California Should Include Coastal Habitats in Climate Plan Update

In letter, Pew highlights wetlands as key to addressing climate change

California Should Include Coastal Habitats in Climate Plan Update

On Jan. 5, 2022, The Pew Charitable Trusts provided the California Air Resources Board (CARB) with key science on and policy recommendations for incorporating coastal wetlands into the next version of the state’s plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, which is updated every five years, reviews the state’s progress toward its emissions goals and lays out pathways for achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

CARB is in the process of assessing how improved management of natural and working lands—including forests, farms, rangelands, and wetlands—can help the state reduce emissions and enhance carbon sequestration. Coastal wetlands, such as marsh and eelgrass beds, are especially effective in capturing carbon dioxide, which they trap in significant amounts in their vegetation and soils; these carbon stores are known as “blue carbon.” In its letter, Pew urged CARB to incorporate the best available science into its accounting of blue carbon and identified several resources the state could use to model various strategies for enhancing carbon storage in coastal habitats. Pew further highlighted several state wetland conservation and restoration policies that complement CARB’s efforts, including the California Natural Resources Agency’s Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy, a draft of which was released in October 2021.

Additionally, the letter noted that because healthy coastal wetlands provide myriad benefits to the state—including supporting fisheries, harboring rare and endangered species, protecting communities from flooding, and improving water quality—conserving and restoring them can help California address climate change and protect biodiversity.

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