Advance Climate Solutions - Pacific Forest Trust

What We Do:

Advance Climate Solutions

Our climate is rapidly changing due to the excess buildup of heat-trapping gases—especially carbon dioxide—blanketing the Earth. Conserving, restoring, and replanting forests will safeguard natural processes that regulate climate-altering gases in our atmosphere.

Forest loss and degradation are the second largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by people, second only to our use of fossil fuels, according to the EPA. While forests absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow, they emit CO2 when they are lost or degraded. On average in the last decade, 1.5 million forested acres were lost per year in the U.S. due to conversion for development or agricultural purposes. We support a combination of reducing forest loss, restoring forests to older more natural conditions, and reforesting former woodlands in order to reduce COemissions and reduce the effects of climate change.

CO2 is the most abundant climate-altering gas in our atmosphere, making up over 80% of the total greenhouse gas emissions by the U.S. Forests naturally remove CO2 from the atmosphere, storing carbon within their trees, herbaceous plants, and soils. Forests absorb between 17 and 20% of CO2 emissions globally and could reach double that if we conserve, reforest, and restore older forests.

Forests are an essential part of the climate change solution, but policies to leverage the natural power of forests to combat climate change have lagged behind those to reduce fossil fuel emissions. By pioneering policies and incentives to enable conservation and restoration of contiguous, working forest landscapes, and promote sustainable forest management, we have demonstrated powerful, effective new ways to lower net CO2 emissions. In so doing, we also conserve America’s forests for all of the benefits they provide.

Forests Improve Air Quality

Forests are the largest, safest, most expandable carbon sinks. Even at one-third of their natural extent, forests currently remove roughly 20% of global CO2 from the atmosphere as our “hidden” carbon sink. If they were intentionally conserved and sustainably managed, forests could remove an additional 20%. In addition to reducing the heat-trapping layer of CO2 in our atmosphere, forests clean our air of other pollutants as well and provide life-sustaining oxygen.

Forest Conservation Reduces Emissions

Together, forest loss and degradation is the second largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions. While growing, undisturbed forests store carbon. Disturbances such as conversions, harvests, and fire release carbon. By reducing forest loss, restoring older, natural forest conditions, and reforesting where forests were lost, we can reduce emissions and slow the rate of climate change.

Forests Provide Refuge for Wildlife Adapting to Climate Change

In the U.S., 75% of threatened and endangered animals live on privately owned land. According to the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, one of the most important things we can do to help animals and plants adapt to changing conditions is to conserve the range of habitats on which they depend. Forests, both public and private, provide essential habitats for these myriad species.

Forests Provide Water

Forests provide us with cool, clean water and are our natural delivery system. As drought conditions prevail in response to our rapidly changing climate the sustainable management of forests becomes exceedingly important. Forests shade our rivers and lakes, clean water by removing nitrogen and other pollutants and limit the amount water from evaporating into the atmosphere. The more natural and less disturbed the forest conditions are, the better they function.

Forest Products Store Carbon

When sustainably managed for natural qualities until forests are older, forests store more carbon and yield higher quality and more carbon-rich products. These products can continue to store carbon for decades before the timber decays.

Using wood products in construction, instead of aluminum and steel, can also reduce emissions.

How We Advance Climate Solutions

We Develop Climate Policies and Incentives

Forest conservation, restoration, and carbon management are central to our climate strategy. With unprecedented rise in CO2 emissions, conserving whole forest landscapes is more important than ever.

We develop pioneering, practical, incentive-based policies that leverage the power of forests–and other natural lands–to reduce CO2 emissions. We provide the science that demonstrates and supports the role that forests must play if we are to have a safer planet with a livable atmosphere. We led the inclusion of forests in California’s landmark climate policy, AB 32– the Global Warming Solutions Act–the first economy-wide climate policy to include forests, globally. We also led the process that developed the first accounting standards for offsets under California’s system. Those offsets require standardized accounting, transparent third party verification, permanence, and natural forest management. Our van Eck project was the first project registered under this system, demonstrating its practicality and market success.

The climate policies and incentives we develop to conserve and restore resilient forested landscapes have synergistic outcomes of increasing carbon stores, improving wildlife habitat, protecting sources of clean water and improving communities whose economies depend on sustaining forests.

Forests contribute more to climate change solutions than offset projects alone by working with the forest sector as a whole, California could achieve emissions reductions on the scale of 120 to more than 200 million metric tons by 2030.

Our Work Is The Foundation Of The Forest-Carbon Market

The capacity of forests to store carbon and reduce atmospheric CO2 can bring added revenue to landowners through the emerging market in forest carbon offset credits. In this market, forest owners who manage for real climate benefits can sell these gains to entities seeking to offset CO2 emissions.

Building on California’s carbon market success, we believe that a regulatory framework with high standards leads to a market with solid returns for forest landowners who manage for climate benefits. California’s approach to offsets has now been adopted in 11 states and provinces in the U.S. and Canada and provides a national model for successfully integrating forests into national climate policies. Projects cover over 2 million acres in 22 states, serving as a national model for successful forest carbon offsets.


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Final notes from COP 23 in Bonn

The planet truly does provide the basics of life, and that reality underlies the hundreds of speeches, meetings, diplomatic interventions, arguments, presentations, panels, and debates held at COP 23. Read PFT Board chair Andrea Tuttle’s final observations from Bonn.

Photography: Title image by Miguel Vieira.