Better land stewardship is needed to achieve the Paris Agreement's temperature goal, particularly in the tropics, where greenhouse gas emissions from the destruction of ecosystems are largest, and where the potential for additional land carbon storage is greatest. As countries enhance their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, confusion persists about the potential contribution of better land stewardship to meeting the Agreement's goal to hold global warming below 2°C. We assess cost-effective tropical country-level potential of natural climate solutions (NCS)-protection, improved management and restoration of ecosystems-to deliver climate mitigation linked with sustainable development goals (SDGs). We identify groups of countries with distinctive NCS portfolios, and we explore factors (governance, financial capacity) influencing the feasibility of unlocking national NCS potential. Cost-effective tropical NCS offers globally significant climate mitigation in the coming decades (6.56 Pg CO2e yr-1 at less than 100 US$ per Mg CO2e). In half of the tropical countries, cost-effective NCS could mitigate over half of national emissions. In more than a quarter of tropical countries, cost-effective NCS potential is greater than national emissions. We identify countries where, with international financing and political will, NCS can cost-effectively deliver the majority of enhanced NDCs while transforming national economies and contributing to SDGs. This article is part of the theme issue 'Climate change and ecosystems: threats, opportunities and solutions'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190126
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1794
Early online date27 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

We thank many for conversations that have contributed insights to this study, including William McGoldrick, David Hole, Shyla Raghav, Jennifer Tabola, Kacky Andrews, Dylan Murray, Trisha Gopalakrishna, John Verdieck, Jack Putz, Fran Price, Mark Wishnie, Deborah Bossio, Joseph Kiesecker and Chris Zganjar, to name a few. We thank Kellee Koenig for advice on how to improve the figures. B.W.G., S.C.C.-P., P.W.E., S.M.L., G.L. and L.S.M.

The input of P.S. contributes to the following projects: DEVIL (grant no. NE/M021327/1), Assess-BECCS (funded by UKERC) and Soils-R-GRREAT (grant no. NE/P019455/1). The contributions of B.W.G., S.C.C.-P., P.W.E., S.M.L., G.L. and L.S.M. were made in part thanks to funding from the Government of Norway (GoN), although this article does not necessarily reflect GoN's views or opinions.


  • natural climate solutions
  • climate mitigation
  • protection
  • land management
  • restoration
  • Paris Agreement
  • Climate mitigation
  • Land management
  • Restoration
  • Natural climate solutions
  • Protection


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