Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Bipartisan Climate Bill Highlights Forest Restoration, Conservation

Bipartisan Climate Bill Highlights Forest Restoration, Conservation
Environmental activists on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol during the Global Climate Strike rally on Sept. 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum / Getty Images

In an era of extreme political polarization, opportunities for bipartisan efforts on climate change may seem impossible, but a recent introduction of rare climate legislation, authored by Republican and Democratic senators, could pioneer future agreements.

Last Wednesday, U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), co-chairs of the Bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, introduced The Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act – a bill aimed at storing carbon, promoting sustainable management and ending deforestation.

Coons said this year's wildfires and storms are a "reminder of how climate change is impacting our lands – and a clear signal that we need to act now to protect them for future generations," in a press release.

Braun called the bill "a common sense proposal to help improve our land, water, soil, and air, without imposing onerous Washington regulations."

Nature-based climate proposals like the one trillion tree initiative reflect "an acknowledgment by some in the Republican Party of rising voter demand for action on climate change, even as it seeks to preserve the economic benefits of a historic drilling boom that has made the United States the world's biggest oil and gas producer," Reuters reported.

Inspired by a July 2019 study in Science, The Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act understands ecosystem restoration to be one of the most effective climate mitigation strategies, based on the study's finding that an extra 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover could store 205 gigatons of carbon in places that support forests.

The bill also supports the 1t.org One Trillion Trees Initiative, a World Economic Forum initiative that aims to plant one trillion trees worldwide by 2030, announced in January 2020. President Donald Trump affirmed his support for the international initiative early this year, despite his public history of climate skepticism, stating he wanted to show "strong leadership in restoring, growing and better managing our trees and our forests," the World Economic Forum reported. In October, the president signed an executive order which established a council responsible for the federal government's involvement in the international initiative.

The proposed legislation introduced by Braun and Coons last week seeks to make the U.S. a leader in the One Trillion Trees Initiative. It also aims to resolve the government's limited capacity to "enact a bipartisan conservation policy" and simply put "utilize one of the most effective tools to sequester greenhouse gas emissions," according to the bill's one-page summary.

In doing so, The Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act would require the USDA to establish objectives for increasing the net carbon stock of various ecosystems.

In their blog, the Environmental Defense Fund supports this objective, saying the bill could shift focus away from exclusively placing a commercial price on ecosystem harvests and instead give additional value to an ecosystem by including its abilities to mitigate climate change.

The bill also allocates $10 million to the USDA Forest Nursery Revival programs to supply seed and samplings for increased planting and establishes a non-profit organization, the International Forest Foundation, to encourage private donations for international reforestation.

While similar proposals have faced criticism from environmentalists who state planting more trees is not a sufficient strategy to combat the climate crisis and does little to limit fossil fuel production, legislation like this "is a sign that congressional Republicans may be willing to strike deals on climate with President-elect Joe Biden after he takes office next month," according to a report by The Washington Post.

The proposed legislation comes at a time when Democrats lead the House by a narrow margin and a Senate majority remains undecided until January, potentially making it difficult for any climate legislation enacted by the Biden administration to pass.

"The window of opportunity for bipartisan climate action opens wider every day," Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for Political Affairs of the Environmental Defense Fund said in a blog. "The time to act is now, and EDF congratulates Sens. Braun and Coons on their efforts to work collaboratively and effectively."

Emily Denny is a freelance writer and graduate of UC Berkeley with degrees in environmental policy and English literature. Her concern for climate issues stems from growing up on the rural northwest coast and she hopes her reporting can connect small communities to a global conversation on climate.

Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less