The Outdoor Industry Aspires to Become Climate Positive by 2030

Climate positive is a summit that very few companies are yet pursuing. Blazing this new trail will not be easy. Yet, if we don’t carve a new, bold path for our industry and others to follow, we will ultimately fail to protect the outdoor experience upon which our businesses and many livelihoods around the globe depend. Our customers, consumers and employees are asking this of us… Now, united around this bold new goal and commitments, the outdoor industry through the Climate Action Corps – is poised to lead by example.

The world faces an urgent climate change problem caused by human activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of natural ecosystems. The Earth has already warmed by 1 degree since the 19th century, and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Global climate experts agree: if we don’t curb emissions immediately, the results will be catastrophic for life on Earth. To avoid that, the world must cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 (that is, any remaining emissions are neutralized by the equivalent carbon removals).

The bottom line: Every government, business and individual must act. And we believe the outdoor industry must lead.

Climate change is already threatening the $778 billion outdoor industry and outdoor participation everywhere. Ski seasons dwindle and resorts struggle to operate profitably; warmer streams, drought and fire diminish hunting and fishing activity; and kids and families shutter indoors throughout the West as wildfire-polluted skies force cancelled camping trips and hiking excursions, or, much worse – devastate entire communities. Extreme weather-related events are also harming people and communities across the globe that often make our products, while these same events disrupt the supply chains we depend on. With so much at stake, the outdoor industry must be at the forefront of transformation and innovation toward a low-carbon economy. Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), as the North American industry’s trade association with a mission to ensure a thriving outdoor industry for generations to come, has a primary responsibility to support its members and the industry to rise to face this challenge.

The Outdoor Industry’s Opportunity To Lead

As individual companies, the choices we make – from renewable energy to power our operations, to low-carbon materials and production processes to make our products, to enabling the reuse of our gear – can have an impact. But as an industry, we can be a significant force in reversing the impacts of climate change. Our collective efforts can scale innovations, activate millions of consumers, drive policy and create a model for other sectors to follow. Our industry has a history of innovation, leading with our values, and stewarding the planet. We know that our employees and our customers are expecting us to be part of the climate solution. We also have a history of coming together to tackle hard problems.

Many outdoor companies are already taking meaningful climate action – measuring their carbon footprints, setting greenhouse gas reduction targets, and neutralizing the emissions they cannot yet reduce. But we recognize these actions by a few leaders among us is not enough. We can do better. We need to catalyze bold, widespread climate action across our industry and beyond by forging a new path. Rather than simply reducing harmful practices, we can bring forward regenerative ones. Instead of just doing “less bad,” we can create “more good” for society and the environment. We can set aggressive science-based reduction targets that we are not 100% certain how to achieve – acknowledging the “innovation gap” between what can be modeled, and what’s actually required. We can remove carbon from the atmosphere through solutions that also restore and conserve nature, increase outdoor recreation opportunities for all, and build climate-resilient communities. We can advance a just transition to the clean energy economy. In doing so, we go beyond simply decreasing our negative impact to creating positive impact.

For these reasons, OIA created the Climate Action Corps in early 2020, which has since grown to more 100 members representing more than $25 billion in annual sales revenue.

With input from our members, Board of Directors, Sustainability Advisory Council and external experts over the past year, we are excited to announce a new aspiration to become the first climate positive industry by 2030, creating a bold example for others around the world to follow. We chose an ambitious but achievable target because we are leaders in the mountains, in our R&D departments and in the marketplace, and we believe we can reach this summit by working together. To make this an achievable goal for our members, OIA is assembling resources to guide and support each step of the journey.

What Does “Climate Positive” Mean?

Global consensus is still emerging, and we have grounded our own definition of “climate positive” in work being done by climate experts and NGOs and will continue to evolve this working definition as consensus emerges.

Our working definition: Climate positive means to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions in line with a science-based target (SBT) that addresses all scopes, to remove even more GHG from the atmosphere than you emit, and to advocate for broader systemic change.

Climate scientists agree that even with aggressive reductions in emissions, carbon removal—the process of extracting carbon dioxide from the air and storing it—will be crucial to avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. We also believe climate positive brings an opportunity for our industry to promote equity and climate justice. We will continue to seek the input of experts and leaders in carbon accounting, climate science and the climate justice movement – as well as our own member companies – to ensure our approach is bold yet pragmatic, science-based, inclusive and equitable, and drives environmental, societal and business value.

With this bold goal in place and a community of 100+ outdoor companies engaged in the Corps, we are moving quickly to establish a credible, practical pathway, supporting resources, and interim milestones that will guide and accelerate progress and lead our industry to climate positive by 2030.

The Path To Climate Positive

Measure + Plan | Reduce + Remove | Advocate + Engage | Share

Climate Action Corps members commit to the following actions, with a new member requirement as of 2021 to set a science-based target that addresses all scopes within two years of joining:

Measure + Plan.

Build a company-specific action plan. Calculate your entire carbon footprint (accounting for scopes 1-3, as defined by the GHG Protocol). Base your measurements on more and more primary data over time. Set a science-based target (SBT) that addresses all scopes within two years of joining (new requirement).

Society has not yet committed sufficiently to reduce emissions, and science-based targets are the only way to ensure carbon reduction at the individual organization level happens at the pace and scale required to meet the global 1.5 degree warming limit. OIA will release new Guidebook content and training resources to help members tackle challenging “scope 3” measurement in particular, as well as resources to support science-based target setting in line with the Science Based Target Initiative criteria in 2021 (though members will not be required to set SBTi-approved targets, we encourage companies to seek this level of 3rd party validation).

Reduce + Remove.

