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Report: Don't Overlook Nature's Ability to Fight Climate Change

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Monday, January 18, 2021   

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota is struggling to meet emission reduction goals set more than a decade ago.

But the authors of a new report issued today suggest a tool that could provide a boost should be getting more attention. They claim the solution involves natural areas.

The Nature Conservancy's findings outlined practices such as expanding forests while protecting prairies and wetlands across Minnesota would reduce carbon emissions by up to 26 million metric tonnes per year.

Sachi Graber, climate policy lead for the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota along with North and South Dakota, said the very resources they're trying to protect can do much of the work themselves.

For example, she cited tree planting in urban and rural areas.

"They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, and as it grows, it's storing carbon in its trunk," Graber explained.

Reforestation is among more than a dozen solutions detailed in the report. The authors said another key theme is more climate-friendly practices in agriculture to reduce harmful runoff and store carbon in the ground.

The findings come on the heels of a state report which showed carbon-emission goals Minnesota adopted in 2005 are still far behind.

One of the benchmarks was a 30% reduction by 2025. But so far, only 8% of emissions have been cut.

Graber contended it's going to take state investment as well as assistance from other stakeholders to offer more incentives for agriculture and forest-management operations to incorporate these ideas.

She suggested average Minnesotans can do their part through advocacy.

"Depending on the city or municipality, there are different rules for where development happens, and a big angle is ensuring that our most sensitive landscapes, making sure development avoids those areas," Graber urged.

Land use is Minnesota's third largest source of emissions. But Graber noted the solutions they're proposing might not get as much attention as addressing other climate-change contributors, such as fossil fuels.

She added placing greater emphasis on natural resources as a solution might get broader support because there might not be as much political divisiveness attached to it.

Disclosure: The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, Sustainable Agriculture and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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