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Tuesday, January 31, 2023 | 9:00 – 10:00AM CT

Mary Christina Wood

Philip H. Knight Professor of Law
Faculty Director Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center
University of Oregon School of Law

Power Point


Confronting the other Climate Imperative: An Approach to Sky Cleanup Using Natural Climate Solutions (NCS)

Abstract The climate emergency presents two urgent imperatives: 1) rapid decarbonization (phasing out fossil fuels); and 2) drawdown of the legacy carbon dioxide surpassing safe levels of 350 parts per million (ppm).  While decarbonization is the subject of enormous advocacy, initiative, and litigation, the drawdown project has languished due to a lack of implementation strategies.  Scientists point to the vast potential of Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) to draw down and sequester carbon through conservation and restoration techniques deployed across four ecotypes:  forests, rangeland/grasslands, farmlands, and blue/teal carbon areas such as estuaries and wetlands.  While NCS cannot accomplish all the atmospheric carbon cleanup necessary to recover the climate system, it can rapidly propel the urgent drawdown project while at the same time addressing the biodiversity crisis and achieving multiple co-benefits for communities, such as soil health, water quality, and flood mitigation. Scattered pilot projects and small ventures exist, but the full potential of NCS has not yet been tapped due to the lack of a strategy to scale up and accelerate the adoption of techniques across large landscapes. This Address presents such a strategy, encompassing a three-gear approach: (1) Regional Frameworks for Atmospheric Recovery (FARs); (2) Financing; and (3) Regional Sky Trusts.  A regional Framework presents an opportunity for land managers and organizations to hasten and NCS across broad landscapes by providing an implementation bridge consisting of components necessary to design and carry out NCS projects -- including techniques; pricing estimates; logistics; funding opportunities; co-benefit assessments, monitoring standards; and durability mechanisms (conservation easements and/or covenants).  The Financing gear encompasses not only established sources (existing Federal and State programs, private philanthropy, public bonds and tax revenues), but also potential settlements or court-ordered damages in Atmospheric Natural Resource Damage litigation against fossil fuel corporations for their contributions to carbon pollution.  Regional Sky Trusts, structured like land trusts, may serve as the repository for sky cleanup funds and function as the transactional entity funding and structuring sequestration projects.  This talk presents the Pacific Northwest as a case study of a regional drawdown effort. Bio Mary Christina Wood is the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the school's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center. She teaches property law, natural resources law, public trust law, and federal Indian law; she has also taught public lands law, wildlife law, and hazardous waste law. She is the Founding Director of the school's nationally acclaimed Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center and is Faculty Leader of the Program's Conservation Trust Project, Global Environmental Democracy Project, Native Environmental Sovereignty Project, and Food Resilience Project. After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1987, she served as a judicial clerk on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She then practiced in the environmental/natural resources department of Perkins Coie, a Pacific Northwest law firm. In 1994 she received the University's Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching, and in 2002 she received the Orlando Hollis Faculty Teaching Award. Professor Wood is a co-author of a leading textbook on natural resources law (West, 2006), and a co-author of a textbook on public trust law (Carolina Press, 2013). Her new book, Nature's Trust, was released in October, 2013 (by Cambridge University Press). Professor Wood has published extensively on climate crisis, natural resources, and native law issues. She originated the approach called Atmospheric Trust Litigation to hold governments worldwide accountable for reducing carbon pollution within their jurisdictions, and her research is being used in cases and petitions brought on behalf of children and youth throughout the United States and in other countries. She is a frequent speaker on global warming issues and has received national and international attention for her sovereign trust approach to global climate policy. Profile Publications