Take immediate and ongoing action to drive down carbon emissions in line with your SBT. Compensate for remaining emissions by investing in projects with a quantifiable climate benefit (e.g., through direct investment or purchasing offsets) that ideally remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with science is a critical part of any business’s climate strategy – no matter the size or structure. The market will demand our member brands have made meaningful reductions within five years. Because most of our industry’s GHG emissions are in the supply chain, implementing reductions has a long horizon. The Climate Action Corps puts forward these guiding principles for reduction: run cleaner, transport smarter, make better, and grow creatively, and provides resources as well as hosts collaborative projects (“CoLabs”) to drive reductions in accordance with these principles. Work will expand in 2021 to support all Climate Action Corps members to be on track to meet their SBTs by 2025. Changing the methods and materials for making our industry’s products will be challenging. Success will be far more likely working together to solve problems and leverage buying power. OIA is well-positioned to facilitate this kind of collaboration between our member companies, in partnership with on-the-ground organizations and experts.

But reductions alone cannot achieve net-zero or climate positive – and science is also clear that reductions alone will not be enough to limit warming to 1.5 degrees by mid-century. We also have to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere. Building on its long history of land and water conservation advocacy, the outdoor industry is in a unique position to galvanize investment in nature-based carbon removals or “sinks” – forests, farms, and grasslands – that may also provide recreational benefits for our consumers and economic benefits for landowners, farmers and their communities.

As businesses progress along reduction pathways, emissions that cannot be reduced will remain. We acknowledge these difficult-to-abate emissions have a negative impact on society, the environment, and outdoor businesses – in other words, they have a cost. Therefore, we believe they should: 1) Be priced into doing business – establishing an internal price on carbon creates an incentive for businesses to drive further reductions to decrease cost, and 2) Be compensated for by removing the equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere in the transition to climate positive – nature-based carbon sequestration measures are preferred because they also have the potential to create societal co-benefits that align with outdoor industry values, from creating shade in heat-stressed urban areas to restoring forest ecosystems.

Carbon offsets, or voluntary carbon credits, provide one means to accomplish removals, provided they meet standards for high quality (see Guidebook). Yet, we go into this clear-eyed on the realities and challenges: the carbon removals market is nascent and limited today. We have an opportunity to contribute to growth, rigor and innovation in this space. It’s also important to acknowledge that offsets alone are not an appropriate carbon management strategy and should be used in addition to a science-aligned reduction target and abatement strategy. In other words, a comprehensive climate strategy includes both reducing and removing carbon. Both are challenging, but necessary.

Advocate + Engage.

Advocate for critical, systemic policy change and engage your consumers and business partners. Recognize and reward climate-leading practices with your vendors and supply chain partners.

The systemic transformation required to meet the global targets outlined by the scientific community requires action by all countries, and all levels of government. Climate Action Corps members bring a unique and powerful business voice to the climate policy landscape. OIA and its partners provide advocacy opportunities annually (op-eds, fly-ins, testimony, signons letters, etc.) that advance our climate policy priorities, which include: incentivizing businesses that take bold climate action, accelerating an equitable transition to renewable energy, advancing natural climate solutions and supporting green infrastructure like more parks and paths to build low-carbon, climate-resilient communities.

In addition, our collective millions of employees and consumers have the power through their individual actions to have a remarkable cumulative impact as both citizen advocates and in reducing their own footprints. Trusted outdoor brands can inspire, empower and even enable consumers to take action – from driving to their favorite campsites or ski areas in electric vehicles, to converting their homes to renewable energy, to making their voices heard with policymakers – among other actions.

Last but not least, in addition to driving policy solutions and engaging our consumers, Climate Action Corps members commit to recognizing and rewarding climate-leading actions with their vendors. Retailers have a critical role as “choice editors” in assorting, promoting, and otherwise showing preference toward brands that are progressing in meaningful, measurable ways – bringing more relevant products and innovations to consumers who increasingly demand them.

Share Our Progress.

We use transparency to maintain credibility and drive accountability. Every Climate Action Corps member is required to submit an Annual Progress Report each April to be posted publicly on OIA’s web site, as well as used to aggregate data to demonstrate our collective impact through our annual “Path to Climate Positive” report.

OIA Sustainability Advisory Council Members
Matt Thurston, REI (Chair)
Libby Sommer, Bolt Threads
Guru Larson, Columbia Sportswear
Danielle Cresswell, Klean Kanteen
Theresa Conn, NEMO Equipment
John Stokes, New Balance
Kim Drenner, Patagonia
JJ Trout, PeopleForBikes
Kristen Bandurski, Red Wing Shoe Co.
Alicia Chin, Smarwool
Marie Mawe, W.L. Gore
Jennifer Silberman, YETI

OIA Sustainable Business Innovation Board Committee Members
Cam Brensinger, NEMO Equipment (Chair)
Jonathan Cedar, Biolite
Alison Hill, LifeStraw
Bruce Old, Patagonia
Sean Cady, VF Corp

This statement originally appeared on

Why Greenhouse Gas Inventories Are Important for Natural and Working Lands — and How to Fix Them

This piece was jointly authored by Alex Rudee with the World Resources Institute and Jenn Phillips with the U.S. Climate Alliance and was originally published by the World Resources Institute.

Photo Credit: USDA NRCS Montana/Flickr

Inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a critical tool in the fight against climate change. GHG inventories allow entities like countries, states, cities and businesses to measure how much progress they are making toward meeting emissions-reduction targets, such as those set under the Paris Climate Agreement. Climate policies at all levels of government are also informed by data in GHG inventories. 

The U.S. Climate Alliance has facilitated ambitious state-level action on climate change since 2017, when the United States government announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. To support states’ technical needs in building and implementing these climate action plans — including by developing robust GHG inventories — the U.S. Climate Alliance has convened an “Impact Partnership” of nonprofit organizations with relevant expertise, including WRI. Through that partnership, WRI and the U.S. Climate Alliance have published a guide for states to develop and improve their GHG inventories with an eye toward one particular sector that has often been shortchanged: natural and working lands (NWL). But to understand why a state-level guide specific to land-based GHG inventories is needed, it’s important to first know what a GHG inventory is, why inventories are produced and how they are created.

