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Carbon Sequestration from the Ground Up: Opportunities in Northeastern Farms and Forests

April 23, 2021

Natural and working lands have a unique role to play in addressing climate change, and in the Northeast, groundbreaking work is occurring in both the public and private sectors. On April 23-24, 2021, we are co-hosting a virtual conference with CSG East’s State Legislative Climate Alliance working group to explore the innovative efforts that are underway in their member states. Through panel discussions and roundtable conversations, participants will identify best practices related to carbon sequestration on natural and working lands, seek opportunities to enhance regional communication, and consider potential actions that could lead to synergistic policies in member states.


Agenda (Session descriptions below):

Friday, April 23, 2021: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

I. Overview of the Sequestration Opportunity

II. Roundtable on State Healthy Soils Legislation and Programs

III. Roundtable on Forest Carbon Opportunities

Saturday, April 24, 2021: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

IV. An Overview of Public and Private Carbon Offset Market Opportunities, Methodologies and Constraints

V. State/Federal Collaborations

VI. Moving Forward: Moderated Discussion

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Massachusetts State Senator Marc Pacheco, Chair, CSG East State Legislative Climate Alliance
  • Ned Sullivan, President, Scenic Hudson
  • New York State Assemblymember Didi Barrett
  • Maryland State Delegate Dana Stein
  • Dr. Sacha Spector, Environmental Program Director, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
  • Dr. Sara Via, Professor and Climate Extension Specialist, University of Maryland
  • Ryan Patch, Deputy Director, Water Quality Division, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
  • Robert Sherman, Policy Manager, American Forest Foundation
  • Richard Ball, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture
  • Molly Henry, Senior Manager for Climate and Health, American Forests
  • Vermont State Representative Carolyn Partridge, Co-Chair, CSG East Agriculture and Rural Development Committee
  • Aaron Paul, Director, Forest Carbon Origination, Bluesource
  • Cindy Chiang, Sustainability and Partnerships, Pachama
  • Jo D. Saffeir, Maine Forest Carbon Task Force
  • Dr. Barbara Glenn, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
  • Briana Alfaro, Soil Carbon Field Researcher, NOFA-NY & Soul Fire Farm

Session descriptions:

Friday, April 23, 10:00 a.m. – 1 p.m.

I. Overview of the Sequestration Opportunity: This panel will focus on the critical role that sequestration in natural and working lands must play to help states achieve their carbon reduction goals, particularly as an increasing number of states strive to become net neutral by midcentury. Presenters will provide an overview of recent research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, National Academy of Sciences and others that have defined a global opportunity for sequestration to provide one-third of the cost-effective emissions reductions needed to keep the Earth’s temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. They will also summarize strategies outlined by the US Climate Alliance to achieve this goal on a national level while enhancing collaboration between states and the federal government, and a snapshot of what the latest science can confirm and has yet to discover about the potential of these strategies.

II. Roundtable on State Healthy Soils Legislation/Programs: Many Northeastern states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, have established or are planning to implement healthy soils programs. This panel, consisting of state legislators, academics, and representatives from executive agencies, will provide an overview of these efforts and any quantifiable results that they can share, as well as a discussion of the challenges they have encountered in terms of funding, farmer outreach, and methodologies.

III. Roundtable on Forest Carbon Opportunities: This panel will feature a discussion of existing state programs and other innovative efforts to design accessible, economically feasible forest carbon storage programs for small-to-medium sized landowners, and in urban areas.

Saturday, April 24, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

IV. An Overview of Public and Private Carbon Offset Market Opportunities, Methodologies and Constraints: In the United States, California is the only state that operates a compliance offsets market, as part of its economy-wide cap-and-trade program, but the voluntary offsets market has been growing rapidly. These efforts could receive a significant push from the Biden administration, which wants to provide some $30 billion in aid from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to pay farmers to capture carbon in soil, and has proposed creating a carbon bank that would buy credits from farmers and sell them to corporations for offsets. In the private sector, a growing list of companies have announced major investments in nature-based offsets to meet internal carbon reduction goals and showcase their green credentials. This session will include discussions with project developers and third-party verifiers that are operating in the offsets space, and with corporate representatives that are supporting development of offset markets in the private sector in the Northeast.

V. State/Federal Collaboration: The Biden administration has outlined the goal of “decarbonizing the food and agricultural sector and leveraging agriculture to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in the ground.” At the same time, the President has proposed to conserve 30% of the nation’s open spaces, including forests and other reserves, by the year 2030, as central to his climate strategies. This session will include discussions with state agency leaders and federal policy makers who will summarize ideas and strategies being developed to coordinate joint state-federal action.

VI. Moving Forward: Non-governmental partnerships promoting climate resilience and carbon sequestration are coordinating activities between scientists, land managers, conservation groups and technical service providers. The Northeast Carbon Alliance is one such organization that has created a model for collaboration across Northeastern states. This session will include a brief presentation of the Northeast Carbon Alliance model, followed by a facilitated discussion about observations made during this conference, identification of synergies among actions in the state, federal and private spheres, and potential policy concepts to enhance collaboration across state borders.