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Context and future directions for integrating forest carbon into sub-national climate mitigation planning in the RGGI region of the U.S.

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Abstract: International frameworks for climate mitigation that build from national actions have been developed under the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change and advanced most recently through the Paris Climate Agreement. In parallel, sub-national actors have set greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals and developed corresponding climate mitigation plans. Within the U.S., multi-state coalitions have formed to facilitate coordination of related science and policy. Here, utilizing the forum of the NASA Carbon Monitoring System's Multi-State Working Group, we collected and reviewed climate mitigation plans for 11 states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative region of the Eastern U.S. For each state we reviewed the (a) policy framework for climate mitigation, (b) GHG reduction goals, (c) inclusion of forest activities in the state's climate action plan, (d) existing science used to quantify forest carbon estimates, and (e) stated needs for forest carbon monitoring science. Across the region, we found important differences across all categories. While all states have GHG reduction goals and framework documents, nearly three-quarters of all states do not account for forest carbon when planning GHG reductions; those that do account for forest carbon use a variety of scientific methods with various levels of planning detail and guidance. We suggest that a common, efficient, standardized forest carbon monitoring system would provide important benefits to states and the geographic region as a whole. In addition, such a system would allow for more effective transparency and progress tracking to support state, national, and international efforts to increase ambition and implementation of climate goals.

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