Perspectives

Natural Climate Solutions

a close up of leaves on a tree, back-lit by the sun.
Oak Leaves Oak leaves in the sunshine at Milford Neck Preserve © John Hinkson/TNC

Nature can help us address the climate crisis.

Combined with transitioning away from fossil fuels, natural climate solutions offer immediate and cost-effective ways to tackle the climate crisis—while also supporting healthy, thriving communities and ecosystems.

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What are natural climate solutions?

Natural climate solutions are actions to protectbetter manage and restore nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon.

For example: practices that improve forest management can help forest owners increase the carbon stored in their trees; reducing fertilizer use results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions; restoring coastal wetlands sequesters carbon in submerged soil.

Science shows that—combined with cutting fossil-fuel use and accelerating renewable energy—natural climate solutions can help us avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

WHAT ARE NATURAL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS? (3:01) In this video, it's the future, and we look back on how we saved the world with nature. In the 2020s, we learned that nature could pull 11 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

What is the science behind natural climate solutions?

In 2017, The Nature Conservancy led a landmark study that showed how natural climate solutions to protect, better manage, and restore forests, grasslands and wetlands could contribute a third of the emissions reductions we need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The authors developed a framework to distill the exisiting evidence into a taxonomy of natural climate solutions pathways that account for the full climate potential of nature.

Our groundbreaking study found that natural climate solutions can provide one-third of the mitigation needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures livable.

Since then, TNC scientists and partners have continued investigating how, when and where to invest in natural climate solutions to deliver on the world's most urgent climate goals. Our experts have published more than 50 studies that demonstrate the power of natural climate solutions in the United StatesCanadaIndonesia and around the world.

Protect, Manage, Restore Every action—or “pathway”—evaluated in the study involve protecting, better managing or restoring nature.

Studies

  • Natural Climate Solutions (Griscom et al.)

    Groundbreaking research by TNC and 15 other institutions, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read key takeaways from the study

  • More NCS Research

    Explore our Natural Climate Solutions Resource Center to see the latest science, research and case studies demonstrating how nature can help increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse gas emissions around the world. See a list of studies about NCS

What are the other benefits of natural climate solutions?

Research has also demonstrated that natural climate solutions offer a host of co-benefits for nature and people, including cleaner air and water, richer soil, more biodiversity and resilient communities.

What do natural climate solutions look like in practice?

Working with nature provides proven pathways, such as improving the way working forests are managed, planting cover crops and restoring tidal wetlands, that can be implemented now. 

mangrove
Cumberland Forest The Appalachian Mountain Range is one of TNC’s four global focal regions. Ohio supporters invested more than $1 million in our efforts to conserve its rich biodiversity. © Cameron Davidson
TK
Hollow Logs TNC staff and forest technicians measure the amount of hollowness at the center of a log in Republic of the Congo. © Peter Ellis/TNC
mangrove
Mangroves take root Growing trees in a mangrove restoration site in Kenya. Mangrove forests shelter young fish, store carbon in the soil and defend coastlines from the impact of storms. © Sarah Waiswa
mangrove
Cumberland Forest The Appalachian Mountain Range is one of TNC’s four global focal regions. Ohio supporters invested more than $1 million in our efforts to conserve its rich biodiversity. © Cameron Davidson

01

Protection

Conserving ecosystems in a healthy state instead of converting them for other intensive uses like development avoids the release of greenhouse gasses.

TK
Hollow Logs TNC staff and forest technicians measure the amount of hollowness at the center of a log in Republic of the Congo. © Peter Ellis/TNC

02

Better Management

Actions such as improving the way forests are managed or expanding cover crops to keep soil healthy can significantly increase the amount of carbon sequestered by forests and fields. These actions may also reduce operating costs or provide new revenue streams to foresters, farmers and ranchers.

mangrove
Mangroves take root Growing trees in a mangrove restoration site in Kenya. Mangrove forests shelter young fish, store carbon in the soil and defend coastlines from the impact of storms. © Sarah Waiswa

03

Restoration

Planting trees in cities, replanting formerly forested land or bringing back natural flows to coastal wetlands and peatlands will increase carbon capture. These actions can support construction, engineering and conservation jobs in the short term and deliver strong climate mitigation and habitat benefits in the long term.

