Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New CAP Data Show How Conserving Natural Places Is Essential for Fighting Climate Change
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Data Show How Conserving Natural Places Is Essential for Fighting Climate Change

Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress is releasing new data showing how achieving the ambitious goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands by 2030 (30×30) can play a critical role in fighting climate change by absorbing additional emissions.

Bold investments in conservation and restoration through President Joe Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, which includes a 30×30 conservation goal for U.S. lands, waters, and ocean, can not only preserve the current rate of carbon sequestration in natural areas but also improve it. CAP’s analysis finds that compared with the status quo, achieving a 30×30 goal would pull up to 215 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent out of the atmosphere annually—the climate equivalent of taking 47 million cars off the road.

This emissions reduction estimate is based on three factors: 1) preventing nature loss; 2) replanting forests on private lands; and 3) restoring historic fire patterns in Western forests.

At the same time, the issue brief shows that with no conservation action, many natural areas assumed to be carbon sinks will be lost to development and lose capacity to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. CAP’s research shows that each year the United States is losing the equivalent of 15 percent of nature’s sequestration potential due to current rates of nature loss—a whopping 140 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

“Nature’s capacity to sequester carbon is shrinking at a time when it’s needed most,” said Ryan Richards, a senior policy analyst for Public Lands at CAP. “As a nation, we cannot rely on nature to be a carbon sink without taking ambitious action to both conserve and restore its climate-saving power.”

The brief shows that getting to 30×30 would also secure an enormous amount of carbon—equal to more than three times annual global emissions. It would turn U.S. lands from a ticking climate bomb—instigated by the loss of nature and increasing wildfires—into a reliable and growing carbon sink.

Read “Nature Loss Threatens America’s Best Defense Against Climate Change” by Ryan Richards, Jenny Rowland-Shea, and Nicole Gentile

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org.