The future of carbon removal is built on reimagined public engagement

Communities must actively co-design which carbon removal solutions we pursue, in what ways, and to which extents

Image: Mike Bowman

Frameworks for co-designing carbon removal deployment with communities

Policy recommendations for public engagement

Invest in building community capacity

  • Provide $15 million in funding for the Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants Program, the Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program, and the Community Action for a Renewed Environment Grant Program for technical assistance for frontline communities, including community-based organizations and tribal organizations.
  • Improve the EJScreen tool through collaboration with EJ groups and communities to better identify vulnerable communities and the burdens to which they’re exposed. Federal agencies should use EJScreen as an “equity screen” decision-making tool. Updates should include nationally consistent data, environmental pollution data, demographic data (including race, ethnicity, and income), and capacity to produce maps and reports by geography.
  • Bolster the Environmental Education program, prioritizing EJ topics, including climate, energy, and food justice. Outreach, participation, grant distribution, and related efforts with underserved communities, particularly ones already facing environmental injustices, should be prioritized.

Promote robust and reimagined public engagement in technology-based carbon removal

  • Update and standardize minimum public engagement requirements across programs, such as the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships and the Underground Injection Control programs, to require regular meetings with local communities from project inception through closure. Meetings should be honest and transparent (a place where communities can co-design projects), held according to community needs (e.g. transportation, language, childcare, etc.), and ensure representation from marginalized groups.
  • Require co-creation of Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs), or other community compensation arrangements, to legalize carbon removal project benefits to local communities and empower communities to hold agencies and developers accountable. Communities should dictate the benefits they want to receive and their distribution.

Create opportunities for reimagined public engagement in land-based carbon removal

  • Launch a pilot program to co-design land management practice implementation between landowners and local communities. The different scales of operations in land management, including small- to large-scale, should be included, as should community concerns including pollution, public health, siting, resources, and others. The pilot should target communities already experiencing public health impacts from current agriculture or forestry operations. The Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement or the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program could be viable options to lead this effort.
  • Create a register of existing agriculture and forestry operations that currently implement climate-smart practices or are looking to transition their operations. Local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices can use this register to bring together relevant landowners and community stakeholders to facilitate public engagement, increase understanding of land management decisions and potential co-effects in their geographic areas, and promote community cohesion. Following this public engagement, the NRCS can provide technical assistance to farmers to help implement community-driven practices.
  • Explore a public engagement requirement for landowners receiving USDA funding related to land management practice implementation, including for cooperative extension programs, agriculture and forestry companies, land grant universities, and individual operations.



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