But limiting the severity of the climate crisis doesn’t require scientific breakthroughs. In fact, many of the most effective solutions come from the earth itself.
Earth’s various ecosystems have an extraordinary ability to regenerate from the relentless harm they’ve endured since the industrial revolution. As they heal, they can also stabilize the global climate and protect millions of species. But regenerating requires help from humans — mostly in the form of stopping environmentally destructive activities like fossil fuel development.
The field of empowering the natural world to fight climate change has been dubbed “nature-based solutions.” Nature-based solutions include conservation and restoration projects that help communities adapt to and mitigate the threat of climate change, while also promoting broader environmental health.
In recent years, nature-based solutions have gained prominence in the movement for climate action, especially as countries embark on the goal to protect 30% of land and marine spaces by 2030. But not nearly enough is being done to unlock the planet’s potential.
Currently, more than 75% of land environments and two-thirds of the ocean have been heavily degraded by human activities, according to Nature America. Reversing this decline will require significantly more investments and policies designed to limit harmful industrial activities.
Here are seven organizations leading the way on nature-based solutions.
1. Conservation International
Conservation International is relentless in its mission to protect the global environment. Over the past three decades, the group has helped to conserve more than 2.3 million miles of land and marine areas. CI leverages vast scientific know-how, but it mostly taps environmental organizers on the ground to lead its projects.
Among many other efforts, the organization is working to restore tens of thousands of hectares of grassland in Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, empower farmers to combat deforestation in Peru’s Alto Mayo Protected Forest, and replant mangroves along Colombia’s Northern coast.
2. Wetland International
Wetlands provide habitats and feeding grounds for thousands of animals, filter harmful toxins out of water, buffer coastlines from extreme storms, and absorb extraordinary amounts of carbon dioxide. Yet they’re disappearing at three times the rate as forests because of rampant overdevelopment.
Wetland International is leading the global effort to halt the decline of wetlands, restore damaged wetlands, and bring back the 65% of original wetlands that have been lost. As a partner of the United Nations’ Decade on Restoration, WI focuses on restoring urban wetlands, supporting Indigenous environmental stewards, and bringing young people into restoration projects.
There are up to 1 trillion species on earth, yet some humans often act like the sole inhabitants. In the past 50 years, industrial activities have caused the loss of two-thirds of wildlife. Re:wild is seeking to broaden the public understanding of wildlife, while also helping people realize our extreme interdependence on it.
It does this by empowering local communities to help wild spaces remain wild. In doing so, they create ecosystems for species to thrive. In 2020 alone, the group has helped conserve 45 million acres of land to help 835 endangered species.
Humans chop down around 15 billion trees each year and have halved the number of trees that were on earth 12,000 years ago. The scale of deforestation has destroyed critical wildlife habitats, threatened food and water supplies, and even fueled the climate crisis.
But trees are crucial to our future survival and have a key role to play in slowing the climate crisis. Organizations like 1t.org are seeking to mobilize millions of people worldwide to plant 1 trillion trees by 2030 in support of the Decade on Restoration. It's focusing on areas that have been deforested and supporting projects like the Great Green Wall in Africa’s Sahel region. Dozens of partners have announced reforestation plans through 1t.org, including Accion Andia, a youth-led effort to restore 30 million trees in the Andean mountains; Girl Scouts of USA, which is on their way to planting 5 million trees; and Mastercard, which plans to restore 100 million trees by 2025.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable initiatives through 1t.org comes from the community afforestation group SUGi with funding from the luxury watch brand Breitling. SUGi is working with prisoners at the Yakama Nation Corrections & Rehabilitation Facility in Washington to restore a nearby forest and develop a wildlife corridor. The effort is designed to help transition inmates back into broader society, while also repairing degraded landscapes.
5. Sustainable Harvest International
Many of the crises we face are connected in one way or another. The challenges facing the global food system, for example, are related to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. After all, food production is responsible for around a third of greenhouse gas emissions, and rising temperatures are making it harder to grow crops.
Sustainable Harvest International focuses on this nexus. The organization partners with farming communities to restore local environments and then helps them engage in a form of sustainable agriculture that alleviates poverty. In Central America, the organization has helped replant 20,000 football trees worth of trees, provided farmers with the means to adopt sustainable farming practices, and helped increase incomes by 23% on average.
6. The Nature Conservancy
Whether you’re trying to rehabilitate coral reefs or prevent desertification, the Nature Conservancy and its team of more than 400 scientists can help you figure out the best plan forward. The organization has been using science to guide conservation and restoration projects for decades and has helped to protect more than 125 million acres of land. Now, the group is focusing on large-scale conservation to help mitigate the effects of climate change, while empowering local communities to develop livelihoods that support environmental goals.
7. World Wildlife Fund
For the past six decades, the World Wildlife Fund has fought to protect the global environment. The organization conducts studies and publishes reports on threatened wildlife, helps companies reform their operations, lobbies governments for better environmental policies, and oversees on-the ground conservation and restoration work. The group’s New Deal for Nature and People aims to transform humanity’s relationship to the natural world to ensure ecosystems can recover and species can thrive.
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.