Tree Planting Positioned as a Climate Solution, Healthy Markets for Forest Products Must Be a Priority

Trees, specifically tree planting programs, have received a lot of media attention in recent discussions around climate change solutions. This week, World Economic Forum announced its 1 Trillion Trees Initiative, and GOP House leadership teased a new climate plan that includes an emphasis on tree planting. As discussions around climate solutions continue, it is important that policy makers and global leaders consider the importance of healthy markets for forest products in the carbon sequestration equation.

“1 Trillion Trees” Initiative Expands Global Tree Planting Programs

At the World Economic Forum last year, Swiss ecologist Thomas Crowther gave a presentation that asserted that the Earth’s ecosystems could support an additional 1.2 trillion trees, which could reduce atmospheric carbon by about 25 percent. This year, the Forum launched the 1 Trillion Trees Initiative, which builds upon efforts from the United Nations and others to plant trees for the purpose of reducing carbon emissions.

“Nature-based solutions – locking up carbon in the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands – can provide up to one third of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement targets,” the Forum’s statement read. The initiative’s website states that the project is focused on uniting governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses and individuals in a global movement around reforestation.

During his speech at the Forum, President Trump announced that the U.S. would participate in the initiative and will “continue to show strong leadership in restoring, growing and better managing our trees and our forests.”

GOP Leadership’s Tree-Focused Climate Plan

According to a report from Axios, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and Reps. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana) and Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) teased a portion of the Republicans’ Climate Plan, which will focus legislation on three core areas: 1) capturing carbon dioxide emissions with a focus on trees; 2) clean-energy innovation and funding; and 3) conservation, focusing on plastic.

Rep. Westerman, a strong advocate for forestry in Congress, is working on a piece of legislation called the Trillion Trees Act, which would seek to boost reforestation activity in the U.S. for the purposes of absorbing and sequestering carbon. The details of the plan are currently unclear, but according to Axios, it makes permanent and expands an existing tax credit available to companies sequestering CO2 with a new emphasis the importance of capturing carbon.

Healthy Markets for Forest Products Maximize Carbon Sequestration

America’s forests are growing and thriving, and thanks to active forest management and healthy markets for forest products, they provide a myriad of benefits, including offsetting 12 to 15 percent of U.S. emissions annually. As such, policy makers should recognize working forests for providing two critical climate mitigation benefits: carbon sequestration as trees grow and continued carbon storage in the wood products they become.

If we want to maximize the carbon absorption and storage of trees, planting is not enough. We need to also encourage the use of sustainable wood products. Here’s how it works: 

  1. Grow: through the process of photosynthesis, growing trees capture carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into carbon within usable solid wood.
  2. Harvest: 50 percent of the dry weight of a tree is carbon. Harvested trees made into wood products continue to store the carbon they captured as growing trees.
  3. Replant: forest owners plant millions of tree seedlings each year, renewing the cycle with vigorous young growth and continuing carbon absorption. 

Grow | Harvest | Replant from NAFO on Vimeo.

Through active forest management and utilization of forest products, we create a continuing cycle of planting, growing and harvesting, which optimizes the forest’s ability to sequester and store carbon, while improving resiliency and maintaining the ability to sequester carbon in the future. In addition, by using forest products in innovative ways, we create economic incentives for private forest owners to continue stewarding their forests as an asset. 

Rep. Westerman echoed these thoughts on Twitter this week:

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