Drawdown, Negative Emissions, Forest Protection, & Other Natural Solutions

The IPCC has warned that deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will not be enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C. All modeled pathways project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) to compensate for residual emissions and for delays in implementing emissions reductions.[15] The IPCC found that it is feasible to draw down excess atmospheric carbon dioxide without recourse to experimental carbon capture and sequestration technologies by relying entirely on nature-based solutions, primarily forests, in combination with steeper emissions reductions.[16] In addition, the IPCC noted that restoration of natural ecosystems and soil carbon sequestration, if done properly, could provide essential co-benefits such as improved biodiversity, soil quality, and local food security.[17]

  • Immediately protect, restore, and enhance natural ecosystems—such as forests, wetlands, peatlands, coastal and marine ecosystems—to protect communities from climate change, remove carbon from the atmosphere, protect endangered and keystone species, and protect and increase carbon stored in natural sinks.
    • Forests. The U.S. must immediately scale up forest protection, rewild and restore degraded forests, reduce consumption, and transition to truly clean, renewable energy before it is too late. Standing forests draw enormous amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere and store it long-term in trees and soils. To avoid climate catastrophe, we must rethink the way we value forests. Forests help provide a cost-effective solution to the threat of climate change and create healthier, more resilient communities, ecosystems, and economies.[18]
    • Wetlands. The preservation, restoration, and conservation of freshwater and marine wetlands and peatlands is necessary to provide efficient sinks for greenhouse gases such as carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide. In particular, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests should be protected and restored for their carbon drawdown and sequestration potential. Science-based best practices should be developed and implemented for the control of invasive species that threaten the natural ecosystem functions of wetlands and peatlands, as well as for reducing the impacts of stormwater runoff resulting in contamination of wetlands from hog and chicken farms, landfills, and other land-based pollution sources.
    •  Oceans. Oceans directly absorb atmospheric heat and play vital roles in carbon drawdown and sequestration. Measures should be put in place to enhance the carbon drawdown and sequestration potential of marine waters by preserving the overall health of ocean ecosystems. Kelp forests, certain beneficial phytoplankton, and other submerged aquatic vegetation, as well as shellfish and coral reefs, all play critical roles in the marine carbon cycle. More marine protected areas (MPAs) must be designated to protect and restore appropriate marine and estuarine areas for their carbon drawdown and sequestration potential, while maintaining traditional uses of these areas by local communities for food and sustenance.
  • Ensure accurate and transparent accounting of emissions in the forestry, land-use, bioenergy, and marine sectors.
  • Stop false solutions such as industrial-scale bioenergy, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and other forest and biogenic carbon offset schemes that deliver neither sufficient long-term emissions cuts nor environmental and climate justice. Halt conversion of natural forests to plantations of genetically engineered trees or non-native species and reject similarly problematic afforestation plans.
  • Develop just economic transition strategies for communities dependent on extractive forest economies, particularly indigenous communities, communities of color, economically disadvantaged communities, and rural communities. Provide more options and incentives for landowners and municipalities to maintain forests and other natural ecosystems for their carbon sequestration and resiliency benefits.

    References

    [15] IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P. R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Waterfield (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. C.3, p. 19.

    [16] Booth, M.S. 10/7/2018. The IPCC’s Recipe for a Livable Planet: Grow Trees, Don’t Burn Them. Retrieved from: http://www.pfpi.net/the-ipccs-recipe-for-a-livable-planet-grow-trees-dont-burn-them

    [17] IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. P. 19, C.3.5, p. 19.

    [18] Stand4Forests: A Unified Call for Forest Protection in the United States. Accessed October 2019 from https://stand4forests.org/