Climate Change Mitigation
“Climate change mitigation” means actions taken to prevent, reduce, or offset the emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG) such as carbon dioxide and methane which are contributing to global climate change. Such actions might include reduction in GHG emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, and combustion-powered vehicles. Actions might also include storing more carbon in forest trees and wood products, or capturing point-source GHG emissions and injecting them into underground geological formations for long-term storage.
Policy actions leading to climate change mitigation could include emission caps, “cap-and-trade” systems, transportation fleet and fuel requirements, carbon taxes, carbon capture and storage requirements, and stimulating markets for forest carbon “offsets.” Several of these policy actions present potential opportunities for DNR to exercise leadership and perhaps gain benefits for forest land and trust beneficiaries.
Forest and their management are widely considered to be of central importance in climate change mitigation, even as climate change poses challenges for the adaptive management of forests. Additional long-term storage of carbon in trees and wood products can be carefully accounted to “offset” emissions of GHG and sold as such through carbon markets to those with a requirement or desire to reduce or offset their own emissions.
The department’s Strategic Plan commits to the exercise of leadership within Washington’s forest sector for participation in forest carbon policy discussions locally and nationally, and to exploring future possibilities for marketing of carbon offset credits from forested trust lands. One example of offset credits the department has explored is that resulting from purchasing new forested trust lands under pressure to convert to non-forest development, and committing to perpetuating forest cover. In that case, market payments for carbon credits could help compensate the trusts for the unrealized value of development rights.
The Department of Natural Resources has been providing leadership at the state, regional, and federal levels in policy discussions regarding the important role forests play in helping society mitigate its contributions to change.
At the state level, DNR participated on the Governor’s 2007 Climate Advisory Team and its Forestry Technical Workgroup and 2008 Climate Action Team. In the 2007 CAT report page 84, forest-related efforts judged “most promising” included improving forest health, reducing land use conversion to non-forest uses, expanding use of wood products in building materials, improved utilization of forest biomass for biofuels, and expanded urban and community forests.
DNR co-chaired a broad-based stakeholder group in 2008, The Forest Sector Workgroup on Climate Change Mitigation, which made consensus legislative recommendations on forest landowners’ participation in emerging markets for credits from carbon absorption and storage (called “sequestration”) In response to a 2009 Governor’s Executive Order and 2010 legislation (ESHB 2541) that stakeholder group is meeting again in a series of meetings in 2010 to develop recommendations for non-market landowner incentives for forest carbon sequestration, and recommendations on optimizing the carbon storage benefits of avoiding forest land conversion to non-forest use.
At the regional level, DNR has contributed to the work of the Western Climate Initiative Offsets subcommittee, and played a leading role in the 2009 adoption by the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition of Its Position Statement, “A Framework for Forests and Climate Change.”
At the national level, DNR contributed to official Washington State comments to Congress on major climate and energy legislation passed by the House and under consideration in the Senate.