America rejoins the Paris Accord, and all landowners should be paying attention. According to World Resource Institute (WRI), every Paris Accord model showing how we will meet the global temperature targets relies on massively scaling up carbon removal from natural climate solutions. The minimum projection is 1 billion metric tons of carbon removal credits per year.
Carbon removal is the process of taking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and storing it. Carbon removal is distinctly different than carbon reduction. Simply, a carbon reduction is about being “less bad.” Examples of such would be switching from coal to gas or from gas to wind/solar. Each move to a lower-emitting technology is a reduction of emissions moving forward.
Carbon removal, on the other hand, is about repairing the past. There are two primary ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The first is through biological systems, and the second is mechanical. Mechanical solutions are presently not scalable and too expensive. Therefore, the world is looking at how we scale up the biological approaches, which include afforestation, reforestation, agriculture, and grassland restoration.
It is time to think of trees as a technology — Mother Nature’s technology. As the former Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, Jim Rogers, once told me, “there are two forms of intellection property — technological and how you get to scale. Most technologies fail on how you get to scale.” With Mother Nature, scale is everywhere. What is needed is how to organize humanity, efficiently and effectively, to restore lands. To do so, we must first realize there is a genius to nature, and our job is to mimic that genius.
We are witnessing the rise of nature. This year there have been two important developments that I believe will usher in the Age of Nature. First, at Davos, the former head of the Bank of England, released a report entitled, Scaling Up The Voluntary Markets. This report was a consensus of major banks, companies, and market participants. The outflow of this report states that natural climate solutions needed to scale up by a factor of 15 by 2030 and by a factor of 100 by 2050, as there are over 1000 companies that have now pledged to be carbon neutral by then. This report is calling for 7 billion tons to be produced from natural climate solutions by 2030. Some have predicted this scaled demand is projected to cause a quadrupling of the price of carbon. Time will tell if this is correct.
The second development was Microsoft’s Carbon Removal Announcement. Microsoft illustrates how big and substantive the change is that is taking place. The company has committed to being carbon negative by 2030. So, what does this mean?
Microsoft has decided that not only does it need to heavily invest in renewables and efficiency to lower its future impact, but it has to scale up its investments in natural cimate solutions. Why? Simply put, renewables reduce future projected emissions but do absolutely nothing to address the emissions already put in the atmosphere. This is where nature and carbon removal comes in. Again, think of trees as a technology. As trees grow, they take in carbon dioxide, store the carbon, and release oxygen. Trees purify the air, clean water, produce oxygen, and provide habitat to many species.
Recognizing the importance of nature, Microsoft’s commitment to be carbon negative by 2030, includes eliminating all the emissions the company has ever put up in the atmosphere since its founding in 1975. The only way to achieve the company’s goal is to do both — scale-up nature and repair the past while investing in a greener future through renewables.
Our company GreenTrees was fortunate to be a part of Microsoft’s announcement as we provided a substantial part of their 1m tons of carbon removal. Our nearly 600 landowners are the beneficiary. As their trees grow, our landowners earn money from the annual year over year growth.
Broadly speaking, Microsoft is providing leadership to corporations that are also addressing climate change, and there are more than 1000 companies making pledges like these. Now, it is up to landowners to respond. After all, landowners are the first responders to climate change. Every land-use decision can have a profound impact on how humanity tackles this issue together.
Chandler Van Voorhis is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of ACRE Investment Management (www.acre-investment.com), recipient of the 2002 ChevronTexaco Conservation Award, and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.