About the 4 Corners Carbon Coalition

The 4 Corners Carbon Coalition is a platform for local communities to drive real world, community-anchored carbon removal projects together.

A strong consensus has emerged, shared by the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and leading scientists, that immediate, dramatic emissions reductions are no longer enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. We have already saturated the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses and we must reverse the damage we have inflicted. As a result, local governments are now called upon to drive rapid progress in a new and necessary front in the climate emergency: the restoration of our atmosphere through carbon dioxide removal, or CDR. And local communities can and must play a leading role in this global effort.

How 4C Works
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The 4C Principles

The 4 Corners Carbon Coalition is guided by four impact principles.

1. Local Leadership

Local government in all forms – from rural counties to global metropolises – are the vanguard of serious, sustained and pragmatic responses to the climate crisis. Individually and collectively, local governments have a historic role to play in accelerating effective and equitable carbon dioxide removal. Rather than follow, we can and must set the pace and standard for what real world advancement looks like in this critical area of our climate action.

2. Local Imagination

Every town, city and county, regardless of size, embodies unique knowledge, capacities and shared experiences. Grounded local perspectives afford opportunities for discovery, experimentation and co-invention that are less visible from the altitude of state and national governance. These resources must be utilized creatively to develop effective real world carbon dioxide removal projects.

3. Local Accountability

Local governments also have the greatest insight on the conditions that most immediately influence safety, fairness and opportunity in the communities they serve. Local leaders, informed by community input and interests, are best positioned to judge both benefits and risks. We believe that this special accountability must serve as a fundamental arbiter of what forms of carbon dioxide removal ultimately take hold in the real world.

4. Local Collaboration

Each of the unique capacities described above have maximum value and impact when local governments and communities partner, share and combine resources in the service of a common objective. Knowledge and resources that one community lacks can be gained and multiplied through solidarity, exchange and cooperation with peers. Our coalition is rooted in the firm belief that by working together, local agents can and will exert massive, positive influence over carbon dioxide removal’s global trajectory and ultimate future.

The 4 Corners Story

In Summer 2021, senior sustainability teams representing Boulder County, Colorado and Flagstaff, Arizona discovered a common interest in carbon dioxide removal. Just months earlier, both communities, located in the Western United States, had independently introduced ‘CDR’ as a formal component of their broader local climate action strategies; making them among the first municipal or county governments in the world to take such action.

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For both communities, the justification for such a move followed from a very practical need. Like hundreds of other local governments around the United States that have pledged targets to eliminate emissions, Boulder County and Flagstaff had methodically surveyed and quantified local investments needed to fully decarbonize their economies within a science-based timeframe. And both uncovered significant gaps in what could realistically be achieved over the next decade and beyond through other more established tools, alone – i.e. clean energy and transportation, conservation and efficiency, and smart land use strategies. This realization prompted a serious exploration of other measures that could effectively and reliably help meet their ambitious local commitments. Carbon offsets were a natural place to start, but growing concerns related to the verifiability and true impact of conventional offset options left both communities with serious reservations about this direction. 

And it was this impasse that led both communities, separately, to investigate CDR. A new but rapidly evolving area within the climate solutions portfolio, carbon dioxide removal was quickly gaining global prominence, as the emerging scientific consensus that emissions reductions, no matter how rapid and complete, would no longer be enough was gaining greater public exposure. Could Boulder County and Flagstaff remove some portion of the emissions from the air that they could not equitably or cost effectively avoid? And even more ambitiously, could CDR one day enable both communities to begin to reclaim past legacy emissions that are already exacting a toll? 

And what were other local communities doing about CDR? At the outset of their investigations the future partners discovered that most of the CDR conversation was unfolding at the highest levels of national and multinational climate policy and private sector activity. Local perspectives, ideas and concerns were not being represented. This was a state of affairs that definitely needed fixing. After all, global climate change is actually experienced at the local level, and can only truly be confronted through actions taken in real places. Historically, again and again, local citizens and public leaders have been at the forefront of driving and enabling change, often far ahead of their state and national counterparts. Further, local perspectives and knowledge often discover opportunities for innovation and problem-solving that may not be visible from higher altitudes of governance and decision-making. And accountability grounded in local concerns can best ensure that achieving maximum benefit for communities is prioritized, and that potential harm or the inequitable distribution of burdens or advantages is safeguarded against.  Why should CDR be any different? 

