Washington, D.C. — Protecting 30 percent of lands in the United States can help curb rising greenhouse gas emissions by taking the equivalent of more than 32 million cars off the road annually, according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress.
The first-of-its-kind analysis shows that a plan to stem the loss of existing natural areas and increase the ability of natural places to sequester carbon could help absorb at least 150 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year.
“There is a growing scientific consensus that to confront the biodiversity crisis, we must protect at least 30 percent of the earth’s land and ocean by 2030,” said Ryan Richards, a senior policy analyst for Public Lands at CAP and author of the brief. “But investing in nature is also essential to protect and expand America’s carbon sink and kick-start progress toward 2050 climate goals.”
Protecting ecosystems from development keeps the carbon they’ve already sequestered in plants and soil and out of the atmosphere. Forests and other lands already sequester over 770 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. CAP finds that a 30×30 goal is necessary to protect this existing sink, and would expand its capacity by more than 150 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually by 2030.
These gains come through new land protections, but also from targeted, science-led, ecological restoration that improves the condition of protected lands—and increases their potential to capture carbon. This includes reforesting and restoring habitats on public and private lands; restoring flood plains and wetlands to protect homes and communities; and investing in parks and open spaces to ensure equitable access to nature across the country.
Read the issue brief: “The Plan for a 100 Percent Clean Future Must Include Saving Nature” by Ryan Richards
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