Inventory Basics: What, Why and How

1.    What is a GHG inventory?

An inventory accounts for all human-caused emissions and removals of GHGs associated with a specific entity. The inventory essentially acts as a climate change balance sheet, tracking the total volume of GHG emitted from sources like fossil fuel consumption and agricultural production alongside the volume of GHG removed by sequestration in plants and soils or through technological means. Good inventories transparently report their data sources and methodologies so the calculations and assumptions that underlie GHG estimates are clear. Typically, entities produce GHG inventories annually or on some other regular schedule to monitor changes in their GHG emissions and removals over time.

2.    Why produce a GHG inventory?

As the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Measuring GHG emissions and removals through GHG inventories is therefore a necessary first step to manage our collective carbon footprint. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has required participating nations, including the United States, to produce and submit annual GHG inventories since 1997 to measure progress toward international climate goals. In more recent years, many U.S. states have voluntarily published their own GHG inventories to inform development of state climate action plans and provide accountability for their emissions reduction goals.

With the U.S. government and the U.S. Climate Alliance’s recent commitment to reduce collective net GHG emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve overall net-zero GHG emissions no later than 2050, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of these inventories has never been more paramount. Achieving net-zero at both the federal and state levels will require concerted action — not only to reduce emissions throughout the economy, but also to increase carbon removals, including the management of natural and working lands. 

NWL, which include forests, croplands, grasslands, wetlands and urban trees and soils, make up the only sector in the U.S. that removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits, reducing total U.S. emissions by nearly 800 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, or about 12% of U.S. gross emissions. This increase in land-based carbon storage, which overwhelmingly comes from forest growth, offsets the 10% of gross U.S. emissions from agricultural production. Emissions from agricultural production, which includes soil fertilization, manure management, enteric fermentation and other sources related to crop and livestock cultivation, are typically considered separately from NWL in GHG inventories.

With additional investment in conservation, restoration and land management, the amount of carbon removed by NWL in the U.S. can grow significantly, offsetting a greater portion of U.S. gross emissions and moving the U.S. closer to meeting its ambitious GHG reduction targets.

3.    How are Natural and Working Lands included in GHG inventories?

Unlike GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion, which are easily tracked through publicly reported energy use data, emissions and removals from NWL are more difficult to measure. These emissions and removals are occurring constantly over millions of acres due to farming and forestry operations alongside natural ecosystem carbon cycles, making universal monitoring very challenging. In many cases, scientists are also still refining our understanding of how land management practices like forest restoration or conservation tillage impact GHG flows in those environments. Therefore, GHG inventories typically rely on sample data to estimate the area of NWL within certain classifications and GHG models or approximate “emission factors” to estimate GHG emissions and removals as a function of area. 

GHG inventories typically rely on sample-based measurements to estimate carbon sequestration in forests. Photo by Lance Cheung for Forest Service, USDA/Flickr.

These challenges illustrate why estimates of land-based emissions and removals in GHG inventories are typically much more uncertain than energy emissions. Contributors to the uncertainty include:

  • Timeliness of data inputs (how long ago data were collected).
  • Spatial and temporal resolution of inventory data (how finely data can be mapped over space and time).
  • Gaps in inventory coverage (which sources of emissions and removals are omitted).
  • Error in GHG models and emission factors (how accurately the calculations mirror real-world emissions and removals).

These challenges are compounded at the state level, where most states lack the resources to develop their own inventories and have had to depend on federal data and tools with significant limitations. Many states, for example, use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) State Inventory Tool (SIT), which applies the same methods and data sources used for EPA’s National GHG Inventory at the state level. However, much of the data on land-based emissions and removals used in the National Inventory is not available at the state level, so SIT has relied on older and less accurate data to fill gaps. SIT also does not publish measures of uncertainty. For these reasons, many states have opted to leave NWL out of their GHG inventories entirely, while others that do include SIT estimates for that sector have cautioned against relying on them for goal-setting or policymaking purposes.

How to Improve GHG Inventories for Natural and Working Lands

Fortunately, a mix of current and emerging datasets and technologies can help states improve their estimates of GHG emissions and removals from NWL. These inventory improvement options have the potential to not only address specific limitations of SIT, but could also provide even more accurate and granular information than the National Inventory. More accurate, more transparent and higher resolution estimates of NWL emissions and removals can help state governments set robust climate targets specifically for NWL in addition to measuring progress toward existing goals, informing new climate policies and underlying plans for climate-smart land management.

Most options for states to improve the NWL data in their inventories follow one or both of two strategies. Either the state can collect new field measurement data, for example by adding to the Forest Service’s network of forest inventory plots or by measuring carbon in soil samples; or the state can use remote sensing tools like LiDAR and satellite imagery to complement existing data from field measurements. 

All inventory improvements come with costs, so states will need to prioritize improvements based on their potential impact, policy relevance and feasibility. WRI’s Guide to NWL Inventory Improvements walks states through available options for improving inventory data for each land use type included in a NWL inventory along with factors to consider in deciding where to prioritize limited state resources.

Several U.S. states have already begun to implement innovations in their NWL inventories. In March 2021, Maryland committed to replace forest data from SIT with a new inventory method that uses high-resolution LiDAR and satellite imagery to model forest carbon over time, based on research conducted by the University of Maryland and WRI under a grant from the U.S. Climate Alliance. Across the country, California, Oregon and Washington have all worked with the Forest Service to develop state-specific estimates of carbon in wood products, allowing them to update the decades-old data in SIT. Even farther west, Hawai’i partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to create its first NWL inventory, as most of the federal datasets that underlie SIT did not include data for Hawai’i.

These are just a few of the exciting innovations states are pursuing to improve their inventories. But many other states lack the resources or capacity to take on their own improvement projects and the need for more national coordination and consistent, quality GHG estimation tools and NWL datasets that can be utilized by every state remains. Therefore, it’s clear that federal investment is paramount. Recent federal efforts, like the publication of new Forest Service research in 2020 that quantified forest carbon emissions and removals at the state level, help move the ball forward — but there is still much room for improvement.

