ERI has been awarded a grant from The Jefferson Trust to develop strategies for running climate change in reverse. Climate change is a fundamental threat to people and the planet. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions are essential, but inadequate to fully address climate change impacts. The Climate Restoration Initiative brings together an interdisciplinary team of UVa scholars and students to understand how to restore the climate by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, with an initial focus on Virginia. We will explore a range of nature-based and engineering solutions. This initiative will be the first of its kind to combine the disciplinary and policy perspectives needed to understand the feasible scope of negative emissions strategies, and as such, will distinguish UVa on the global stage. Funding will support graduate and undergraduate student teams to do community-engaged research to usher in a new era of climate restoration.

The initial research tasks funded by the Jefferson Trust grant will be to: 1) identify the negative emissions strategies that are deployable in Virginia; 2) assess their potential for carbon removal in the state; and 3) develop a GIS-based mapping tool to determine where such strategies could be implemented. Doing this will require assembling a GIS database of land uses in the state and associated socio-economic data. Once this mapping tool is developed, we can calculate an initial estimate of the state’s capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere. It will also enable us to identify how deploying negative emissions strategies may have either co-benefits or negative impacts on communities. These could include tying up land in forests that a community may wish to develop economically or building a carbon capture plant near a residential community.

Co-benefits could help incentivize adoption of certain approaches. For example, restoring forests and changing timber management has potential to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and may impact how privately owned commercial forests are run, and also has potential ecosystem and water quality benefits. If we can identify these trade-offs, we can design policy incentives for owners to monetize the value of their timber and additional environmental benefits.

The Jefferson Trust was founded by the University of Virginia Alumni Association in 2005 to provide grant funding to initiatives that enhance the University of Virginia and the student experience. Since inception, this donor-led organization has invested over $8.7 million in student, faculty, and staff ideas, supporting the people and projects that strengthen the University of Virginia. In 2020, the Jefferson Trust will award $1 million for the first time in the organization’s history through multiple funding opportunities. For more information on the Jefferson Trust, visit www.jeffersontrust.org.