The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. It is being held in Glasgow, Scotland, from November 1st-12th. U.S. climate representatives John Kerry and Gina McCarthy will work together to demonstrate U.S. commitment to addressing the threat of climate change. If our leaders can call on other countries to halt deforestation of tropical rainforests, they should be able to show commitment to protecting the temperate rainforests of the United States.
Climate scientists are promoting the creation of a national Strategic Carbon Reserve to protect 50 million acres of mature forested federal lands from logging to help meet U.S. carbon-reduction goals by 2030. These public forests are one of our best defenses from the worsening impacts of climate change. The temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska store more carbon per acre than tropical rainforests. Studies show that protecting our mature forests from logging would store the equivalent of approximately 8 years of regional fossil fuel emissions. For instance, the Tongass National Forest contains 8 percent of the nation’s total forest carbon stores alone.
Remaining mature and old growth forests in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Northern California offer critical near-term climate protection. Of the anthropogenic contributions to atmospheric CO2 since 1870, 26 percent is due to emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Older, mature forests have the greatest potential to sequester and store significant amounts of carbon, and to recover carbon that has been released to the atmosphere over the last 200 years.
Logging and planting trees is not the solution. Young trees take decades to sequester carbon, while the process of creating wood products results in net carbon emissions, not net carbon storage. Our temperate rainforests not only sequester and store carbon, they help regulate the earth’s temperature and weather patterns, like droughts and storms. They also provide essential life-giving services like purifying the air and water. A credible climate strategy must include immediately establishing Carbon Reserves focused on permanent protection of mature and old growth forest remaining on public lands.
Please urge U.S. climate representatives to join the solution by establishing Pacific Northwest Rainforest Carbon Reserves and throughout our national forests for our climate and our future generations.