3 Ways the Federal Government Can Help Improve State Inventories

The Guide to NWL Inventory Improvements identified three key needs across states, spanning the key NWL systems of forests, agricultural soils and wetlands, where the federal government would be best positioned to lead inventory improvements. With President Biden restoring the United States to a leadership role on climate action hours after becoming president, these opportunities offer common sense steps to advance the role of NWL in climate action plans at all levels of government.

1. Develop a national remote sensing-based forest and land use inventory.

The National GHG Inventory and SIT rely on data from the Forest Service’s Forest Inventory & Analysis program (FIA), which is among the most comprehensive forest monitoring systems in the world, but was not designed to meet current demands for precise carbon data at a variety of scales. Using federal data products like Landsat and GEDI, the federal government could complement FIA with remote sensing data to map and model carbon emissions and removals across the landscape, reducing uncertainty in forest carbon estimates. 

2. Monitor soil carbon through national field networks.

Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils is currently modeled, not measured, to calculate GHG estimates in the National Inventory and SIT, leading to uncertainty of over 1,000% nationally for some soil carbon removal estimates. Regular, systematic collection of soil carbon field measurements through the federal National Resources Inventory (NRI) could help refine models and reduce this uncertainty dramatically. The National Academies of Sciences has estimated the cost of this endeavor at just $5 million per year.

3. Develop a national spatial inventory of GHG emissions in wetlands.

Wetlands are among the least-understood contributors to GHG emissions from NWL. No consistent data on wetland GHG emissions exist at the state level, and even the National Inventory does not account for GHG emissions from most terrestrial, or freshwater, wetlands. The federal government could improve this understanding by creating a high-resolution spatial dataset to monitor changes in wetland extent, vegetation and management, incorporating existing data from the Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) and National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) where relevant, and pairing it with a network of field plots to derive regionally-specific emission factors for different wetland types. 

Helping States Lead the Way on GHG Inventories for Natural and Working Lands

For the last four years, states have been forging ahead with climate action even as the federal government rolled back environmental regulations and withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement. States in the U.S. Climate Alliance have led the way in linking land management to climate change mitigation through the NWL Challenge, but they need better data and inventory methods in order to act boldly and effectively. Some states have jumped out ahead by experimenting with new methods for carbon monitoring in NWL, but federal action has the unique ability to “lift all boats” when it comes to data quality and consistency. As it now re-engages on climate change at home and abroad, the federal government has an opportunity to put wind under the wings of state leadership by investing in the tools they need to monitor and manage land for a climate-friendly future.

Alex Rudee is a Manager for U.S. Natural Climate Solutions at World Resources Institute. Jenn Phillips is a Senior Policy Advisor for Natural and Working Lands and Resilience at U.S. Climate Alliance. Both Alex and Jenn serve on the U.S. Nature4Climate steering committee.

Landowners key to restoring the native forests of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

This story was originally written for American Forests magazine.

Betty Perez runs a ranch in La Joya, Texas, that has been in her family for generations. She is helping restore wild areas of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Credit: James Foguth / American Forests.

In Texas’s Lower Rio Grande Valley, Betty Perez leans over a tender catclaw acacia in the nursery on her family’s cattle ranch. She’s pleased with the progress of the native plant that she’s growing to help restore her generational family land. The ranch’s future is increasingly threatened by the shifts in temperature and rainfall brought on by climate change.

“It doesn’t bring a lot of money, but it brings a lot of gratification,” she says, referring to her revegetation work. She learned how to grow and plant these native species during her time with Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting and restoring the Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges. She was previously the organization’s president and now serves as a board member.

Perez studied botany at the University of Texas before returning to reclaim this piece of family heritage and “to get to know the land,” as she puts it. She sells her native plants, such as yucca, catclaw acacia and wolfberry, to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which uses them to restore swaths of farmland back to this dynamic, but threatened, native habitat.

Less than 10% of the Rio Grande Valley’s native forest ecosystem, Tamaulipan thornforest, remains. Many of Perez’s neighbors have completely removed this habitat from their land, and there are huge pressures to sell what remains to developers who want to put in subdivisions — the most lucrative option. There’s also a movement to industrialize the nearby Gulf Coast to mine liquefied natural gas. And beyond these threats to the native habitat, there is the looming challenge of climate change.

The upshot of all of this? Many native animals dependent on these forests will eventually run out of space and resources. There also won’t be enough trees to help purify the air people in the Valley breathe and the water they drink. Flood risks will be higher. And a major part of the Valley’s natural heritage will be lost.

Mike Heep, a private nursery owner, delivers seedlings to a USFWS site in the Valley. Credit: James Foguth / American Forests.

To address this situation, American Forests founded the Thornforest Conservation Partnership in 2018 to bring together communities, researchers, industry representatives, agencies and private landowners — like Perez. The group develops science-based plans and goals for conserving the region’s thornforest ecosystem in places that make the most sense for both wildlife and people. Reforesting public land is a major component, and Perez and other local nursery owners provide trees for that effort.

The hope is to preserve this unique corner of the U.S., which supports 1,200 plant species, 300 butterflies and more than 700 vertebrates, including the endangered ocelot.

Nearly all “of the original habitat is gone, and yet this is a very biodiverse area, an important area,” Perez notes. One reason it’s important is that several flyways for bird and butterfly migration traverse the Valley, which sits between wintering zones in Central and South America and summer homes in the U.S. and Canada.

Perez is concerned by the pressures the area faces, but she sees many of her neighbors starting to make changes in their land management practices due to a growing awareness of environmental issues and concern with the effects of climate change.

“They’re not clearing the whole land,” she says. “A lot of them are doing really good work.”

Katherine Gustafson is a freelance writer specializing in helping mission-driven changemakers like tech disruptors and dynamic nonprofits tell their stories.

