Learn more about our impactLearn more about our impact
WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
Nature had its day in the sun last November at the global climate talks in Glasgow.
As WWF and others called for world leaders to put nature front and center in efforts to tackle the climate crisis, countries heeded the cry. A WWF report released at the conference found that 92% of new national climate action plans include measures to tackle nature loss—up 10% from just four months earlier.
Research indicates that wielding the immense power of oceans, forests, and other ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide could deliver up to 30% of the climate mitigation needed by 2050 to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to below 2ºC (3.6ºF).
In fact, there is no path forward without protecting and restoring nature.
The climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are inextricably linked, explains Josefina Braña Varela, WWF vice president and deputy lead for forests. “Any meaningful solution has to address both at once.”
Take tropical deforestation, for example. Not only does the loss of tree cover destroy essential habitat for innumerable species, remove natural pollinators from agricultural fields, and pull much-needed forest products and other services away from local communities, but it also releases massive amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gases. If there were a country whose yearly CO2 emissions were equal to those released annually by tropical deforestation, it would rank as the third-largest emitter in the world, trailing China and the United States. And as the climate changes, the incidence of forest fires increases, driving further losses. If tropical deforestation continues at recent rates, it will be nearly impossible to meet the 2°C goal set in Paris.
So in that problem—deforestation and forest degradation—lies the solution: If we keep forests standing, we sequester carbon and reduce emissions. At a broader scale, protecting, managing, and restoring natural and altered ecosystems—from the Amazon to the Arctic, from seabeds to grasslands—are nature-based solutions to the climate crisis that can provide added benefits— such as food security, public health, and clean drinking water.
“The climate crisis has given us an opportunity to step back and look at humanity’s relationship with nature and the ecosystems that support us,” says Marcene Mitchell, WWF’s senior vice president for climate change. “Nature-based solutions embody the need to shift from separate conversations about addressing biodiversity, climate, or water to a more holistic approach—one that moves us toward a sustainable living environment for all life on Earth.”
In addition to garnering the attention and backing of governments around the world, nature-based solutions have secured billions in investments from the private sector.
The momentum is promising. Yet while nature has a powerful role to play in mitigating climate change, it’s not a silver bullet, cautions Martha Stevenson, WWF’s senior director of strategy and research for forests. “It’s vitally important that nature-based solutions not take the place of ambitious reductions in emissions on the part of the public and private sectors,” she says.
For those governments and businesses that have already committed to reducing their carbon footprints and are looking to do more, WWF can play an important role. “We are uniquely positioned to provide science-based guidance and standards,” Braña Varela says, “and to demonstrate what integrity looks like through the development of a robust pipeline of high-quality on-the-ground interventions.”
“With science as our North Star, we hope to harness our powerful partnerships and relationships, our technical expertise, and the credibility of our brand to turn the tide for nature and climate through a landscape- and rights-based approach,” she says. “When implemented effectively, nature-based solutions for climate mitigation can enhance rural livelihoods and promote the value of forests and other critical ecosystems while also helping to reduce people’s vulnerability to, and build their resilience in the face of, climate change events.”
She emphasizes that conservation interventions must center on people. “This includes creating the conditions for the full participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities and demonstrating the diverse benefits of these interventions in a measurable way.”