The Next Economy
The Climate Crisis-Mitigation Opportunity in America’s Backyard

With a narrow window to address the climate crisis, businesses must make the most of the opportunities in front of us. Family-owned forests offer a natural climate solution that can deliver real impact today and well into the future.

As news of Climate Week and the preceding Global Climate Strike fill inboxes, US corporations are feeling increasing pressure to minimize risk, reduce their carbon footprint and make a climate positive impact through their business.

Despite the significant work ahead, it’s encouraging to remember that forests represent one of our most promising natural climate solutions. In fact, a recent IPCC report highlighted the critical role that sustainable land use — including forestry — plays in tackling climate change. In the US, forests occupy more than 760 million acres and serve as the nation's largest terrestrial carbon sink, offsetting 11.3 percent of our country’s annual carbon emissions. In addition, wood products for buildings, homes, furniture and more also continue to store carbon once produced, adding to this sink. What’s more, it’s been well established that healthy, sustainably managed forests play a significant role in sequestering more carbon.

Rightly so, much of the Climate Week dialogue includes ideas to increase carbon capture and combat our growing greenhouse gas emissions through land use and the world’s forests. Unfortunately, our greatest near-term opportunity for unlocking the carbon potential of forests is often left out of the conversation.

Businesses and corporations serious about action now have a practical solution ready and waiting right in our country’s backyard — the forestland owned by families and individuals.

Science-based targets for the sustainability of forests

Join representatives from CDP and SalterBaxter as they discuss new deforestation frameworks and paths toward science-based targets on forests — Nov. 20 at New Metrics '19.

Families own 38 percent of America’s forests, more than any other ownership group including the federal government and corporations, making them essential for maintaining and enhancing our natural carbon sink. And fortunately, family forest owners want to do right by the land, as well. What prevents most from actively managing and improving forest health are barriers such as lack of technical assistance and most notably: Cost.

So far, businesses have not been able to tap into the carbon potential of family-owned forests. Current forest carbon markets are prohibitive to small landowners due to cost and complexity.

The American Forest Foundation (AFF), the leading non-profit conservation organization that focuses on keeping family forestland productive, is developing innovative solutions to optimize their carbon potential — by using a market-based approach that promotes sustainable forest management.

With our partner, The Nature Conservancy, AFF has created the Family Forest Carbon Program, a new avenue for corporations to tap into the carbon storage potential of family-owned US forests, while creating a market for small landowners to generate income from their land.

The Family Forest Carbon Program offers family landowners incentive payments to implement science-based, sustainable forest management practices on their property that increase carbon sequestration and storage. These practices also provide co-benefits such as improved wildlife habitat, reduced wildfire risk, minimized soil erosion and long-term sustainability. Carbon monitoring and reporting are done through a practice-based approach that reduces costs and ensures an overall accurate projection of the total carbon sequestered.

For businesses, the Family Forest Carbon Program is designed to produce verified carbon credits and the opportunity for credible carbon offsets. It offers companies a new path to make an impact on climate change and meet their sustainable development goals. In addition, those participating in the program will also improve their supply chain, increase the resiliency of our forested ecosystem and make a meaningful investment in communities.

This type of market-based approach will make it economically feasible for family forest owners to participate on a large scale, making a significant contribution to the nation’s climate-mitigation needs. It also offers a market for companies to invest in carbon benefits and demonstrate their leadership on climate issues.

With a narrow window to address the climate crisis, businesses must make the most of the opportunities in front of us. Family-owned forests offer a natural climate solution that can deliver real impact today and well into the future.

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