The natural removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through land conservation, restoration, and management is receiving increasing attention as a scalable approach for climate change mitigation. However, different land-use sectors compete for resources and incentives within and across geopolitical regions, resulting in divergent goals and inefficient prioritization of CO2 removal efforts. Thus, a unifying framework is needed to accelerate basic research and coordinated interventions to accelerate climate change mitigation.
We propose a generalizable framework for Enhanced Natural Climate Solutions (NCS +), which we define as activities that can be coordinated to increase carbon drawdown and permanence on land while improving livelihoods and the provision of natural resources in vulnerable communities and ecosystems. The framework builds on interdisciplinary scientific convergence, including critical socioecological interactions, to inform both top-down policy incentives and bottom-up adoption by industries and managers. To achieve this goal, we suggest a multi-tiered approach for the prioritization of projects at local to regional scales that would simultaneously accelerate scientific discovery and broad implementation of CO2 removal projects.
Our vision leverages input from hundreds of researchers and land managers, including social and environmental scientists as well as representatives from tribal governments, state, and federal agencies in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, as a model system. Five guiding principles orient the framework which would be applicable in any region. As evidence of feasibility, we provide a synthesis of interdisciplinary studies that illustrate how coordinated action, with explicit consideration of system-specific technical and socioecological limitations, can lead to scalable projects with multiple co-benefits. Using theory as a linchpin for innovation, we propose that NCS + could better align climate change mitigation, adaptation, and justice goals at multiple scales.