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Forests in United States Climate Policy

A Comprehensive Approach

Laurie Wayburn

August 2009, English

The comprehensive inclusion of domestic forests in national climate policy is essential to achieving United States goals to stabilize and reduce net emissions reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary global warming gas. U.S. forests, conserved and properly managed for resilience to a changing climate, can double their current sequestration of CO2 while contributing the majority of projected renewable energy supplies in the next 50 years at costs equal to or below other emissions reductions efforts. However, if present trends continue, the U.S. will lose 75 million acres of forestlands over 50 years, emitting almost 20 Pg (billion metric tons) CO2 from deforestation not counting loss of future sequestration.

Three key actions can stem this loss and enable the net increase of carbon stocks: reducing forest loss; restoring existing forests’ carbon stocks; and reforesting former forests. Including forests comprehensively within a cap and trade system will directly address and reverse the main source of human-caused forest CO2 emissions: forest loss and depletion.