View all stories

Conservation May Be the Hardest Solution

In today's edition of This Week in Climate, we look at the good and the bad in forest conservation.
Julian Moore
Nov 1, 2023 8 min read
Share this post

When we think of climate “solutions”, it’s hard to keep the mind from jumping to innovations. New ways of heating our homes, driving our cars and powering everything lend something inspirational and aspirational to the possibilities of a future that looks less certain by the week.

That view can be intoxicating, but it can also distract from all the areas where new technology isn’t necessarily the solution.

Just look at carbon sinks. All the solar energy in the world won’t make a difference in the long run if there aren’t enough trees, peat bogs and mangroves to cycle the carbon already in the atmosphere.

Unlike the energy, steel or aviation industries, which are deploying exciting new innovations to mitigate climate impact, the most important solutions for protecting forests rely on addressing deeper economic structures.

That’s not to say that technology doesn’t have a role to play in forest conservation. The Forest Stewardship Council relies on satellite and GIS data to issue its sustainable forest certification, and there are dozens of space tech startups (including a few that are hiring on Climatebase) sharing the burgeoning space with industry majors like Airbus’ Starling software.

While technological innovations are ideal for solving narrow decarbonization challenges, well thought-out policy is the weapon of choice for tackling the types of systemic economic problems that are driving deforestation.

This week the world saw developments in the two most common approaches to forest management policy: the carrot and the stick. In Zimbabwe, government officials are trying to lure foreign investors to cash in on their forests while in Indonesia officials are forcing offenders to get on the right side of the law– we take a look at which one is paying dividends so far.


More than 200,000 hectares of palm oil plantations in Indonesia are expected to be rehabilitated and turned to forest, according to a government announcement this week.

In 2020, the Indonesian government began studying a response to illegal palm oil operations ahead of a planned crack down this year. Starting this week, companies that are currently growing palm oil in designated forests will have to pay fines and purchase a license to continue operating, while they still can.

Even though roughly a fifth of all Indonesian palm oil operations are currently found in designated forests, implementation is expected to be piecemeal. So far, the government has only been able to identify companies with a combined 1.67 million hectares of palm plantation, and will focus enforcement on those larger operations first.

The government estimates the first enforcement round will recoup 200,000 hectares in the coming years, but the figure could go up as the government completes its studies into smaller producers.

Critics say that the law still falls short of penalizing the companies that have contributed most to the 25 million hectares of deforestation in Indonesia over the past two decades. Indeed, there are still significant scars left behind from the boom years in the 1990s when food and cosmetics companies first looked to palm oil to replace trans fats and animal-based chemicals in their products.

But a few years on from initial discussions, it looks like the government may have sent a market signal strong enough to change the industry’s worst habits. Deforestation has steadily decreased in Indonesia since 2018, leading a trend that has deforestation numbers down across Southeast Asia.


One of the more dubious approaches to fighting deforestation is being tried in Zimbabwe, where the government this year sold off 7.5 million hectares of its forests, nearly a fifth the country’s landmass, to a Dubai-based Blue Carbon General Trading company.

In the deal, Blue Carbon will preserve the forest to sell carbon credits. Blue Carbon will keep 70% of the profits from the credits, while leaving 30% for the Zimbabwean government. More than half of that money is set aside for community groups in the forest region.

That split is a far cry from a demand Zimbabwe made earlier this year when it canceled all of its existing forest carbon credit projects. In the wake of a report earlier this year finding fraud in the Kariba carbon project, Zimbabwe took over all carbon credit programs and demanded at least 50% of the proceeds from foreign-owned projects.

Observers on the ground are already showing skepticism about the plan. Locals are understandably scandalized by the government’s willingness to allow foreign owners a majority share over profits from their land, but they are also unconvinced the plan is practicable

The Emirati company that bought the forest is just over a year old and doesn’t have any demonstrated record of managing forests.

More importantly, critics see a deal that is meant to mask the deeper socioeconomic drivers of deforestation in Zimbabwe. While the Blue Carbon deal might make preserving one forest profitable, it doesn’t change the fact that millions of Zimbabweans depend on jobs in industries that depend on deforestation.

Zimbabwe is Africa’s largest tobacco exporter, an industry that supports no less than two million jobs.

