Climate Change Mitigation on Natural and Working Lands

California’s natural and working lands encompass a range of land types and uses, including farms, ranches, forests, grasslands, deserts, wetlands, riparian areas, coastal areas and the ocean, as well as the green spaces in urban and built environments. These resources can be both carbon sinks and sources of GHG emissions. In his 2015 State of the State address and in Executive Order B-30-15, Governor Brown established 2030 targets for GHG emissions reductions and called for policies and actions to reduce GHG emissions from natural and working lands, including forests, rangelands, farms, wetlands, and soils. The passage of Senate Bill 1386 (Wolk, 2016) codified this policy and emphasized the important role natural and working lands play in the State’s climate strategy.

California’s climate objective for natural and working lands is to maintain them as a carbon sink (i.e., net zero or even negative GHG emissions) and minimize the net GHG and black carbon emissions associated with management, biomass utilization, and wildfire events. Policy in this sector must balance GHG emissions reductions and carbon sequestration with other co-benefits, such as clean air, wildlife and pollinator habitat, strong economies, food, fiber and renewable energy production, and water supply and quality. Activities undertaken to increase the resiliency and capacity of carbon storage in and on natural and working lands should also contribute to localized, regional, and statewide climate change adaptation. Synergistic opportunities to promote climate change adaptation in forests, wetlands and riparian areas, along the coast, in oceans, and in cities and towns are described in detail in Safeguarding California. Strategies that reduce GHG emissions or increase sequestration in natural and working lands often overlap and result in emissions reductions in other sectors, most notably at intersections with land use, biomass and waste utilization, energy and water.


California has made significant investments in climate benefits from natural and working lands to date. The nature of these activities differs across forests, farms, grasslands, wetlands, urban areas, and other parts of the landscape, but they all serve to advance one or more of these strategies:

1. Protect land from conversion to more emissions-intensive uses
2. Enhance the resilience of and potential for carbon sequestration
3. Innovate biomass utilization from forestry and agricultural activities

More than $145 million of California Climate Investments have been invested in natural and working lands strategies to date, and additional funds are allocated for further investment across the following programs at multiple agencies and departments:

Information on all awards to date can be found via the California Climate Investments portal.

Next Steps

The State is now further developing natural and working lands climate policies through the Forest Carbon Plan (draft January 2017) and the proposed 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update (January 2017). The proposed Scoping Plan Update also calls for completion of a Natural and Working Lands Implementation Plan in 2018. In addition, research is ongoing across agencies to advance the state of the science on NWL carbon dynamics and inventories:

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is working with CNRA and other agencies to develop the California Natural and Working Lands Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Model (CALAND), which will include a projection of business-as-usual emissions as well as a listing and quantitative assessment of conservation and management activities the State may pursue targeted emissions reductions. The model will continue to evolve through 2018; a technical description of Version 2 of the model, released in September 2017, is available here, along with a description of its development and use for the proposed Natural and Working Lands Implementation Plan.
  • CARB has worked extensively with other State agencies, academic researchers and the public to develop a Natural and Working Lands inventory that will guide understanding of how carbon is released and sequestered by natural and working landscapes. CARB plans to update the forest component of the Natural and Working Lands inventory to include 2012 GHG emissions estimates, followed by emissions estimates for soil carbon, urban forestry, and croplands in 2018.
  • A number of projects within the Fourth Climate Change Assessment
  • The California Board of Forestry’s AB 1504 Forest Ecosystem and Harvested Wood Product Carbon Inventory

California will continue to pursue and rely on best available science to develop and implement policies and programs for reducing GHG emissions from and improving carbon sequestration on natural and working lands.

Please check back for future developments. Please direct any questions to comments to

Upcoming Events

October 13, 2017
Public Workshop on the Proposed Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan and CALAND Model Development

DATE: Friday, October 13, 2017
TIME: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA)
Coastal Hearing Room
1001 I Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, California 95814

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and California Air Resources Board are jointly hosting a public workshop to present next steps on the Natural and Working Lands Implementation Plan that was proposed in the Draft 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update (January 2017) and to present Version 2 of the California Natural and Working Lands Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Model (CALAND) and next steps for model refinement and use. The workshop will include a moderated discussion to gather stakeholder input on the methods and scope of CALAND. In addition, the CALAND Steering Committee seeks participation from expert members of the public to inform development through participation in the CALAND Technical Committee.

Workshop Documents:

A live webcast of the workshop will be available at:

If you require a special accommodation or need this document in an alternate format (i.e. Braille, large print) or another language, please contact Rachel Pallatin at (916) 324-3502 or as soon as possible, but no later than 5 business days before the scheduled event/meeting. TTY/TDD/Speech to Speech users may dial 711 for the California Relay Service.

Past Events

December 14, 2016
Public Workshop on Carbon Sequestration Modeling Methods and Initial Results for the Natural & Working Lands Sector in the 2030 Target Scoping Plan

November 7, 2016
Public Workshop on the 2030 Target Scoping Plan Update: GHG Policy Scenarios, Natural & Working Lands, and Public Health Analysis

March 23, 2016
Public Workshop on the Natural and Working Lands Sector to Inform Development of the 2030 Target Scoping Plan Update

Additional Scoping Plan workshops


Forest Climate Action Team