Natural Climate Solutions: A Win-Win Solution for Our Environment and Our Economy

Coastal and oyster restoration along the coast of Rhode Island Photo Credit: TNC

There is growing recognition in the United States that the actions required to spare us from the worst impacts of climate change can also serve as a powerful engine for job creation and economic recovery. The economic benefits of decarbonizing our energy and transportation sectors are relatively clear – large-scale efforts to install wind turbines and solar arrays, build electric vehicle charging stations and cap leaking gas wells will requires a large workforce, potentially creating employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Natural Climate Solutions — conservation, restoration and improved land management strategies that remove carbon dioxide from the air – can also play a large role in tackling climate change. Indeed, natural and working lands have the potential to reduce overall emissions in the United States by up to 30 percent. Like other climate solutions, these actions can also serve as a powerful mechanism for restoring our economy by creating jobs, generating new sources of income for farm and forest owners and managers, and providing a wide range of economic benefits to underserved and frontline communities across America.

The Blaney family farm in Albany, Ohio. Photo Credit: Alex Snyder/TNC

In addition to the direct economic benefits of Natural Climate Solutions, they provide significant indirect economic benefits by also protecting water quality, improving soil health, increasing resilience to floods and drought and providing crucial habitat for wildlife. When one considers the significant benefits that Natural Climate Solutions provide to people and nature, it is clear that they are a win-win solution for our environment and our economy.

The U.S. Nature4Climate coalition has reviewed reports, case studies, and research about the economic value of Nature Climate Solutions. We hope the collective weight of this information will increase public awareness of the numerous benefits of Natural Climate Solutions, elevating these solutions as an integral part of the overall strategy to combat climate change and restore our economy. Over the next month, U.S. Nature4Climate and our coalition partners will highlight the potential of Natural Climate Solutions to help spur an equitable and robust economic recovery in the United States.

Our campaign is themed around the following facts:

  • Investment in Natural Climate Solutions creates jobs: Planting trees in both rural and urban areas helps create good new jobs while pulling carbon out of the air; these projects also help stimulate the outdoor recreation economy. For example, investing $4-4.5 billion dollars in tree planting can create up to 150,000 jobs. Environmental restoration programs focused on restoring coastal, forest and grassland ecosystems can create up to 40 jobs for each million dollars invested.  
  • Natural Climate Solutions can serve as a mechanism for advancing equity, particularly in urban communities:  Urban forestry programs are a particularly powerful force for reducing inequality in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.  Recent research indicates widespread inequality in tree cover between low-income and high-income neighborhoods. A program to plant 31.4 million urban trees a year can create nearly 230,000 new jobs. Urban trees can also reduce home energy costs up to 7%, while also reducing health care costs.
  • Natural Climate Solutions provide new sources of income for owners and managers of farms and forests:  Farmers and foresters across America want to be a part of the solution to climate change – and in many cases, already are.  Adoption of soil health practices have been proven to increase income and lower costs for farmers over time. Robust and credible carbon markets can also provide a new source of income for farmers and forest owners, while helping companies meet ambitious sustainability goals.

Please visit our new campaign page,, and the U.S. Nature4Climate blog to learn more about the powerful role Natural Climate Solutions can play in our economic recovery.

Nathan Henry is the Project Manager for U.S. Nature4Climate.

Growing Trees, Growing Jobs

Tahoe Center California Conservation Corps members shape rocks to create the siding for an ADA accessible trail at Grover Hot Springs State Park in Markleeville, Calif. Photo Credit: California Conservation Corps.

“Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions, and more!”

On its face, the California Conservation Corps’ motto might seem like more of a warning than a recruiting tool, but for thousands, it represents a promise: new skills, entry to a career, even a bit of an adventure.

And it fairly describes the work of roughly 3,400 young people the state agency trains each year for jobs in forestry and other conservation fields.

Planting tree seedlings on steep hillsides on hot summer days and thinning forests of dense vegetation so trees already planted there have room to grow is hard work.

Growing and taking care of trees in cities is also hard. Digging large holes for hardy trees that can withstand relatively harsh city environments and climbing trees to prune branches so they won’t fall on cars and houses can be exhausting.

Yet it’s the kind of work we desperately need more people to do as interest in trees as a solution to climate change and social inequity takes off across America.

And, despite how arduous this work is, the opportunity couldn’t come at a better time. As of August, 1 in 10 Americans was unemployed. People from under-resourced communities in cities and rural areas — two places that have the highest potential for forestry jobs — are among the hardest hit by the recession.

Though they might begin in entry-level positions, Zander Evans, the Executive Director of the Santa Fe-based Forest Stewards Guild, says that people in forestry can soon find themselves running drones, doing mapping and even communicating with residents about prescribed burns.

“There is a career ladder,” he says. Making sure that ladder is accessible to those who need it most is more important than ever. One of the best ways to do that is through job training programs such as the California Conservation Corps, which focuses much of its Corps member recruitment on under-resourced communities.

Growing up in a low-income family in a Los Angeles suburb, Luna Morales’ main exposure to nature was a yearly trip to a state park.

After two years in the California Conservation Corps, Luna Morales, now a crew leader, can fell trees with a chainsaw and has helped reroute creeks. Photo Credit: California Conservation Corps.

After two years in the California program, Morales, now 21, can fell trees with a chainsaw and help reroute creeks. She was promoted to crew leader and is working toward her associate’s degree. “With the background I came from,” Morales says, “I never would have expected to be here.”

“The Cs,” as its members call it, was created by the state of California in 1976. Modeled loosely after the national Civilian Conservation Corps that put 3 million people to work during the Great Depression, it is a state agency and a model American Forests and others believe could be replicated during the current recession.

Corps members receive a $1,905 monthly stipend while getting on-the-job training in everything from building and clearing trails to cutting down dead trees and responding to natural and manmade disasters. American Forests works with the group on a number of planting and shrub-clearing projects.

Workforce development programs are also key in urban areas — especially low-income neighborhoods and some communities of color, which tend to have fewer trees and the highest unemployment. The need for people who can plant, trim and prune trees in cities is expected to grow 10% by 2028.

That’s why American Forests works with job training partners in several cities to support and increase capacity for urban forestry programs, through its Tree Equity: Career Pathways Initiative. They have also developed a guide for creating entry-level urban forestry career pathways programs that target people in communities who could benefit most from entering the field.

