Congress considers natural climate solutions

For land trusts interested in combating climate change using the carbon storage capacity of their natural and working lands, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is working to make the path a little easier.

By Chelsea Welch June 23, 2020

As interest in carbon markets and their role in curbing climate change has grown in recent years, demand for carbon credits has increased, primarily from large corporations seeking to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. But individual landowners — who, according to expert research, could cost-effectively sequester large amounts of carbon through improved land management practices if given the right incentives and tools — have been challenged to make the system work for them

The Growing Climate Solutions Act, recently introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), is an exciting bipartisan step toward getting more landowners involved.

The bill would establish a certification program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for third-party carbon credit verifiers and other technical assistance providers in the agriculture and forestry sectors, allowing the federal government to serve as a sort of clearinghouse for reliable market information. This information would then be accessible through a new one-stop-shop website that can connect landowners with newly USDA Certified entities in the private sector that can help landowners explore and pursue carbon sequestration. The proposed legislation also would establish an advisory council comprised of agricultural community experts and stakeholders. This council would ensure the certification program meets the market’s evolving needs.

As the role of natural and working lands in fighting climate change through carbon sequestration becomes increasingly apparent, the land trust community is uniquely positioned to be a major part of the climate solution. The Growing Climate Solutions Act is a smart, market-based step toward implementing these solutions on a large scale by empowering individual landowners. You can learn more about it — and an upcoming Senate Agriculture Committee legislative hearing on the bill — here and here.