State House News Service

New England’s forests hold the potential to help meet region’s climate goals

Dec. 22, 2022

Good morning. It’s officially winter. But don’t let that get you down. The days are about to start getting longer, if only by a minute today.

Gov.-elect Maura Healey last week called her new climate chief, Melissa Hoffer, “unstoppable.” She’s going to need to be.

The Baker administration has left Healey with a blueprint to achieve its climate goals and it will require a dramatic transformation of our energy systems and homes to get there. Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature agreed to a net-zero emissions limit by 2050 that the outgoing governor now says will require an 85 percent reduction in emissions below 1990s levels over the next three decades.

The remainder will be made up by removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.

One way to do that is with trees.

State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski reports that the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050 calls for at least 40 percent of lands and waters in Massachusetts to be permanently conserved and shielded from development by 2050. That’s a 27 percent increase from what is currently protected.

Why is this important? Well, a new study released Wednesday from the New England Forestry Foundation estimates that improved forestry management across New England’s Acadian Forest could help store 488 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, enough to remove 23 percent of the carbon from the atmosphere needed for the region to become net-zero by 2050.

The study’s findings dovetail with a recent Highstead report that produced similar estimates of the potential for forests to help with carbon storage.

The climate plan will also require a dramatic escalation in the use of electric vehicles, solar and wind power generation and home-heating transportation.

The Globe’s Sabrina Shankman reports that  approximately 27 GW of solar and 24 GW of wind resources will be needed, up from 3.7 GW of wind capacity and 3.3 GW of solar currently deployed.

Eighty percent of homes must also be fitted with electric heat pumps for heating and cooling. That’s an 8,331 percent from the 33,210 homes heated that way today to 2.8 million by 2050.

By Matt Murphy