Russell Hagen, Senior Vice President & Chief Development Officer, Weyerhaeuser
The climate threats we face today require urgent, systemic action, and forests are an essential tool available right now to fight climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As one of the largest private owners of timberlands in the world, Weyerhaeuser is in a unique position to leverage our scale and impact by making changes to how we grow trees so our forests absorb and store additional carbon over long periods of time.
1. Forest Carbon as a Scalable Solution
What is the role of forests as a climate solution?
Forests are natural carbon sinks. Trees take carbon from the air and store it in solid form. And because they can do this at scale, forests provide one of the best, readily available options for combating climate change. Forests are also unique in that they provide a greater-than-usual impact on a smaller footprint. Trees grow vertically, thereby increasing the potential volume of carbon stored per acre, and offer many additional benefits such as biodiversity, clean air and water, and recreational opportunities. Furthermore, when a tree is converted into a wood product, it still stores a significant amount of carbon; about half of lumber weight is stored carbon, making wood a more climate-friendly building material than cement or steel in many cases.
That said, nobody is suggesting that forests and wood products are the only solution to climate change. Reducing emissions is always going to be the first responsibility, but the fact remains that we can’t solve the climate crisis without removals provided by trees and other nature-based solutions. We should be using every possible tool at our disposal to both reduce emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere.
What role does the carbon market play in delivering these solutions?
At this moment, our best path to net-zero carbon emissions is to reduce and remove. While a company’s first priority should be to reduce its emissions to zero, this will not happen overnight. The carbon market fills an important gap for companies that have strong greenhouse gas reduction targets but are still working to reduce their hard-to-abate emissions. In such situations, carbon credits can support the clean energy transition by providing a mechanism for offsetting carbon emissions. In turn, the funding of these credits supports projects that reduce or remove carbon from the atmosphere while also protecting and enhancing the environment.
1. The Importance of Real, Measurable Change
What is Weyerhaeuser doing differently to foster trust in the carbon market?
Trust is critical to the long-term strength of the carbon market. All carbon credits should be additional, measurable and verified. But not all carbon credits are created equal. To improve the quality of credits, we need (1) a transparent market with pricing structures that allow buyers to distinguish between low- and high-quality credits, and (2) alignment across methodologies and registries to enable the scaling of effective projects.
At Weyerhaeuser, we generate carbon credits only from the additional carbon stored beyond business-as-usual operations. Our first carbon credit project in Maine, covering approximately 50,000 acres and approved by the American Carbon Registry (ACR), uses an Improved Forest Management (IFM) methodology (e.g., longer growing cycles, denser forests and growing more trees) to ensure forests within the project’s boundaries absorb and store additional carbon.
How is Weyerhaeuser helping raise the bar to bring integrity and foster trust and investment into the voluntary carbon market?
We have a clear set of principles that guide our carbon approach. These principles inform how we develop a carbon project and are rooted in our belief that carbon credits should:
Represent real, measurable change – Weyerhaeuser’s carbon credits are generated only from changes made to remove and store additional carbon beyond normal, business-as-usual operations.
Ensure long-term climate benefits – Our carbon projects are designed to store carbon removed from the atmosphere through the length of the project commitment, and often well beyond. We also take measures to ensure that carbon emissions removed in one geography are not displaced to another geography.
Demonstrate transparency – Our projects follow clear scientific methodologies that are available for public review, and our measurements are validated and verified by an independent third party.
Our forest carbon project in Maine provides a proof of concept for these principles. The project design, along with the selection of our project partners and third-party auditors, were carefully considered to ensure we met the highest standards for quality and integrity. We currently have two more forest carbon projects under development in the Southern U.S. that we are designing to the same rigorous standards and principles.
3. Weyerhaeuser's Unique Set of Climate Solutions
What does the increased interest in natural climate solutions mean for one of the world’s largest timberlands owners?
Forest carbon projects represent just one way in which Weyerhaeuser supports natural climate solutions. As one of the largest private landowners in the U.S., we’re able to identify specific portions of our land that we can offer for renewable energy solutions, including wind and solar, or for underground carbon capture and sequestration solutions (CCS). CCS is a significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases by capturing carbon at the source and injecting it permanently deep – really deep – into the ground. This is a great opportunity to layer in a climate benefit with little impact on our sustainable forest management operations. A true win-win.
In addition, we work with conservation partners to identify and preserve areas with vital ecosystems, promoting nature and biodiversity benefits through our conservation and mitigation banking programs. And our mitigation banking program provides an opportunity to restore or create new habitat, critical to ensuring that more land is protected or enhanced for biodiversity benefits.
Why is Weyerhaeuser at COP28?
COP28 is where the most important climate conversations in the world are happening, and we believe we have an important role to play in delivering climate solutions. We bring more than 120 years of experience sustainably managing working forests in a way that benefits both humans and the environment. There are lessons Weyerhaeuser has learned that can be applied to our global fight against climate change and help bring greater integrity and transparency to the voluntary carbon market.
We want to give voice to the importance of building projects for trust and scaling investment in natural climate solutions. We believe that sustainably managed forests and timberlands have a significant role to play, and we want to raise awareness of their immense power as scalable, investible solutions that are available today. We see a significant opportunity to greatly increase investment and strengthen alignment between the private sector, NGOs and the public sector to realize the full benefit of working forests as natural climate solutions. We are excited to take part in the dialogue happening at COP28 and look forward to engaging in Dubai.
About Russell Hagen
Russell S. Hagen has been Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer since March 8, 2021. He oversees the company’s Real Estate, Energy & Natural Resources segment, as well as Business Development and Acquisitions and Divestitures, through which he manages Weyerhaeuser’s climate solutions businesses and other strategic initiatives. He previously served as the company’s Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.
Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world's largest private owners of timberlands, began operations in 1900. We own or control approximately 11 million acres of timberlands in the U.S. and manage additional timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada. We manage these timberlands on a sustainable basis in compliance with internationally recognized forestry standards. We are also one of the largest manufacturers of wood products in North America. Our company is a real estate investment trust. In 2022, we generated $10.2 billion in net sales and employed approximately 9,200 people who serve customers worldwide. Our common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WY.
Learn more at www.weyerhaeuser.com.