WASHINGTON — “It’s exciting that members of Congress are finally having serious discussions about addressing the significant contribution public lands and waters make to our national greenhouse gas emissions, rather than exploring further attempts to expand fossil fuel development,” said Nada Culver, vice president of public lands for the National Audubon Society upon the introduction of the American Public Lands and Waters Climate Solutions Act. “This bill is Congress’ first attempt to achieve carbon neutrality on public lands, as well to empower all communities to benefit from the transition. It is the start of what we hope will be a robust and serious legislative effort to achieve this goal.”
The bill, introduced today by the House Natural Resources Committee, offers proposed solutions for reducing carbon emissions from public lands and oceans to zero by 2040 by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and investing in natural resources to sequester carbon emissions from getting into the atmosphere. The bill also incorporates critically important funded commitments to address people and communities who are impacted by these changes, including Indigenous communities, those affected by pollution, and those that work in the fossil fuel industry.
“It’s imperative that we start having these conversations immediately rather than waiting for a perfect piece of legislation to come along, and we look forward to further discussions,” said Culver. “We know that the climate is changing too quickly for birds and other wildlife to adapt, and what’s bad for them is bad for us. Addressing climate change, both by reducing emissions and safeguarding public lands, is critical to protecting birds and their environments, and protecting us all as well.”
Earlier this year, Audubon released Survival By Degrees, a new report that found that two-thirds of North American birds are vulnerable to extinction from climate change unless dramatic action is taken immediately. The earth’s temperature is on a course to rise 3 degrees Celsius by 2080, which could prove disastrous. By keeping that rise in check even by half, the vast majority of bird species could be preserved.
Public lands support at least half of the entire U.S. distributions of more than 300 bird species. Audubon’s recent report The Future of Birds in Our National Parks shows the importance of national parks as climate sanctuaries for birds, and highlights the need to protect parks and other public lands for birds and other wildlife. Public lands also account for nearly one-quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
“It makes sense that the federal government should make a concerted effort to reduce emissions on the vast amount of land under its jurisdiction,” said Culver. “Net zero emissions from all public lands would do a tremendous amount to address our climate emergency, and preserve the lands needed by both birds and people.”
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.
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