Drawdown Framework

Drawdown is the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. This is the point when we begin the process of stopping further climate change and averting potentially catastrophic warming. It is a critical turning point for life on Earth.

The Challenge

To understand and advance climate solutions, it’s important to understand the sources of emissions and nature’s means of rebalancing the climate system.

Burning fossil fuels for electricity, mobility, and heat. Manufacturing cement and steel. Plowing soils. Clearing forests and degrading other ecosystems. All these activities emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air. Cattle, rice fields, landfills, and fossil fuel operations release methane—a gas that warms the planet even more. Nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases seep out of agricultural lands, industrial sites, refrigeration systems, and urban areas, adding still more heat-trapping pollutants to Earth’s atmosphere.

Most of these greenhouse gases stay airborne, but not all. Natural biological and chemical processes—especially photosynthesis—bring some of that excess back to plants, soil, or sea. These “sinks” are nature’s reservoirs for absorbing and storing carbon. While most heat-trapping emissions stay in the atmosphere, significant portions are quickly removed by plants on land or taken up by oceans.

Diagram demonstrating emissions sources and natural sinks

The Solutions

To reach Drawdown, we must work on all aspects of the climate equation—stopping sources and supporting sinks, as well as helping society achieve broader transformations. That is, three connected areas call for action, which we must pursue globally, simultaneously, and with determination.

1. Reduce Sources — bringing emissions to zero

2. Support Sinks — uplifting nature’s carbon cycle

3. Improve Society — fostering equality for all

Nested within each area of action, there are sectors and subgroups of diverse solutions—practices and technologies that can help the world stabilize and then begin to lower greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Together, they comprise the Drawdown Framework for climate solutions.

Diagram showing potential emissions reductions by sector

Here, you see the potential emissions impact of each sector, as well as the solution subgroups therein. Using two different scenarios of solution implementation, we derived the minimum and maximum impact shown here.