Family Forest Blog

We Must Activate All Climate Solutions Now

American Forest Foundation

March 30, 2023

IPCC Forests Image

Last week, the world passed a new jarring threshold. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced on March 20 that the world is on track to miss our goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 10 years. And without a strengthening of policies and climate action, global warming of 3.2 degrees is projected by 2100.  

To put all of these numbers and dates in context, our current trajectory means catastrophic harm for our communities, economies and the planet.   

This stark reality makes it clearer than ever that sustainability leaders – corporations, investors, and governments – must take every possible action to mitigate climate change now. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, we must cut greenhouse gas emissions to a drastic 60% below 2019 levels by 2035. In the words of Secretary-General António Guterres, “our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”  

To truly meet our 1.5-degree reduction goal, we need to activate all climate solutions now, including reducing our emissions and investing in natural climate solutions. Corporations and private actors must do everything they can to mitigate the carbon impacts from their pipeline. But many solutions still remain technologically and financially out of reach. So while companies take inventory of their processes, measure, and research new solutions, the planet cannot wait.  

Our climate necessitates that we operate in a world of “and,” not “or.” We must do the complex and hard work of researching and developing new technologies, and we must invest in the most effective solutions that exist now.  

Today, forests are one of the best natural climate solutions available to us. In the U.S. alone, forests cover more than 750 million acres of land, making them our largest terrestrial carbon sink, continuously taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in trees. An underrated natural superpower, forests currently balance 15% of our country’s carbon emissions and studies show that number could be nearly doubled with carbon-smart forest management, the kind of intervention high-integrity natural climate solutions offer.  

Forest carbon programs also offer benefits beyond carbon storage that help us build a more climate-resilient future. The Family Forest Carbon Program enacts change by providing financial and technical assistance to family forest owners to implement forest management practices that improve the health of forests, air and water quality, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. Forest carbon projects represent one of the best solutions today for delivering on greenhouse gas mitigations while also enhancing a host of ecosystem services and valuable co-benefits.   

This philosophy of “and” not “or” also applies to how we enact natural climate solutions. For example, it is both the case that we need to improve how we design, implement and measure natural climate solutions, and we can’t wait to act until the system is perfect. High integrity, or ensuring a true climate impact, needs to be the standard for carbon projects, and that standard will constantly evolve.  

At the American Forest Foundation, we are constantly pushing towards greater integrity in our projects. The matched dynamic baseline is the newest innovation towards greater integrity in carbon accounting and is being used in the Family Forest Carbon Program’s methodology for the first time in the United States. There will be many more innovations that push the voluntary carbon market forward and make previous methods ineffective. That’s a good thing! We must act on the best solutions that exist now and work together to innovate and improve those solutions to continually maximize and ensure our impact.

So what's really needed to activate all climate solutions now? Investment. To meet the immensity of the challenge ahead, natural climate solutions need to be taken to scale. More financial investment is needed to implement carbon-smart forest management, and support and enroll family forest owners. And in the spirit of “and” not “or”, we also need to invest in enhancing the integrity of carbon accounting at the same time.  

We have already seen success from this investment. The Family Forest Carbon Program was designed and developed alongside our partner The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and our innovative dynamic baseline methodology was created by AFF, TNC, and TerraCarbon. The program’s development, and continued expansion and support to more landowners across the country, was made possible thanks to our corporate buyers and donors.  

Our call today is simple: Corporations and philanthropic investors, invest and amplify high-integrity natural climate solutions that align with your values while continuing to work towards emissions reductions. If you are an investor or government entity, we need new ways of doing things. Envision new ways and mechanisms to fund and activate natural climate solutions. And to everyone involved in this climate fight, let’s activate all climate solutions now. Our planet cannot wait.

American Forest Foundation

March 30, 2023

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