Avoided Grassland Conversion
Protection
In western Minnesota, protecting their land and managing it with grass-fed, Angus cattle keeps the prairie in good shape and a ranching operation financially stable.
Improved Forest Management
Better Management
The Family Forest Carbon Program opens up a pathway for small forest owners to improve forest health and help climate change while earning an income to cover costs.
Urban Reforestation
Restoration
The Boise National Forest has one of the largest sustained reforestation programs in the U.S. Restoration-style planting focuses on planting long-lived tree species.
No-burn Agriculture
Better management
TNC is working with partners including the Borlaug Institute for South Asia to eliminate the practice of burning crop residue in northwest India.
Emerald Edge
Protection
To optimize the region’s carbon mitigation potential and ensure a sustainable future for local communities, TNC is working closely with key government and Indigenous partners.
cows
Sustainable Dairy
Better management
TNC teamed up with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and other partners to identify, research, and implement regenerative practices that benefit dairy farmers and nature.
Blue Carbon in Virginia Coast Reserve
Restoration
Since 2008, TNC and partners have broadcast more than 72 million seeds into 600 acres to help accelerate the natural spread of eelgrass, which now covers more than 9,500 acres.
Agroforestry
Better management
TNC and partners are launching a 5-year project to catalyze agroforestry across 29 states, which will boost farmers’ incomes, carbon sequestration, soil health and water quality.
Soil Health
Better management
TNC and partners, including two Natural Resources Districts in the region, will collaborate with farmers in central Nebraska in the adoption of soil health practices.
Mangrove Restoration
Restoration
We support and strengthen the capacity of Lamu communities to protect, manage, and restore priority mangrove habitat and deepen connections with Community Forest Associations.
Restoring the Rainforest with Cocoa Trees
Restoration
To help restore the Amazon while providing better livelihoods, TNC has pioneered an initiative to work with farmers to plant sustainable agro-forests of cocoa in Brazil
Reduced-Impact Logging for Climate (RIL-C)
Better management
The Congo Basin is the world’s largest carbon sink, and lower-impact forestry methods used here can have a significant impact on global climate outcomes.
Environment-Friendly Shrimp Farming
Better management
YKAN, TNC's Indonesian affiliate, is supporting environment-friendly shrimp farming in mangrove ecosystems through the Shrimp-Carbon Aquaculture (SECURE) approach in East Kaliman.
Restoring Peat Swamps
Restoration
YKAN, TNC's Indonesian affiliate, is working with provincial governments and communities to protect and measure the restoration of, peat swamp forests in East and North Kalimantan.
Restoring Coastal Wetlands
Restoration
TNC and partners are restoring coastal wetlands in South Australia and building a model of conservation and sustainable financing to protect a million blue carbon hectares.
Protecting and restoring Peatlands
Protection
Instead of paying for expensive industrial filtration, TNC supports financing upstream landowners to use sustainable farming practices and conserve and restore natural areas.
Reef Restoration
Restoration
The Nature Conservancy in the Dominican Republic has implemented a Water Funds strategy for the ecosystems that provide the cities of Santiago and Santo Domingo with freshwater.
Conserving Forests
Better management
In Ecuador, TNC is supporting the establishment of agroforestry systems, forest restoration, and mixed forest plantations in Indigenous territories.
Sustainable Forestry
Better management
Measuring the climate impact of conservation, sustainable forest management and regenerative ranching and agriculture in Guatemala’s 2.5 million hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve.
Mangrove Protection
Protection
Supporting conservation efforts in Marismas Nacionales, the largest mangrove wetland of the northern pacific coast of Mexico.
Mangrove Protection
Protection
TNC is protecting Papua New Guinea's mangroves through a unique partnership with Mangoro Market Meri (meaning Mangroves, Women, and Markets).
Mapping Peatlands
Protection
A TNC project is mapping and estimating the total area of peatland to support protection and conservation of peatlands in the Upper Okavango.
Protecting Peatlands
Protection
We support community-based organizations engaging in conservation in Mongolia’s grasslands and peatlands.

Examples of Our Natural Climate Solutions Work

Other Tools and Resources

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