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Pinchot focus areas:

Climate & Energy
The Role of US Forests in Mitigating Climate Change
Forests absorb and store large amounts of carbon and therefore play a major role in reducing atmospheric concentrations of CO2, the most abundant greenhouse gas (GHG) released by humans. In the U.S., forests sequester almost 14% of our annual CO2 emissions.  Meanwhile, the loss of forests around the world contribute 20% global CO2 emissions, far more than the contribution of automobiles. Most of this loss has been overseas, but for the first time in several generations the U.S. is experiencing a net loss in forest-cover--whereas in the last century any forests we lost were regained other places as trees returned to once-cleared lands.  Ensuring that we conserve our forests and they continue to sequester carbon is critical to reducing atmospheric CO2 and mitigating climate change.  

Over the past few years the Institute has worked in a number of ways to help ensure that forests in private hands – the vast majority of U.S. forestlands – will continue to sequester and store carbon.  In 2006, the Institute brought together individuals from public agencies, universities, and other non-profit and public organizations to explore the role of forests in mitigating climate change. State forestry agencies in particular can play a critical role in each of their states, by helping landowners find worthwhile and practical ways to sequester more carbon in their forests. However, the dialogue also identified how this challenge differs by state—where laws, institutions, and the forests themselves have a different complexion.  Following, the Institute focused on a number of state, regional, and national initiatives to ensure that the incentives and market-based approaches established as climate mitigation strategies include meaningful opportunities for private landowners.

The Institute has also partnered with regional conservation groups and public agencies to help test and prove the best techniques for landowners to sequester carbon, to inform how they should be rewarded through future carbon credit markets and incentive programs. Federal legislation in the works now includes forests as a strategy to mitigate climate change, but whether this works depends on what actually happens in the woods. Working with the U.S. Forest Service, the Maine Forest Service, the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands, and the Manomet Center for the Conservation Science Forest Service the Institute has helped evaluate techniques for carbon sequestration and how these benefits can be measured and tracked. The Institute ultimately seeks to expand the ways in which landowners can be rewarded for the reliable and real contributions of forests in mitigating climate change.

Project Leader: Will Price, Program Director
Grey Towers National Historic Site Support Our Work Best in America