Farmers typically cure their tobacco leaves over burning firewood, a process which requires as much as 31 kg of wood to produce one kilogram of marketable tobacco. Tobacco is responsible for 1.2-2.5 million hectares of deforestation in Africa every year, and until those workers have an alternative, they are all but guaranteed to stick with the opportunities they have.

As one tobacco worker in this African Arguments article put it, “We will only stop this trade if someone gives us formal jobs."

SURVEY: What did you think of this edition of This Week in Climate? Let us know in our feedback survey here!

🌎 New Climate Jobs

Check out some of the latest featured jobs below. If you don't see anything that speaks to you, you can always go to Climatebase to explore thousands of other opportunities.

People Over Plastic

“PoP is the only multicultural media platform of its kind, publishing stories by BIPOC for BIPOC. We focus on uplifting our people’s environmental justice stories and do so in a nuanced, sensitive, and in-depth way. Our approach is to build community relationships first. Our job is to tell raw and unfiltered stories from the frontlines. We take a non-traditional approach to ...”

  • Head of Creative (Remote)

Torus, Inc.

“At Torus, our mission is to empower individuals and communities to become their own renewable utility provider. Torus accelerates the transition from fossil fuel to hybrid to fully electrified homes by decentralizing power and makes it easier to live a renewables life by orchestrating and automating power use during renewable energy cycles. As an employee of Torus, you will be proud ...”

  • Electrical Automation Engineer (Remote based in Utah) (Remote (Utah, USA))

Truterra, LLC

“Truterra is a leading sustainability solutions provider, advancing and connecting sustainability efforts throughout the food system at scale – from farmers to ag retailers to value chain collaborators including food and fiber companies. Truterra positions farmers for success by providing them tools and resources to establish a stewardship baseline, track progress on every field they farm, access conservation resources, and prepare for ecosystem services market opportunities. The Truterra ...”

  • Sr. Carbon Standards and Methodologies Manager (Remote (Arden Hills, MN, USA))

Planet Reimagined

“We are training the climate leaders of the future with customized fellowships that teach researchers and advocates how to work together for measurable impact. By harnessing the power of media and entertainment, we reach over 100 million people a year, turning research-driven THOUGHT into collective ACTION, fueling positive CHANGE for the planet and the people who call it home. ...”

  • Manager, Institutional Partnerships (Remote)

Presto Charging

“We believe that access to reliable and affordable charging is the key to unlocking mass electrification and fighting climate change. At Presto, we are building a software platform to power magical charging experiences for fleets, mobility providers, and businesses. For our charging partners, we strive to set in motion a positive flywheel of business demand and network utilization, helping expand ...”

  • Head of Engineering (Remote)
  • Senior Software Engineer, Mobile (Remote)
  • Senior Software Engineer, Platform (Remote)
  • Senior Manager, Business Development (Remote (Denver, CO, USA))


“Arbor is a smart energy platform that helps you automatically lower your electric rate on an ongoing basis. Customers who switch save an average of $544 per year. ...”

  • Lead Frontend / Full Stack Software Engineer (Remote)
  • Lead Backend / Full Stack Software Engineer (Remote)

Blue Whale Materials

“Blue Whale Materials is an American recycling company working toward a greener and more sustainable global battery supply chain. It is building a lithium-ion battery recycling facility, producing an ethically sourced stream of cobalt, nickel, manganese, and lithium in the first stage of a closed-loop solution for lithium-ion battery manufacturers. ...”

  • Senior Test and Evaluation Engineer (Remote (Greenfield, IN))
  • Sr. Chemical Process Engineer (Remote (Hybrid, Remote))


“Our mission is to decarbonise the transportation industry, and we devote our technology, time and talent to advancing the transition to sustainable low-carbon fuels. In 2010 we set a challenge to produce an alternative fuel which could compete with fossil fuels from both an environmental and economic perspective. In this time we have developed and patented breakthrough technology, which successfully achieves ...”

  • Senior Process Engineer (Palma, Spain)
  • Senior Instrumentation & Control Automation Engineer (Palma, Spain)

The Clean Fight

“The Clean Fight is dedicated to accelerating the transition to clean energy for all. Our flagship not-for-profit accelerator helps scale the top growth-stage clean energy companies from around the world, looking to expand into New York. Innovators that will help meet New York’s future energy needs, while boosting economic opportunity and job creation for all. Powered by New Energy Nexus. ...”

