering fresh water, providing breathable air — that other approaches to climate change don’t offer.
Even better: Nature can do this today — cost-effectively, and at the massive scale required.
Where humanity needs to be by 2030
Scientists have identified the global need to avoid 5 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year by preventing the destruction of high-carbon ecosystems, and to remove 5 additional gigatons of CO2 per year through the restoration and sustainable management of the landscapes that serve as Earth’s natural “carbon sinks” by 2030.
What we are doing about it
Our strategy focuses on ensuring that natural ecosystems are worth more alive than dead. Deforestation rates have climbed in recent years — with short-term economic interests outweighing the long-term value of forests. Conservation International’s work aims to replace an extractive economy with a regenerative one through innovation, collaboration and by partnering with Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Together, we are:
- Working with businesses and governments to minimize deforestation by addressing its largest drivers, particularly agricultural expansion.
- Identifying and mapping high-carbon ecosystems such as mangroves, tropical peatlands and old-growth tropical forests that, once lost, are extraordinarily difficult to replace.
- Guiding public and private investments to initiatives such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), a UN-backed approach to fight climate change by conserving forests.
- Developing methods to increase the return on investment in tropical reforestation, making it more attractive for governments and private investors.
- Supporting local and Indigenous communities to protect forests on their lands.
- Mainstreaming and maximizing nature’s role for achieving climate goals in national and international climate actions.
MORE THAN 30%
Protecting and restoring tropical forests can make up at least 30% of the solution to the climate crisis. But forest-protection efforts receive only 3% of global climate funding. Join the thousands of people who want to fix that.
Conservation International aims to:
Avoid 2+ gigatons of CO2 emissions through the avoided loss and conservation of high-carbon ecosystems such as peat, mangroves and old-growth forests. This will require preventing the loss of 3.3 million hectares of forest and protecting a much larger area.
Remove another 1+ gigaton of CO2 through restoration and sustainable management of natural ecosystems by 2025. That will require the restoration of 35 million hectares of land.
Secure 13 percent of the ecosystems that are storing the planet’s “irrecoverable carbon” — approximately 400 million hectares. These critical ecosystems contain carbon that if emitted, could not be recovered by nature in time.
Ensure all mangroves are included in countries’ climate action commitments and are protected and/or covered under a sustainable financing mechanism, with the aim of increasing mangrove forests worldwide by 20 percent by 2030.
Help at least 30 countries enact policies that maximize natural climate solution potential.
Develop projects to capture 200 megatons of CO2 and increase available financing for natural climate solutions by US$ 10 billion.
Directly support at least 3 million people from climate-vulnerable communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change through nature-based approaches that protect, manage and restore the nature that they and future generations depend on.
Principles for Investments in Natural Climate Solutions
Nature is one of the most effective ways to stop climate breakdown, yet natural climate solutions receive less than 3 percent of all global climate funding. Conservation International’s Principles for Investments in Natural Climate Solutions guide our engagement with companies that are helping to protect ecosystems that store climate-warming carbon from the atmosphere. Read our six principles »
To avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate breakdown, there are certain places that humanity simply cannot afford to destroy. These ecosystems contain more than 260 billion tons of “irrecoverable carbon,” most of which is stored in mangroves, peatlands, old-growth forests and marshes. If released, these vast stores of living carbon would be impossible to recover by the middle of the century, which is when the world needs to reach net-zero emissions to avoid a climate disaster.
Conservation International scientists are leading a team of globally renowned experts to determine where these carbon stocks are, whether they are threatened by human activities and how quickly the stocks could be recovered if lost — creating a global map of irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems.
Informed by this pioneering research, Conservation International is undertaking an ambitious initiative to protect 120 million hectares (nearly 300 million acres) of ecosystems — an area larger than Colombia — containing high amounts of irrecoverable carbon by 2025.
On the ground
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