The sun sets over a tropical forest near Bali, Indonesia.
Indonesian Forest The sun sets over a tropical forest near Bali, Indonesia. © Lightscape

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How The Nature Conservancy is Combatting the Biggest, Most Complex Challenge of Our Lives

Our planet faces the dual crises of rapid climate change and biodiversity loss. We have years, not decades, to address these existential threats.

Every day, headlines in media outlets around the world highlight the effects the climate crisis is having on communities, businesses, lives, livelihoods, and biodiversity. Rightly so, people are asking, “what can we do?”

At The Nature Conservancy, we are committed to answering that question. For decades, TNC has worked with partners on innovative, scalable, science-based solutions that match the urgency of the climate crisis. This includes restoring and protecting forests, working to ensure a clean energy future, improving and increasing access to clean water, and conserving and preserving critical ecosystems. We are, quite literally, fighting to protect our planet.

This emergency requires myriad solutions, and we need them all. We need a dramatic transformation of our economy to reduce emissions from all sectors, including energy, transportation, manufacturing, construction, and land use. From governments we need global policies and agreements committing to emission reductions and removal of harmful subsidies that slow progress. We need leaders around the world to demonstrate ambition and courage to act. We need all parties to appreciate and value nature’s role so that restoration and improved management can maximize the contribution that nature makes to halting climate change.

Much attention has been paid of late to carbon offsets – a fast-evolving market solution that has seen rapid development and growth over recent years. We are serious about getting this right – and doing so transparently, inclusively, and equitably. Unfortunately, some of those criticizing carbon offsets often cherry-pick data, misrepresent the facts and fail to mention the safeguards within the offset methodologies to discredit carbon offsets. Rather than presenting a careful assessment of very complex issues, critics often prejudge that these projects do not bring climate benefits. Yet the design and focus of these projects – including TNC’s and those of our peers -- are specifically intended to contribute to the fight against climate change.

Amongst the myriad solutions, carbon offsets are one approach used by businesses as they simultaneously decarbonize to meet ambitious net-zero carbon emission commitments. The transition to a low-carbon economy is happening; however, the technologies available to many companies today are not sufficient to achieve a net-zero target in the short term. Offsets provide an additional option for companies that want to do more. Carbon offsets must be coupled with reducing emissions, accelerating the shift to clean energy, fuels, and low-carbon materials, and increasing the protection, restoration and improved management of forests, grasslands, farms, and wetlands.

As climate change science and policy evolves and grows, we strive to ensure our projects do the same so we can achieve our goals for a low-carbon future. TNC follows the latest methodologies of market-leading standards, which themselves are developed through an open process of public consultation, transparency, and independent third-party assessment.

TNC’s projects are all verified and follow market-leading standards – including the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Climate Action Reserve (CAR), American Carbon Registry (ACR), and California Regulatory Program.

We are deeply committed to the development of new, scientifically rigorous methodologies and we support ongoing improvements – through revisions and adaptations – of existing standards as science progresses. The science of carbon offsetting is relatively new and market expectations and requirements are also changing.

For over 70 years, The Nature Conservancy has given nature a voice, to ensure it has a seat at the table. We will continue to advocate for the health of our planet and be a strong voice for climate. We have a goal of removing 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year by 2030. We strive for multiple benefits, pursuing solutions that benefit biodiversity, sequester carbon and reduce risk to people most vulnerable to harm from a changing climate.

Time is of the essence. We’re serious about getting this right – and doing so transparently, inclusively, and equitably. If we’re going to make any progress in tackling the climate crisis, we need “all of the above solutions,” and we need informed public discussions to maintain progress.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.