Jennifer Morris is CEO of the Nature Conservancy, one of the largest environmental NGOs in the world. Last year, TNC raised $771.8 million to fund its goal of “avoiding/sequestering 3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions annually.” In 2023, TNC launched Nature Bonds, which allow indebted countries to refinance and re-invest in conservation.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
We talk about the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, but there is actually a third crisis: the debt crisis. We estimate that about a third of the roughly $2.2 trillion of commercial debt to developing countries is at risk, with nations unable to fulfill their obligations. There is a massive and urgent opportunity to help both scale climate solutions and help those countries by unlocking a portion of that debt and refinance it under more favorable terms.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why
A new study [by TNC found that] industrial development could threaten almost 60% of Indigenous people’s lands—an area the size of India—almost seven times over. Conversion risk is eminent—and we must redouble our efforts now by embracing a rights-based approach that overlays vulnerability with the conversion threat. This information can then be used by Indigenous communities, conservation and development organizations, governments, companies, funders, and multilateral organizations to broadly suggest regions that may face the greatest challenges and the strategies that might promote Indigenous stewardship. The future of food, cultural well-being, and the health of our planet depend on it.
What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?
In 2022, we saw action on a global scale with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, an ambitious global pathway to protect 30% of the lands and waters by 2030. In 2023, we witnessed another milestone as the world’s governments finalized a United Nations Treaty for the High Seas. Covering two-thirds of the ocean and almost half of the planet’s surface, legislation for the high seas would have massive global impact. Now, a minimum of 60 countries must ratify the treaty to help protect the high seas—home to up to 10 million species, many of them still unidentified. We must act now, before that number dwindles.
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