“It’s definitely a moment where we’re crystal clear about the cost of inaction on our forests, and we are crystal clear about the coordinated effort that it’s going to take to actually make significant change,” says Sarah Lillie Anderson, senior manager of American Forests’ Tree Equity programs.

Rucker is hiring others from The Greening of Detroit, one of American Forests’ partners, to work for his own landscaping business because he says the program ensures they are qualified and dependable. Photo Credit: The Greening of Detroit.

Take William Rucker of Detroit, for example. He had never held a job outside of prison, which he was released from in 2019. He enrolled in an urban forestry training program offered by The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit that plants trees and provides education and workforce development for people from under-resourced communities, many of them formerly incarcerated.

Rucker has since been hired by “The Greening,” one of American Forests’ partners, and also started his own landscaping business, serving about 30 houses a day. He plans to expand soon and put others to work.

“I’m hiring people from The Greening because I know they’ve been taught, they have qualifications and I can depend on them to show up for work every day,” he says.

Besides forestry skills training, the organization provides a range of support services, helping participants with transportation and housing, as well as basic training about being on time for work. These “wraparound” support services have contributed mightily toward the program’s 87% job placement rate, says Vice President Monica Tabares.

“Rarely have we had an opportunity to address two huge crises, climate change and the economy, at the same time,” says Jad Daley, President of American Forests. “This is the moment to be bold.”

Read the full story about how investing in our forests can help create jobs in American Forests’ magazine.

Michele Kurtz is the Director of Communications at American Forests.

First-of-its-kind Engagement Tool Released for Investors on Natural Climate Solutions

As net-zero commitments become the new standard for investors and companies, Ceres and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) released a new first-of-its-kind engagement tool for investors to spur meaningful dialogue with companies on the role and use of natural climate solutions in delivering on those commitments. Natural climate solutions, such as forest protection or reforestation, are a common component of many corporate net-zero action plans, often used to offset companies’ greenhouse gas emissions.

New research shows that use of carbon credits increased by 81% in quarter 1 of 2021, with credits from natural climate solutions such as forest protection comprising the greatest share at 20.0 million credits retired. Much of this increase was driven by corporate demand to offset emissions. However, offsetting has long been controversial, and a lack of detail in companies’ commitments has made it difficult for investors to distinguish legitimate climate action from greenwashing.

In the face of this, The Role of Natural Climate Solutions in Corporate Climate Commitments: A Brief for Investors aims to help investors understand the role and use of natural climate solutions in climate commitments and provides clear guidance on how to facilitate engagements with portfolio companies on this issue. It also lays out expectations for climate disclosures — calling for transparency in critical steps along the way to net zero. 

“Our new brief introduces investors to what we call the ‘missing middle ground’ in the debate over natural climate solutions and offsetting, helping them make sense of the effective and appropriate use of these solutions in corporate climate action plans. We hope to empower investors to help companies avoid actions that pose climate-related and reputational risks to their portfolios and instead, help them make investments that deliver on their projected promises to cut emissions,” said DrMeryl Richards, director of research for food and forests at Ceres and lead author of the brief.

Projections show that without natural climate solutions, emissions will not be reduced enough to reach the 1.5 degree C warming threshold that is required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But when used to offset emissions from companies in high-emitting sectors, such strategies attract greater scrutiny. Recent reports have called into question the value of nature-based carbon credits, creating growing concern from investors, NGOs, journalists, and other climate watchdogs that some NCS projects may inflate the projected emissions reductions that they promise, or result in harmful outcomes for communities.  

The brief examines the appropriate use of natural climate solutions in corporate climate strategies, explores the investor’s perspective on the risks and opportunities associated with the use of natural climate solutions, and introduces key points of engagement for investors to guide company’s usage of natural climate solutions. 

It specifically calls on companies to disclose:

  • Short-, medium-, and long-term targets that are aligned with a 1.5 C pathway,
  • A credible transition plan for achieving targets,
  • How much of the target will be met through the use of carbon credits or carbon removals,
  • The GHG crediting programs, suppliers, and projects from which they source carbon credits, and
  • Whether their carbon credit purchases are certified under a social and environmental standard.

The brief also calls for guardrails to determine the appropriate use of natural climate solutions by companies, to ensure that they raise the ambition of their climate commitments, provide credible and scientifically-sound climate change mitigation benefits, and contribute social and environmental benefits to the communities where projects are located.

About Ceres

Ceres is a nonprofit organization working with the most influential capital market leaders to solve the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Through our powerful networks and global collaborations of investors, companies and nonprofits, we drive action and inspire equitable market-based and policy solutions throughout the economy to build a just and sustainable future. For more information, visit and follow @CeresNews.

Miranda Cawley is the communications manager for the Water, Food and Forests Program at Ceres. 

Improving Climate + Park Equity in Cleveland

Photo Credit: Darcy Kiefel

The historic city of Cleveland, Ohio is situated on the shores of Lake Erie and the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Like many major metropolitan areas throughout the United States, it is facing multiple challenges simultaneously. The climate crisis, loss of nature, and long-standing structural inequities threaten residents, the city as a whole, and the natural ecosystem. To combat these growing crises, The Trust for Public Land is working with government and community partners to address climate and park equity through a people and data-driven approach.

Parks are not perks — they are essential infrastructure for healthy, connected, equitable, resilient, and empowered communities.

The Trust for Public Land and its partners are using cutting edge data and science to support resilient planning efforts, economic benefit studies to demonstrate the value of increasing investments in parks and nature-based climate solutions, and deep community engagement to transform neighborhoods and deliver improved climate, health and equity outcomes.

Climate Smart Cities – Cleveland. With funding from U.S. EPA and NOAA, The Trust for Public Land partnered with the City of Cleveland to support resiliency goals using the power of parks and green infrastructure. The project team, made up of city officials and community-based organizations, developed a publicly available web mapping decision support tool that pinpoints where investments in parks and green infrastructure are most needed to improve local resilience and equity. The tool brings together environment, land use, health and equity data to enable multi-benefit analysis. The tool shows, down to the parcel level, where investments in parks and green infrastructure can simultaneously:

  • Cool extreme heat;
  • Absorb stormwater runoff;
  • Protect against lake and river flooding; and
  • Connect neighborhoods to reduce transportation emissions.

