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Natural Climate Solutions Feature Heavily in Presidential Candidates' Climate Plans

Published: September 23, 2019 by Editorial Team

If the fact that climate change is starting to become a bi-partisan federal issue (see last week’s Scorcher) is not exciting enough, consider that all of the Democratic presidential candidates’ climate plans include natural climate solutions as elements of their strategies. This is important for two reasons. The first is that natural climate solutions can provide up to a third of cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation needed through 2030. The second is that in today’s polarized political atmosphere, natural climate solutions provide a unique path to better engage rural Americans in the fight for our climate.

Combating climate change requires all hands on deck. However, the Yale Program for Climate Change Communication has published several maps that show support for climate change policy being weakest in rural America. In order to garner support for climate policy from the largest number of Americans, candidates would be wise to recognize the need for strong natural climate solutions incentives.

Natural climate solutions are myriad. Forests, farms, ranches, and wetlands can all be managed to sequester atmospheric carbon. Incentives for carbon sequestration activities can take a variety of forms including carbon offset credits, direct payments, subsidies, easement purchases, etc. Without endorsing any specific plans, and some are certainly more detailed than others, a selection of illustrative highlights of what candidates are proposing are below.

  • Rewarding carbon removal in forests through improved forest management, reforestation, and long-term protection,
  • Investing $171 billion in reauthorizing and expanding the Civilian Conservation Corps to among other things, plant billions of trees, rebuild wetlands, and construct firebreaks,
  • Using biomass from sustainable forest thinning for renewable materials,
  • Creating a $160 billion incentive program aimed at farmers for soil health improvements and carbon sequestration,
  • Expanding the federal “sodsaver” policy to preserve grasslands from conversion to cropland,
  • Launching a farm nitrous oxide nutrient-management strategy.

People advocating climate action must recognize that we have left a large portion of Americans out of the conversation. Natural climate solutions, which are an integral piece of maintaining a habitable planet, are almost all located in or near rural areas. We must work better to promote the idea that providing economic incentives to farmers and forest owners to sequester greenhouse gases is a cost-effective and sensible way to combat climate change.

(For a broader and more comprehensive guide to the plans, see the Vox news article link at the end of this article).