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Senate plants a seed for bipartisan climate solutions

Greg Nash

Few things unite Democrats and Republicans in Congress these days. Yet, in a resounding 92-8 vote yesterday, the Senate passed a groundbreaking piece of climate legislation: the Growing Climate Solutions Act. 

The bill, which was introduced in April by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), will help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate resilience. Instead of relying on heavy-handed regulation and taxpayer dollars, the Growing Climate Solutions Act will increase access to carbon credit markets, helping private forest and landowners profit from adopting climate-smart practices. As corporations ranging from Amazon to Verizon ramp up their climate goals, their appetite for carbon credits will only continue to increase. 

While addressing climate change is an increasingly bipartisan issue, finding common ground on climate policy has remained difficult. President Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline infuriated Republican lawmakers and confirmed many Americans’ fear that the price of the new administration’s climate policies would be jobs and livelihoods in the heartland. The Growing Climate Solutions Act, on the other hand, will put money in the pockets of farmers in Iowa and forestland owners in Arkansas. The secret to the bill’s success — making rural and conservative communities the beneficiaries, rather than the victims of climate action — should be a lesson to Biden. 

If signed into law, the Growing Climate Solutions Act will pave the way for further market-based policies that leverage the power of natural climate solutions. Often, climate policy discussions focus on topics like energy and infrastructure, yet conservation, restoration and management practices that increase the carbon sequestration capacity and resilience of natural ecosystems represent an incredible opportunity to curb, and even reverse climate change. Planting trees, maximizing the carbon-storing capabilities of soil and restoring ecosystems like wetlands and grasslands naturally sequester atmospheric carbon. According to The Nature Conservancy, natural climate solutions, if implemented properly, could account for nearly one-third of emission reductions needed by 2030. 

Despite their clear benefits, natural climate solutions policies have their detractors. In a letter sent to congressional leadership in April, prominent environmental organizations, such as chapters of and Greenpeace, opposed the Growing Climate Solutions Act, calling carbon credit markets “schemes.” While no one would claim that the bill is a silver bullet, progressive environmentalists’ habit of making “the perfect” the enemy of the good is beginning to stink of hypocrisy. As global temperatures and sea levels rise, attempting to sabotage bipartisan climate policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a slap in the face to the millions of young people who have rallied for climate action. 

In a strange but telling turn of events, progressive Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), joined Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), famous for bringing a snowball to the Senate floor in order to expose the climate hoax, in voting against the Growing Climate Solutions Act. 

Nevertheless, the Growing Climate Solutions Act passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, a success that progressive climate legislation, like the Green New Deal, has utterly failed to achieve. It’s no secret that climate change has been an incredibly divisive issue in the halls of Congress and the streets of our nation. Yet, climate denial on the right and climate alarmism on the left, are giving way to the overwhelming desire for actionable and pragmatic climate policy. 

Now, as the Growing Climate Solutions Act moves to the House of Representatives and then to Biden’s desk, leaders on the left and right should look for similar legislative opportunities to create a stronger economy and healthier environment. While Americans remain divided on many issues, we can all agree that when it comes to preserving our environment, it’s just common sense.

Quill Robinson is the vice president of government affairs at the American Conservation Coalition (ACC).

Tags Bernie Sanders Bipartisan legislation Carbon credit Carbon pricing Climate change climate solutions Debbie Stabenow Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Growing Climate Solutions Act Joe Biden Mike Braun sea level rise

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