Last week’s editorial “The EPA’s not-so-green emissions plan” in the Washington Post rightfully asserted that a wholesale switch from coal to wood as a fuel source for generating electricity would take us in the wrong direction on climate change. It would increase carbon emissions at the smokestack, while also degrading forests’ ability to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere.
But the note at the end hitting on the importance of policies encouraging the protection of forests as carbon sinks desperately needs more attention in the climate policy arena.
The biomass industry frequently asserts that in the absence of policies encouraging markets that pay landowners to grow and cut trees, forests will be converted to urban development or agriculture. By their logic, we must log and burn trees to protect forests. But as the Washington Post points out, there is another way to value forests; we’re just not doing it.
We must embrace a new path and enact policies to accelerate forest protection through providing incentives and creating new markets that encourage forest landowners to keep forests standing as carbon sinks.
Whether it’s keeping carbon out of the atmosphere, generating abundant and clean drinking water, preventing floods or providing critical habitat for wildlife, the 21st Century demands a renewed and concerted effort to improve forest conservation and protection across large landscapes. We can develop policies that value standing forests for the critical climate, water and wildlife services they provide.