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Environmental expert stresses urgency for sky cleanup at UHLC EENR lecture

Mary Christina Wood, University of Oregon School of Law Philip H. Knight Professor and Faculty Director

Mary Christina Wood, University of Oregon School of Law Philip H. Knight Professor and Faculty Director

Feb. 21, 2023 — Mary Christina Wood, University of Oregon School of Law Philip H. Knight Professor and Faculty Director spoke about the emergency need for cleaning up the atmosphere with natural climate solutions at a University of Houston Law Center EENR lecture.

“We no longer have years and years to come up with a solution to this issue. The government squandered them by promoting the fossil fuel energy system and not transitioning early enough to renewables,” Wood said. In the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Energy Transition Governance and Law webinar, “Confronting the other Climate Imperative: An Approach to Sky Cleanup Using Natural Climate Solutions (NCS),” Wood noted that we are at a critical point for the future of the planet and must proactively combat climate change and biodiversity loss.

Natural climate solutions are conservation, restoration and sustainable management actions that improve carbon storage in landscapes and wetlands and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing food and water systems.

“I like to think of these mechanisms as nature's own engines of carbon sequestration, but what has happened is that these engines have been kind of glued up in the past because humans have been very damaging to the landscape, and the soil is degraded,” Wood said. “The forests are cut. The wetlands are dried up.”

NCS will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. It is the most critical action necessary to protect, manage and restore lands for climate mitigation. Unlike emergent technologies, such as the direct air capture of carbon dioxide (CO2), NCS are often less expensive and easy to access.

The ecotypes of forests, rangeland/grasslands, farmlands and blue carbon areas such as estuaries and wetlands are essential to restoration. Improved land management actions are key to spurring sky cleanup and sequestering carbon to recover the climate system. But NCS cannot complete the atmospheric carbon cleanup overnight.

“What we need in sky cleanup is really the same kind of funding from the companies responsible for this massive pollution,” Wood said. “The fossil fuel industry has profited greatly from this pollution and never spent a dime on actual cleanup.”

Wood presented a three-fold approach of regional frameworks for atmospheric recovery (FARs), such as price estimates, techniques and logistics geared for land managers to complete NCS projects; financing ranging from private philanthropy or public bonds and tax revenue to potential settlements or court-ordered damages; and regional sky trusts that may function as the repository for sky cleanup funds and act as the transactional entity funding and structuring sequestration projects.

Coordinated by Aubin Nzaou, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow in Law and Energy Policy and EENR Fellow, and moderated by Tracy Hester, UH Law Center Associate Professor, the event was part of a three-year Curie Energy Transition Governance and Law Project.

“There's not enough money in the world to pay for all the damage unleashed on this planet by the fossil fuel industry; there's literally incalculable losses,” Wood said. “There's loss of life and property. There are economic losses. Relocation expenses. There's infrastructure damage and all the secondary natural resource damages to fisheries and wildlife and forests.” Go to to find the upcoming events and activities.

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