RD77 - Natural Carbon Sequestration in the Commonwealth – January 2022

Executive Summary:

This report has been generated based on input received as part of a series of meetings of the Virginia Carbon Sequestration Task Force (“Task Force"). The Task Force was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2021 pursuant to Senate Bill 1374, codified under Chapter 504 of the 2021 Special Session Acts of Assembly.(*1)

The formation of the Task Force represents Virginia’s commitment to reducing climate pollution, improving air quality, and addressing climate change through increasing carbon sequestration in the natural environment.

The Task Force convened for two meetings in the fall of 2021 to review the General Assembly’s charge and discuss ways to increase carbon sequestration in the Commonwealth. Membership in the Task Force included representatives from numerous state agencies and boards, academic institutions, and nongovernmental organizations, as well as private industry. A full membership list and meeting minutes may be found in Appendices A and B. The Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and the Deputy Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources facilitated the meetings.

Natural carbon sequestration contributes to environmental goals by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and providing long-term storage in oceans, soils, vegetation, and geological formations. The build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere contributes to global warming and exacerbates the climate crisis. Thus, by capturing and storing carbon, communities can help offset emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change such as increased severe weather, wildfires, dangerous heatwaves, sea level rise, and diminished air and water quality.

Incorporating carbon sequestration into Virginia’s economy can realize benefits such as cost savings from improved community health and from reduced climate change impacts in addition to new business opportunities in ecosystem services and the bioeconomy. To capture these benefits, the Task Force offered (1) increasing support for existing programs with carbon sequestration co-benefits, and (2) exploring new programs to incentivize additional carbon sequestration. Co-benefits refers to projects that produce added benefits in addition to the primary carbon sequestration goal.

The below discussion of the topics studied by the Task Force and recommendations reflects the work of the task force, including meetings, and is not comprehensive. This report instead represents an initial effort at understanding the role carbon sequestration can play in meeting Virginia’s climate goals and provides direction for future study. Reference materials contained in the appendices provide additional information on specific topics and avenues for future study.
(*1) Chapter 504 of the 2021 Acts of Assembly (Special Session I).