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Politics Planting 1 trillion trees will help save the planet, says Congress member

14:40  16 april  2021
14:40  16 april  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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GOP Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas is reintroducing a revamped version of his “Trillion Trees Act” that would incentivize the planting of trees to absorb carbon.

a large tree in a park © Provided by Washington Examiner

Westerman, the only licensed forester in Congress, touts planting trees as the most “pragmatic, proactive approach” to removing planet-warming carbon from the atmosphere.

“It’s large-scale, it’s cost-effective, and there are a lot of positive environmental benefits of having healthy forests,” Westerman, the top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee, told the Washington Examiner in an exclusive interview ahead of the bill’s release.

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The legislation is a plank of a broader House GOP climate agenda that the party is promoting ahead of the Biden administration’s summit event on Earth Day with world leaders to rally support for stronger emissions reductions commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The Trillion Trees Act has more than 50 sponsors, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and one Democrat, Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

But other House Democrats argue that while nature-based solutions like planting trees is a key component of addressing climate change, it’s not as effective as policies that reduce fossil fuel use, given the emissions reduced from planting trees is a "one-time shot" compared to using zero-emission sources of energy in perpetuity.

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The Republican agenda does not call for reducing the use of coal, oil, or natural gas but instead promotes techniques such as tree planting and using machines to capture carbon from power or industrial plants or swipe it directly from the air.

Westerman, however, said the Democrats' argument is nonsense and that his bill is intended to address one issue, not the entirety of the climate problem.

“That argument had been a weak argument the whole time,” Westerman said. “This plan does more to proactively mitigate emissions than anything anybody else has come up with.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat of the Natural Resources Committee, told the Washington Examiner he has been working “constructively” with Westerman for more than a year to make it bipartisan.

But he said he would not support the new version unless it addressed concerns he had with the previous iteration, introduced in February 2020.

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He said Westerman's approach is insufficient because it does not directly confront the growing problem of deforestation, the deliberate removal of trees for agriculture, grazing, or another economic use, in places like the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Experts say planting trees is not as effective as protecting them from being cut down in the first place because it takes decades for new forests to mature.

“There was nothing about the most obvious thing you can do to sequester carbon, which is to protect old-growth trees,” Huffman said. “I like Bruce, and he genuinely wants to do some good things. But there are a few more things that need to happen to make it viable in a truly bipartisan way.”

Westerman said his new bill is “highly focused” on preventing deforestation by encouraging private landowners to keep their forests intact rather than developing it for commercial reasons.

He challenged Democrats to bring his bill to a vote.

“If they were clearly concerned about climate and the environment, then debate the bill on its merits,” Westerman said. “I don't see how you can keep from passing it. This bill is a no-brainer.”

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The Trillion Trees Act, while not exactly what it sounds like, would support a global effort for the world to plant a trillion trees by 2050, an initiative with bipartisan support that former President Donald Trump endorsed.

Thomas Crowther, the ETH Zurich ecologist who conceived of the trillion trees idea and is now the chief scientific adviser to the United Nations's Trillion Tree Campaign, says there are 400 gigatons of carbon stored in the world's 3 trillion trees.

There are only 300 billion trees currently in the United States.

Increasing the world's trees by another trillion could store the carbon equivalent of wiping out a decades' worth of accumulated emissions.

Westerman’s bill, though, does not set a numerical target for the U.S. and would not involve the federal government planting trees.

Instead, it would incentivize companies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals to plant trees domestically and abroad. It would force the federal government to establish a target for forest carbon stock, or the amount of carbon sequestered from the atmosphere and stored in tree trunks or the soil.

It also would create a new tax credit to encourage homebuilders and commercial developers, including those who work with remodeled buildings, to use less carbon-intensive materials and conserve energy.

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A new provision of the bill would create demonstration projects and provide grant funding for biochar, charcoal produced from biomass that can help with storing carbon in soil, an emerging carbon sequestration tool.

Tags: News, Energy and Environment, Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, Climate Change, Fossil Fuels

Original Author: Josh Siegel

Original Location: Planting 1 trillion trees will help save the planet, says Congress member

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