  • Senior Accountant (Remote (New York, NY, USA))
  • Marketing Manager (New York, NY, USA)


“Pathways is a platform for manufacturers that simplifies the creation of product life cycle analysis. It’s like the environmental nutrition facts for materials. But Instead of calories and carbs, we measure chemicals and carbon. Pathways is developing AI-enabled technologies that integrate across operations, ingesting supplier data and giving manufacturers insight into the environmental emissions impact. This enables product decarbonization through ...”

  • Founding Engineer @ Pathways (Remote (NYC, NY, USA))

PowerDash Inc.

“PowerDash is on a mission to facilitate the transition to renewable energy by enabling stakeholders to realize the value of their renewable energy systems. We provide a web application that our customers use to monitor and manage their energy systems, in addition to acting as an independent verifier for the reporting of RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) and SRECs (Solar RECs). As ...”

  • Operations Manager (Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States)

“ is a technology start-up working to drive citizen engagement in climate change adaptation. You will be joining us at an exciting and pivotal time. We’ve just released our MVP for the city of Los Angeles and have six months of testing and partner pilots planned before our official release later this year. ...”

  • Community Engagement/Community Manager (LA-based) (Los Angeles, CA, USA)

2050 Partners, Inc.

“2050 Partners helps utility, public, private, and non-profit clients shorten the path to carbon neutrality and increase return on investment by shaping regulations and policy, boosting energy effectiveness, and demonstrating energy leadership. We are decarbonization change drivers, navigators, and advocators aimed at helping organizations meet energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals. ...”

  • Senior Consultant: Decarbonization Projects and Programs (Remote (Oakland, California (Remote)))
  • Associate Technical Director: Decarbonization Projects and Programs (Remote (Oakland, California (Remote)))
  • Associate Director: Decarbonization Projects and Programs (Remote (Oakland, California (Remote)))
  • Consultant: Decarbonization Projects and Programs (Remote (Oakland, California (Remote)))

Spoiler Alert

“Spoiler Alert is a Boston-based software company helping perishable CPG brands manage excess and slow-moving inventory. Working exclusively at the manufacturing plant or distribution center level, Spoiler Alert offers a best-in-class B2B sales platform that enables food & beverage brands to manage their liquidation processes across a private network of discount retailers and nonprofit channels - with a heavy focus ...”

  • People Operations Lead (Remote (Remote (Based In Us, Canada), Boston))
  • Future Opportunity at Spoiler Alert (Remote (Remote))


“Climatebase is the world's #1 hiring platform for the climate workforce. We’re focused on solving one of the greatest challenges facing climate companies: Hiring. Climatebase helps climate tech companies, renewable energy companies, and environmental nonprofits hire the top mission-driven talent they need to succeed — while helping people discover opportunities to work in climate and transition into the space. With 250k ...”

  • Fellowship Events Coordinator (Remote)
  • Fellowship Admissions Coordinator (Remote)
  • Fellowship Events Coordinator - Application for Fellows/alumni only (Remote)
  • Fellowship Admissions Coordinator - Application for Fellows/alumni only (Remote)


“Gradient’s mission is to cool the world by transforming every home to be more comfortable and healthy for the people who inhabit it — without compromising the environment. Today, heating and cooling equipment emit more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, and expansion in the use of cooling is projected to double these emissions in the next 30 ...”

  • Senior Motor Control / Firmware Engineer (San Francisco, CA )
  • Senior Firmware Engineer (San Francisco, CA )

That's it for this week! Remember, you can always view thousands of more jobs on

Final reminders...

👋 Get discovered. Create a profile to have employers hire you.

🚀 Accelerate your climate career. Apply to join the Climatebase Fellowship.

🌱 Hiring? Post your jobs to reach over 250k monthly users users and over 100,000 newsletter readers.

❤️️ Share a link to this week's edition.

🐦 Let's connect! Follow us on Twitter @Climatebase, and our co-founders @evandhynes and @jhardin925

The Author

Julian Moore