Looking up into trees with fall leaves and a blue sky.
Using every tool Carbon markets are an important tool in the fight against climate change. © TNC
Climate Change Stories

How We Work with Carbon Markets

Our commitment to high-quality carbon markets benefits people and nature.

Our planet faces dual crises: rapid climate change and biodiversity loss. We have years, not decades, to address these existential threats to our ways of life. We must use all the tools at our disposal to create a world where people and nature thrive.

This includes a massive investment in decarbonization—as well unlocking the power of nature through Natural Climate Solutions.

The Nature Conservancy advances Natural Climate Solutions through many strategies, including high-quality carbon markets.

Carbon Markets Explained (2:46) If we want to keep the climate in safe boundaries, we need to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible. But eliminating some carbon sources will be easier than others. That’s where carbon markets can help.

The rapidly evolving carbon market has the potential, in combination with other strategies, to meaningfully mitigate the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as provide valuable conservation co-benefits for people and nature.

Carbon markets allow difficult to decarbonize industries to reduce emissions immediately while still working toward deep emissions cuts through the development of carbon-free fuels. Research has shown companies that participate in carbon markets invest more and make more progress in reducing their own carbon pollution than businesses that don’t participate in carbon markets.

Carbon markets, like other technologies and tools, continuously improve over time thanks to science and innovation.

When it comes to our own participation in the market, we have established new internal quality requirements that, alongside leading third-party certification standards, inform our project development process. All TNC carbon projects now must meet or exceed our new quality bar and complete at least two project design reviews by TNC experts, in addition to the existing third-party auditing that is already mandatory.

We are also committed to learning from doing, responding to criticism and acting when necessary. We won’t always get things right the first time and that’s okay. What’s important is that we learn from our experiences and move forward better and stronger.

In 2021, TNC conducted a thorough review of our carbon portfolio. In several cases, we identified project attributes that, though they met the rules of the applied standard at the time of development, did not align with our newly developed internal criteria for creating high-quality credits. We applied a more conservative approach to these projects, resulting in lower credit issuances.

In one case, we determined that the project, though valuable from a conservation standpoint, does not meet TNC’s new, internal criteria. So, we have worked with stakeholders to cancel all carbon credits previously issued from the Pennsylvania Ridges project, none of which had previously been used by any company, individual, or government for any climate claim. This is all part of the process of learning, acting and improving.

With more than 20 years of experience pioneering natural climate solutions and carbon projects around the world, TNC is uniquely positioned to understand this evolution and use our experience to advance best practices.

Our Commitment to High-Quality Carbon Markets

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    Formed a Global Carbon Markets Team that provides robust oversight over all our carbon markets work.

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    Established a set of standards to guide decisions about when and how to establish carbon projects of the highest quality.

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    Carbon Accounting

    Developed new approaches to improve how benefits of carbon projects are measured, such as dynamic baselines, which improve carbon accounting in forest carbon projects. Learn more about dynamic baselines.

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    Launched a Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator to support a new global portfolio of projects that demonstrate best-in-class science, biodiversity conservation, and inclusion of communities and Indigenous peoples. Our goal is to support projects like the Emerald Edge.

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    Industry Influence

    Reflecting our interest in market leadership, we want to influence industry standards by engaging with initiatives like the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) and the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets (IC-VCM).

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    Vetting Carbon Buyers

    We only work with companies that have a credible path to net-zero or a strong track record of climate commitments.

As of December 31, 2023, The Nature Conservancy does not market or sell voluntary carbon credits within the state of California, USA.

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