Climate 411

Strong scientific foundations, as well as strong science-based markets, make successful nature-based climate solutions possible

Forester examines trees

Daniel Balakov, iStock

This post is authored by Brian Buma, Senior Climate Scienist, Environmental Defense Fund.

Nature is vital to our success in fighting climate change and its real-world impacts. To unlock nature’s climate potential, we need investments to go to impactful nature-based climate solutions (NbCS), which refer to strategies to conserve, restore or improve the management of natural and working ecosystems for their climate benefits.

However, in a research paper recently published by myself and others, we found markets for NbCS were getting ahead of the science. In particular, we found many NbCS where carbon crediting was proposed or implemented had questionable scientific foundations.

We need NbCS to work, and we’re spending tens of millions in the hopes they do. Yet as our study shows, questions remain on how we can achieve the best ground-level outcomes and maximize the enormous potential of these solutions to lower greenhouse gas concentrations.

To illustrate how NbCS can work successfully, we need to look at science and implementation and understand how these two key components are different, but also interconnected.

Let’s start by thinking about your car.

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Also posted in Forest protection, Science / Leave a comment

Governor Inslee moves Washington state one step closer to linking carbon market with California and Quebec

Today, the state of Washington took a big step toward linking its cap-and-invest program with the carbon markets in California and Quebec, a move that could boost climate action and create a more stable, more predictable market for all. Governor Inslee signed E2SB 6058 into law, which will further align Washington’s program with the joint California-Quebec program (known as the Western Climate Initiative) and facilitate a smoother linkage process.

This latest development builds on the momentum of last week’s joint statement from the three jurisdictions, in which they expressed their shared interest in the potential creation of a larger, linked market among them. While Governor Inslee and Washington policymakers are tackling climate change head-on and trying to strengthen the state’s carbon market, a wealthy hedge fund executive is trying to bring climate progress to a screeching halt through a ballot initiative that would end the program altogether. The contrast between the two outcomes for Washington’s cap-and-invest program could not be starker.

Here’s what you need to know about the linkage bill and what’s at stake with Washington’s program.

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Also posted in Cities and states, Economics, Energy, News, Policy / Comments are closed

How to act fast and smart (and where to move more cautiously) on nature-based climate solutions

Aerial photo of the Ecuadorian Amazon

Aerial photo of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Leslie Von Pless/EDF

This post is authored by Mark Moroge, Vice President of Natural Climate Solutions at Environmental Defense Fund.

We know that nature-based climate solutions are among our greatest assets when it comes to tackling climate change. Conserving, restoring and improving the management of nature – alongside reductions in new fossil fuel use – can provide at least 20% of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2 °C.

We also know that we need much greater investment in nature to achieve its climate change mitigation potential: the world must close a $4.1 trillion financing gap in nature by 2050 to achieve climate goals.

But with a wide variety of potential solutions on offer, and with carbon markets for financing these solutions under intense scrutiny, it is essential that credit purchases prioritize those solutions that have strong scientific backing. Otherwise, we risk undermining trust in the potential of these markets to deliver climate results.

That’s why a new scientific paper published this week in Nature Climate Change is so important. Here we explain the findings and provide two key lessons for advancing nature-based climate solutions.

Scientific confidence in different solutions varies

The study, carried out by 27 experts from 11 institutions, including the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and Columbia University, brings a deep scientific assessment of 43 nature-based climate solutions that have been implemented or proposed for use in carbon markets.

Through an extensive literature review and expert elicitation process, it found a wide range in scientific confidence across, and within, the different solutions.

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Also posted in Forest protection, Science / Comments are closed

Resolving scientific uncertainties in nature-based climate solutions: Location, location, location

Drone shot of mangrove trees off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

Drone shot of mangrove trees off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Carlos Aguilera / EDF Mexico

The world needs nature-based climate solutions (NbCS). These approaches use conservation, restoration, and management of natural and agricultural systems to retain existing, and sequester additional, carbon while reducing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. NbCS have been suggested to meet 20-30% of the world’s climate goals. Correspondingly, nature-based actions are included in the national commitments of 63% (104 of 168) of the signatories of the Paris Agreement.

However, defining the climate impact of different solutions requires accurate scientific measurement and accounting of greenhouse gas mitigation, including how long that benefit lasts. Where we lack accurate measurements and estimates of future durability, we cannot yet rely on NbCS to meet our climate goals.

Assessment of the science on NbCS
Environmental Defense Fund recently worked with experts in academia and other conservation and research institutions to assess the scientific confidence in more than 40 NbCS that have been proposed. The results of that inquiry are both optimistic and sobering.

The four most frequently credited NbCS by the four major carbon credit registries have high scientific confidence – tropical and temperate forest avoided conversion or degradation and reforestation. The confidence of the scientific community in those NbCS supports investing in these as climate solutions and demonstrates that we can develop sufficient understanding of process, measurement, and accounting methods necessary to meet high quality crediting requirements.

However, the experts concluded that 90% (39/42) of the proposed NbCS assessed in the study currently have insufficient scientific evidence for having climate impact we can count on. Within that 90% are NbCS like avoided conversion and degradation of systems as different as mangroves and boreal forests (see below for why).

Promisingly, the experts do have confidence that we can remedy this situation: focused research over the next five years could resolve many of the remaining questions for two-thirds of those pathways. Given that some, like agroforestry, tropical peatland conservation, and biochar additions are also estimated to have large-scale climate impacts, this study provides a roadmap for prioritizing research efforts.

The importance of location
Every NbCS is different, and so are the specific uncertainties and research needs. Prediction of how natural systems may change as the climate changes – affecting their carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions – is inherently uncertain. We are better at modeling some systems (like tropical forests) than others (like seagrass beds). But all NbCS pathways have something in common – location matters.

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Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Forest protection, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Oceans, Plants & Animals, Science / Comments are closed

Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement: What is High Integrity and Why It Matters

Under the Paris Agreement, Article 6.2 allows countries to exchange emissions reductions and removals through bilateral agreements—country to country. Despite stalled progress on final details for Article 6.2 at COP28, the mechanism is in operation with guardrails that push countries toward high-integrity programs. New bilateral agreements continue to emerge under the mechanism and mobilize needed capital.

In a webinar hosted by Browning Environmental Communications and Environmental Defense Fund (available to stream here), we discussed the key elements of high integrity under Article 6.2, and why it’s critical for effective climate action under the rule.

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Also posted in Paris Agreement / Tagged | Comments are closed

Auction results and budget decisions emphasize importance of investments from Washington state’s Climate Commitment Act

This blog was co-authored by Janet Zamudio, Western States Climate Policy Intern

The last week has been eventful in Washington, seeing the end of legislative session last Thursday and the first quarterly cap-and-invest auction of 2024, which posted results today. With the legislative session wrapped up and budgets passed, we now know what additional spending lawmakers plan to do with the revenue generated by these cap-and-invest auctions thanks to the supplemental budget passed last week. And with the results from the first auction of 2024 now in the books, it seems the Evergreen State will continue to see significant revenue from this program to reinvest in communities, clean energy projects and climate resilience. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s start with the auction results:

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Also posted in California, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Policy / Comments are closed