But identifying where park and other nature-based investments are needed to build local climate, health, and equity outcomes was only the first step. City officials and others wanted to know the value of parks.  

Economic Benefits of Cleveland Metroparks. Economists with The Trust for Public Land conducted a study to evaluate the economic benefits provided by Cleveland Metroparks – the manager of the regional park system. The findings were astounding. The existing park system creates $873 million in economic value each year (figure1). That includes the over $20 million in stormwater infiltration and $8 million in reduced air pollution value a year. Supporting the Cleveland Metroparks system values, further analysis using iTree Landscape shows the tree canopy found throughout the city, including on parks and public land, stores approximately 171,000 tons of carbon (valued at nearly $30 million) and sequesters nearly 4,500 tons annually (valued at $767,000 per year).

Park Equity +: Building on the Climate Smart Cities partnership and the valuation of Cleveland Metroparks, economists with The Trust for Public Land went one step further and identified the five highest-priority neighborhoods for park development in the city and then projected the likely economic benefits of future investment. New and improved parks in these five neighborhoods would bring an additional 10,600 individuals, including 2,850 children, who do not currently have easy access to a park, within a 10-minute walk of a park. Park investments in these neighborhoods are also expected to produce an estimated $10.1 million in economic benefits over the next ten years. Click here to learn more and view the research summaries by neighborhood.

This work continues to build momentum for increased investment in parks and green space. In 2021, Cleveland became one of the first seven cities to participate in the Urban Drawdown Initiative – an effort to quantify the carbon capture potential of urban greening and improved land management practices.

While there is still a lot of work to be done, these planning efforts and economic valuation studies have laid the groundwork for transformational urban greening that can draw down carbon, improve resilience, and help address long-standing inequities for the community.  

To learn more about The Trust for Public Land’s work in Cleveland visit and to learn more about The Trust for Public Land’s national climate, health, and equity commitments, visit:

Taj Schottland is the Senior Climate Program Manager at The Trust for Public Land.

Seeing the City for the Trees

Eboni Hall spends her days split between research, increasing urban forestry education at institutions, assisting youth in navigating their urban forestry career path and mentoring students, all while working to achieve Tree Equity. Photo Credit: Eboni Hall.

When Eboni Hall first entered college, she thought for sure she was going to become a sports therapist. She wanted to learn kinesiology, the study of body movement and muscles. It was a sensible choice, something familiar, and a far cry from her ultimate path in urban forestry.

She’d grown up in Baton Rouge, La., entrenched in a love for natural areas, her childhood full of making mud pies, climbing trees and reading books outside. Despite that connection to nature, she’d never really thought about urban forestry as a concept, let alone a potential career path. “I remember thinking, urban forestry? That sounds like some- thing for tree huggers,” she says.

It was during a summer program called BAYOU, Beginning Agricultural Youth Opportunities Unlimited, at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, that Hall’s world changed. Hall is young, Black and a woman, quite different from the typical description of a forester, a field long dominated by white men. “People of color don’t have a reflection of themselves in this field, and they get discouraged,” says Hall. “Maybe if people see I’m able to do it, they’ll think they can.”

The BAYOU program introduced Hall to an array of environmental science disciplines and job opportunities that redefined urban forestry for her. She went on to study the discipline at Southern, the only four-year university that offers a bachelor’s degree in urban forestry. Eventually, she earned her Ph.D. and now works as the senior manager of urban forestry education at American Forests. Hall has made it her life’s mission to provide other young people with the inspiration she found through BAYOU. In doing so, she is shaping one of the most important roles for building social and environmental equity and combating climate change.

Creating the Next Generation of Urban Foresters

Photo Credit: David Meshoulam.

People who work in urban forestry are addressing climate change, as well as social and environmental equity. City trees help absorb carbon from the atmosphere and make people’s lives better by providing shade, filtering the air, lifting moods and more. Trees also create jobs. But not everyone benefits equally from trees, largely because socioeconomically disadvantaged communities historically have lacked trees. A blossoming movement toward Tree Equity — which, simply put, is about ensuring every city neighborhood has enough trees so that every person benefits from them — is fueling the demand for more urban foresters. In fact, jobs for people who can plant, prune and maintain trees in cities are expected to grow 10% by 2028.

Attracting young people to the field is essential to growing that workforce. Hall and others like her are taking on the challenge, educating youth about urban forestry and related fields as a career and helping create clear pathways for professional advancement. The first step is making sure these future foresters understand that city trees are more than something nice to look at.

Trees as Critical Urban Infrastructure

In America’s cities, trees help the environment, but they also play a vital role in fulfilling our basic needs. That is particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Green spaces are a peaceful place to go to find refuge. When you don’t have access to them, you often are surrounded by unhealthy environmental conditions, and it has impacts on mental health,” says Suleima Mednick-Coles, one of Hall’s mentees and a student in the Black Scholars program at the University of San Francisco.

Making the connection between the importance of caring for trees and how they benefit day-to-day life is critical to growing interest in urban forestry, says Sarah Anderson, director of Career Pathways at American Forests. “Communities with low tree canopy cover tend to have higher rates of unemployment, and if you don’t have access to trees, you can’t make money caring for them.”

Job opportunities to plant and care for trees are expected to rise, thanks in part to the important role cities will play in the global trillion trees movement. In order to meet that need, American Forests has set a goal that by 2030 at least 100,000 people, particularly those from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, will enter jobs in forestry. “I think it’s something that’s really a no-brainer to invest in,” Anderson says. “And it’s a well-paying one, with average entry-level tree workers earning about $20 an hour, roughly $40,000 per year.”

Paving the Way

Suleima Mednick-Coles is cobbling together her interests as an amalgamation of multiple majors and minors. Photo Credit: Suleima Mednick-Coles.

