Last weekend, 195 nations reached a landmark agreement that will commit the world to limiting its greenhouse gas emissions. Throughout the two weeks of negotiations, we saw significant discussion about how investing in forests can be a low cost climate solution. Unfortunately, these discussions often focused on international forests, and assumed that U.S. forests' ability to sequester carbon will remain the same without any special action.
That's why today, the American Forest Foundation and The Trust for Public Land, co-chairs of the Forest Climate Working Group, a coalition of landowners, conservation organizations, forestry advocates, forest products companies and scientists delivered a letter to President Obama calling for increased recognition of the critical role American that forests must play in meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets agreed to in Paris.
Currently, our forests offset 13 percent of the country's annual carbon emissions - as much as President Obama's Clean Power Plan will reduce in 2030. However, a recent study by the U.S. Forest Service showed this massive carbon sponge is at risk from increased development, wildfire, pests and disease.
Already, President Obama's Climate Action Plan and the building blocks from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have taken steps to help private landowners, the largest ownership base of forests, to conserve, restore, and adaptively manage forests through the changes ahead.
But we need to do more.
Both the federal government and states can take steps to keep our forests healthy and functioning, maintaining their carbon storage capacity for decades to come.
The American Forest Foundation helps ensure our forests continue to provide the immense benefits we all count on - clean water, wood supply, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage, by working with family forest owners across the country.
With our partners at the Forest Climate Working Group, we're pushing for policies to keep forests intact so these resources continue to be available. We're working with the federal government and states to find solutions that will provide economic and tax incentives for forest stewardship and conservation, and increase the use of sustainably harvested wood products that lock carbon in place.
If we can continue to create incentives that encourage planting trees, managing existing forests, and increasing the demand for wood products, we can ensure we continue to have the necessary carbon sink needed to combat climate change.
We must keep our forests healthy if we are going to meet our emission reduction goals, and America's forest owners are ready to be part of the climate solution.