Draft of California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan

What We’re Reading – January 2019

Draft of California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan

This month California’s Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Air Resources Board (CARB), and Strategic Growth Council (SGC) released a draft of the California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan.  This plan recognizes and embraces the cost-effective and scalable role that nature-based solutions can play to stabilize the climate while at the same time generating valuable ecosystem services and economic opportunities.

According to the report, natural and working lands cover more than 90% of California. Not only do these lands play a critical role in providing clean air and water, healthy food, beautiful open-space, and rural economic growth, they also have immense potential to sequester greenhouse gases and serve as a crucial component in the state’s response to climate change.  According to current estimates, however, current management on many of these lands loses more carbon than it sequesters. To change this trajectory, the report’s authors write that California: “must boldly and immediately increase its efforts to conserve, restore, and manage natural and working lands.”

To do this, the authoring agencies propose an ambitious set of collaborative strategies that “more than double the pace and scale of State-supported land activities by 2030 and beyond” including a fivefold increase in soil conservation practices, twofold increase in forest management and restoration, threefold increase in oak woodland and riparian restoration, and twofold increase in wetland and seagrass restoration.

“State agencies will strive to meet multiple objectives with actions that also address additional economic, environmental, and public health goals. By moving toward an integrated multi-benefit approach that considers carbon, other critical ecosystem services, biodiversity, sustainable communities, public health, and the economy, we can leverage efforts for maximum and sustained benefit.”

While there are bound to be many challenges to achieving these important goals and building the essential inter-agency and public/private collaborations needed for success, it is important to note that many programs already exist and simply need to be scaled up to expand their impact.

One example is the CDFA’s Healthy Soil Initiative which currently provides incentives to farmers and ranchers to implement scientifically-supported best practices that can sequester greenhouse gasses and provide important co-benefits such as improved soil water holding capacity and wildlife habitat and resilience to extreme weather.  With $5.8 million in the program so far, CDFA has been able to start soil conservation practices on more than 8,600 acres with 110 funded projects across the state. These projects are expected to sequester 18,683 metric tons of CO2 equivalents over their 3-year project period. Looking to the future, CDFA estimates that increasing funding for the Healthy Soils Initiative to $36.3 million annually would allow them to incentivize climate-smart practices on 1,000,000 acres in California by 2030 and sequester 10.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents.