Strong emissions reductions are critical to protecting biodiversity and the natural places that support human well-being.
The primary driver of climate change is increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Driven by human activities, carbon dioxide concentrations are now at their highest level in over 650,000 years, outweighing all other factors that contribute to climate change.
Motor vehicles, power plants, buildings and industrial sources produce about 80 percent of greenhouse gases while forest loss and degradation, along with other land use change contribute the balance.
Specific and Attainable Targets
As a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), The Nature Conservancy supports the following emissions reduction targets and timetables:
- 97 percent of 2005 levels by 2012,
- 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2020,
- 58 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, and
- 20 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.
The need for action is urgent, and the Conservancy believes targets of this magnitude can and should be enacted. We are committed to helping the world adopt a meaningful and effective global climate change accord, and are engaged in ongoing negotiations leading up to Mexico in December.
In order for developing countries to increase their efforts to reduce emissions, they need flexible options. The most effective way to reduce emissions quickly is through strong market-based incentives. Implementing well-designed, market-based programs will spur innovation and allow countries and companies to meet emissions reduction goals at the lowest possible cost.
As concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, so will the pace and severity of impacts. Around the world communities will face:
- difficulty growing crops,
- water shortages,
- ocean acidification at an extent and rate that has not occurred for tens of millions of years, and
- Sea-level rise that will displace coastal populations and damage infrastructure.
Increased coral bleaching, species range shifts, wildfire risk, and damage from floods and storms are expected at temperature increases of 2°C above current levels. For the Conservancy, these changes present significant threats to our mission, and those projected beyond the 2ºC threshold are unacceptable.