But Flagstaff and Boulder County also understood, all too well, the limitations faced by local governments acting alone to address the lived impacts of big global challenges like climate change. Cities, towns and counties, individually, simply cannot bring to bear the same resources that state and national actors can. In recognition of this reality, they drew direct inspiration from another familiar hallmark of effective local climate leadership: the power of collaboration, sharing and partnership.

All over the world networks of local governments have formed at the regional, national and even global scale to confront climate change together. This has taken the form of best practice sharing and solidarity-based advocacy, but also common projects that aggregate local resources to deliver greater impact. Such initiative has given rise to historically important adoption drivers that have played critical roles in establishing demand for other climate and environmental solutions. Models such as community solar, solarize campaigns, community choice aggregation (CCA),  and community-supported agriculture (CSA), are just a few high impact examples born from local initiatives.

And if Flagstaff and Boulder Country were giving CDR serious consideration, then there must be other communities also doing the same. From here the idea of a coalition was quickly born: multiple communities with similar interests in CDR, led by local governments and citizens, can work together and combine resources in coordinated campaigns to play a uniquely catalytic role in making carbon removal a reality. 

How 4C Works

1. Form Partnership

Local communities form a partnership to jointly catalyze a new CDR project in one or more of their locations.

2. Scope Campaign’s CDR Focus

Local partners set project objectives, identify theme or project category, and commit funding support

3. Select Campaign Projects to Support

Project opportunity is published on 4 Corners platform; applications solicited, received and evaluated: CDR contractor selected for award.

4. Multiply Impact

Other communities within partnership region recruited to supplement award funding to expand deployment of partner selected CDR solution.

4 Corners FAQ

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Carbon Dioxide Removal
  • What is Carbon Dioxide Removal?+

    Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) describes diverse processes, on land and at sea, that take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and durably lock it away in geological, biological and synthetic formations for decades, centuries, or even millennia.

  • Why is Carbon Dioxide Removal important?+

    The science is clear. In concert with rapid efforts to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, humanity must also pursue carbon dioxide removal (CDR) at an unprecedented pace and scale. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates cumulative removal needs of 100 to 1,000 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) globally by 21001, with interim annual removal rates that approach 10 GtCO2 by midcentury and twice that amount by the end of the century.2

    The most recent IPCC Sixth Assessment Report from Working Group III (AR6 WIII report)3 reinforces the need for large-scale CDR as an essential pillar to limit warming to no more than 1.5°C, for which CDR also serves as a crucial tool for scenarios that limit warming to no more than 2°C by 2100. This requires rapid scale-up and massive deployment of all viable CDR methods, underscoring the limited state of commercial deployment at present. National and state governments and the private sector will provide high-level policy and substantial capital toward these goals, while communities at all scales across jurisdictions have crucial roles to play as innovators and host locations for CDR activities.

    1 IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 3-24, doi:10.1017/9781009157940.001.

    National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). (2019). Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Chapter: Summary. Available at: https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/25259/chapter/2#9 

    3 IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926.001.

  • Is Carbon Dioxide Removal an alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?+

    CDR is NOT a substitute for rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is essential under any scenario to address climate change.

    Given the worsening effects of climate change, many local governments have set aggressive climate goals and created comprehensive roadmaps that outline specific actions that their communities will undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While local governments are already having trouble meeting their emissions reduction targets, the problem is compounded by the fact that the IPCC and leading scientists are now in consensus that decarbonizing the economy with emissions reductions alone is no longer a sufficient strategy to stem the worst effects of climate change. All climate actors, including local governments, must now look to invest in/adopt carbon removal strategies in addition to their existing portfolios of emission reduction actions in order to align policies with the stark scientific realities of the climate crisis. As a consequence, carbon dioxide removal as a supplemental pathway to decarbonization is gaining greater interest and acceptance at the local level.

  • Is Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) the same as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?+

    Carbon removal IS NOT the same thing as carbon capture and storage, or CCS. While CDR addresses  legacy and difficult to abate emissions by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a “point-source” approach that captures carbon dioxide from industrial smokestacks, such as those on coal-fired power plants, or cement and steel factories, and then sequesters it underground. Here is a graphic that can explain the various differences between the two.

