Forests Battle Global Warming
Today, the Forest Climate Working Group (FCWG), a coalition of landowners, conservation organizations, forestry advocates, forest products companies and scientists delivered a letter to President Obama calling for increased recognition of the critical role American forests must play in meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets, following the Paris COP21 agreement. Accompanied with the letter, the FCWG released a toolkit to help states reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the capacity of forests and forest products to sequester and store carbon.
“We heard significant discussions about international forests during the climate negotiations in Paris, but very little was focused on American forests,” said Jad Daley, Director of Climate Conservation at the Trust for Public Land and co-chair of the FCWG. “Domestic forests currently offset 13 percent of our annual emissions, setting the foundation of our international greenhouse gas emissions agreement and will be essential to our ability to meet this agreement moving forward.”
To put our forest sink into context, “the 766 million acres of America’s forests capture 38 percent of the total carbon emitted into our atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity produced in this country each year,” said Cynthia West, Director of the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change for the U.S. Forest Service.
“New U.S. Forest Service research shows our forests are at risk due largely to increasing development pressures, combined with loss to wildfire in the west.”
To support and grow this crucial forest sink, the FCWG recommends a suite of policy options both at the federal and state levels that can help private forests and forest products continue to sequester and store carbon.
With 56 percent of the nation’s forests, owned and cared for by private owners and families, a strategy for working with these individuals is an essential component of any forest carbon strategy.
“The USDA and Forest Service, through their Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Building Blocks, have already taken significant steps to ensure American forests, especially our private forests, continue to play a role in mitigating climate change,” said Rita Hite, Executive Vice President of the American Forest Foundation and co-chair of the FCWG. “More can be done at the federal level but there is a significant opportunity at the state level as well.”
To help states respond to the opportunity to pursue forest carbon strategies, the FCWG state toolkit builds on the USDA Building Blocks, providing states with policy recommendations to keep forests as forests, plant more trees, better manage existing forests, protect urban forests, and encourage the use of more forests products. These policy recommendations include:
- Creating incentives for increased forest carbon through a state’s Clean Power Plan allowance revenue
- Maintaining or increasing state tax incentives for forest conservation
- Expanding the use of wood products in construction.
The FCWG and its participants are committed to working with the administration to improve forest policy, and with states across the country as they try to maintain and increase their forests’ ability to sequester and store carbon.