As the 117th Congress came to a close, Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement that resulted in the approval of a massive spending bill that includes funding for education, roads and bridges, the military, and more. This year, following the passage of the largest climate bill in U.S. history, there is a lot of attention being paid to how government funding will be allocated to address both the climate and biodiversity crises. While the results are mixed on some fronts, one noteworthy development was the passage of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, a bipartisan effort to recognize the critical role that the agriculture and forestry sectors play in conservation and naturally storing carbon.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA) was a multi-year effort that will support voluntary carbon markets for farmers, foresters, ranchers and other land stewards. Championed by Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Braun (R-IN) and Representatives Spanberger (D-VA) and Bacon (R-NE), the version of the bill that passed in the omnibus spending package will create a new program to self-certify technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers for the agriculture and forestry sectors. The bill will also address barriers to entry for landowners trying to access voluntary carbon markets and encourages practices guided by science.
Addressing a changing climate is a massive undertaking, and the agriculture sector is just one component of a much larger and more complicated solution. But it is an important one. Audubon has long recognized the value added by ranchers, farmers, and foresters who care about the ecosystems where they make their living. In 2020, we helped pass legislation in Washington state that made it easier for farms and fields to capture carbon. We have studied how the same fields and forests that provide important habitat for birds also serve as natural solutions to climate change. Our Conservation Ranching program certifies lands managed for birds and biodiversity, with producers earning the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal on their package labels as a consumer call out to the beef and bison products raised on grasslands. The passage of the GCSA is an extension of the philosophy that providing science-based support to agricultural producers and land owners will help create a better future for both people and wildlife.
Audubon’s policy staff and grassroots members have worked hand-in-hand with policymakers on Capitol Hill to encourage the passage of the GCSA. In addition to the work by Audubon staff across the country, 34,350 Audubon members have sent 87,609 letters to Members of Congress asking for their support of the GCSA since it was first introduced in 2020. In addition, more than 50,000 people signed petitions that were sent to their Members of Congress.
While there is much more work to be done to ensure that the U.S. meets its obligations to address the climate crisis, this particular win should be celebrated as it brought together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Reducing emissions to stem the effects of climate change will require the participation of everyone, in every sector, regardless of political affiliation. These provisions are an important step forward in realizing a united response to this global challenge.