  • What are the different forms of Carbon Dioxide Removal?+

    • Nature-based pathways:
      • Planting new forests (afforestation/reforestation)
      • Using no-till agriculture and other practices to increase the amount of carbon stored in soils (soil carbon sequestration)
      • Creating charcoal and burying it or plowing it into forests or fields (biochar)
      • Burying waste biomass in stable, low oxygen conditions where they won’t decompose and release emissions. 
    • Mineralization-based pathways:
      • Spreading crushed rocks over land to absorb carbon dioxide from the air or exposing them to carbon dioxide-rich fluids (enhanced mineralization)
      • Locking CO2 into surface level mine tailings. 
      • Spreading alkaline materials, such as lime, over the ocean (ocean alkalinization)
      • Fertilizing selected areas of the ocean by spreading nutrients, such as iron, over the surface (ocean fertilization)
      • Fertilizing selected areas of the ocean by pumping nutrient-rich waters from the depths to the surface (artificial upwelling)
      • Accelerating the transport of carbon to the ocean depths by pumping surface waters downward (artificial downwelling)
    • Engineered solutions(coupled with appropriate storage and/or utilization of the captured)
      • Building machines that would suck carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere and bury it (direct air capture, or DAC)
      • Capturing and sequestering carbon from bioenergy plants and burying it (e.g. bioenergy with carbon capture  and storage, or BECCS).
  • What’s the difference between Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) and Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs)?+

    Carbon dioxide removal (CDR), also known as carbon drawdown, is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and locking it away for decades or centuries in plants, soils, oceans, rocks, saline aquifers, depleted oil wells, or long- lived products like cement. Technologies and practices for implementing carbon removal are often called negative emissions technologies (NETs).  Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) refers to removing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, so it includes other greenhouse gasses like methane and  nitrous oxide and not solely focused on carbon dioxide.

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The 4 Corners Carbon Coalition
  • How does 4 Corners support Carbon Dioxide Removal?+

    Local governments will play a pivotal role in realizing the widespread deployment of CDR solutions and helping to establish best practices for local-based projects. Local governments are already facing the increasing burden of preparing for, responding to, and recovering from climate change impacts. As a consequence, local government resources must be used in creative and efficient ways that demonstrate intersectional benefits between CDR/emissions reduction efforts, climate adaptation/landscape resilience imperatives, and inclusive economic development. However, there remains a lack of guidance at the local level for how to approach carbon removal and landscape resiliency efforts in a manner that optimizes for economic, social, and environmental objectives.

  • Is the 4 Corners Carbon Removal Coalition a business, not-for profit organization, or something else?+

    The 4 Corners Carbon Removal Coalition is a network of local governments that are committed to addressing the climate crisis with carbon removal (in tandem with deep emissions reduction strategies). The 4 Corners Impact Fund is the charitable fundraising arm of the 4 Corners Carbon Removal Coalition and is hosted by the Windward Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity which provides a fiduciary role for the coalition to responsibly receive financial contributions for 4 Corners projects.

  • What types of CDR projects are eligible for Four Corners catalytic grants?+

    When it comes to CDR selection 4 Corners is technology neutral. The coalition exists to support pathways that will 1. achieve durable, long-term storage (at least 100 years); 2. can be measured and verified using rigorous and transparent best-in-class methods; 3. Do not impose harms or burdens on communities, anywhere; and 4. Deliver other economic, social and ecological benefits. 

    4 Corners is also specifically committed to catalyzing support for forms of CDR that have been assessed to have future large-scale potential in member regions.

  • How are projects selected for catalytic grants by the Four Corners Carbon Coalition?+

    Projects are selected by a committee of local government advisors representing participating communities, with input from a panel of carbon removal experts, using the criteria shared above.

  • What is a Multiplier Campaign?+

    A key 4 Corners objective is to accelerate the rate at which innovative CDR projects happen in the real world. This includes support for first of a kind projects through catalytic grants, but also secondary support that can help drive project replication at other sites within the target campaign geography. A multiplier campaign is intended to drive project replication, and begins after awards for initial selected projects have been selected during the first phase. 

    Multiplier campaigns channel crowdfunded resources and direct donations from institutions and individual donors to enable second, third or more projects to happen within the campaign geography. Campaigns vary in length  and funding targets, depending on the requirements of the project to be replicated.

  • How is the Four Corners Carbon Coalition funded?+

    Coalition initiatives are co-funded directly by local government members, and through crowdfunding ‘multiplier’ campaigns. Coalition support staff, following the initial pilot in Fall 2022, will be grant funded through philanthropic sources. 4 Corners will operate entirely as a not-for-profit initiative.