One obstacle to building an urban forestry workforce is that many young people don’t know how to access the field, or that it even exists. American Forests is working with Southern University and groups like Speak for the Trees, Boston to raise awareness of, and build bridges to, the field.

American Forests has developed two guides to help individuals map their journeys to urban forestry careers: the Career Pathways Exploration Guide and the Career Pathways Action Guide. Geared toward people who could benefit most from joining the field, these guides spotlight educational pathways and entry-level job training programs that train and place individuals who face barriers to employment so that they can enter the field. There are pilot projects in six cities: Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Providence, R.I., and Syracuse, N.Y.

The local programs also try to provide additional services, such as transportation and childcare, both significant barriers to job entry in communities where people are struggling financially. “It’s all about meeting people where they’re at, physically, emotionally, age-wise,” says David Meshoulam, executive director of Speak for the Trees, Boston.

Job shadowing, paid apprenticeship and pre- apprenticeship programs can remove barriers to finding viable careers. “Many youth live in the now and go into survival mode in order to provide for their families,” says Hall. “They can’t afford to stop working to improve a skill set.” That’s where partnerships, programs, resources and expertise provided by American Forests come into play.

A Field with Many Disciplines

Photo Credit: Bouyant Partners/American Forests

One exciting outlook in the field of urban forestry is how expansive it is. Traditionally, urban forestry has been synonymous with arboriculture and tree maintenance, Hall says. “But urban forestry encompasses so much more than trees alone.”

An array of disciplines have jobs that fall under the urban forestry umbrella: environmental law, hydrology, psychology, soil science, urban planning and public health, to name a few.

Currently, Southern University and A&M College is the only university in the United States that offers a designated degree in urban forestry. Students elsewhere often have to create their own paths. For example, at the University of San Francisco, Mednick-Coles is cobbling together her interests as an amalgamation of multiple majors and minors that encompasses international studies, sustainable development and environmental justice and African-American studies. To entice and prepare students, Hall hopes more colleges and universities will begin offering urban forestry programs, making more connections to other disciplines and utilizing an interdisciplinary urban forestry curriculum she developed.

Today, Hall spends her days split between research, increasing urban forestry education at institutions, assisting youth in navigating their urban forestry career path and mentoring students, all while working to achieve Tree Equity.

“Don’t wait too long to take that exam,” Hall teases, while on a recent Zoom call with Jordan Davis. Davis is about to graduate with a degree in urban forestry from Southern University. He entered college bent on studying engineering when he discovered the BAYOU program and a new future. The exam Hall is referring to is the

International Society of Arboriculture Credential, a requirement to become a certified arborist. Davis laughs good-naturedly. “I won’t. I won’t,” he says.

He’s thinking of returning to his hometown of Jackson, La., to provide urban forestry community outreach. A lot of students get interested in jobs they learn about in high school, Davis says. He wants urban forestry to be one of them. He’s thinking of someday launching his own arboriculture business. His family even started a company, Carpet Cuts, LLC, a lawn care business that incorporates tree care. His face beams with pure optimism.

Morgan Heim, a conservation journalist based in Oregon’s forest country, wrote this story for American Forests.

Experienced Coalition Builders Represent Hunters and Anglers in the Fight for Natural Climate Solutions

Molalla River Ore, Photo Credit: Bob Wick/BLM

As an organization that was created specifically to find common ground and solve complicated conservation issues, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership knows a thing or two about the value of collaboration.

In the late 1990’s, though species-specific conservation groups had been successful at bringing fish and wildlife populations back from the brink, it seemed like we were fighting each other for the attention of decision-makers in Washington, D.C. Our late co-founder, Jim Range, recognized this and formed what was to become the TRCP to fill that gap.

Now, we are the largest conservation coalition in the country, carrying on Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy of safeguarding habitat and quintessentially American access to the outdoors.

Almost 20 years later, we are proud to forge new alliances within the U.S. Nature for Climate coalition, where the TRCP brings the collective voice of our 60 organizational partners, 100,000 individual advocates, and dozens of corporate partners to the fight for meaningful Natural Climate Solutions.

Our members may not look like the typical climate activists, but it would be a mistake to assume that American sportsmen and sportswomen are not engaged in this essential work. For one thing, we are on the front lines of climate change, witnessing firsthand the impacts on wildlife and habitat—from altered migration patterns to longer wildfire seasons. As temperatures spike, warming trout streams, we lose access to fishing opportunities. As invasive grasses consume the landscape, upland birds and other game lose critical forage. As summers lengthen, ticks take down big game animals before we get our shot in the fall.

Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Hunter and angler participation is also critical to conservation funding in the U.S., where hunting and fishing license sales and excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, boat fuel, and other essential equipment go directly to state fish and wildlife management agencies. These dollars benefit all species, not just those that are pursued as game.

This is why the TRCP is focusing its efforts on advocating for Natural Climate Solutions—many are habitat improvements that hunters and anglers already want. Besides our participation in USN4C, we are a part of several climate-focused working groups and we lead our own 41-group effort within the hunting and fishing space.

There’s an additional layer of value in nature-based infrastructure solutions that can restore fish and wildlife habitat while storing or sequestering carbon. So we’re educating decision-makers and our members on the benefits of natural infrastructure across all of our campaigns.

There may be no better time to advance Natural Climate Solutions with these win-win propositions: The stresses of the pandemic have driven more Americans to find solace in—and appreciation for—the great outdoors, but our nation is also still in the midst of the economic fallout from COVID restrictions. We need bold investments in conservation, including Natural Climate Solutions, to put Americans back to work, just as we have in past economic crises.

The ripple effects of decisive action now will be felt by generations to come—those who, as Theodore Roosevelt famously said, are “still in the womb of time.” If we meet our goals, they will experience more abundant fish and wildlife habitat, cleaner air and water, and the protection of resilient coastlines and functional wetlands. It’s why we do what we do, as both a partner and a partnership.

To learn more about the TRCP’s mission, watch this video.

Christy Plumer is the chief conservation officer for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and a member of the USN4C Steering Committee.