Panel battles over tree-planting legislation

Panel battles over tree-planting legislation

The House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday juxtaposed competing visions for tackling climate change: reducing greenhouse gas emissions and planting trees to capture carbon. 

They panel considered a bill sponsored by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) that aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions on public lands by 2040 and a bill by Rep. Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanPush for Civilian Climate Corps highlights underlying obstacles to restoring public lands Honoring America's real VIPs House passes bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol MORE (R-Ark.), which seeks to plant trees to capture carbon. 

Grijalva, who chairs the panel, criticized Westerman’s bill, saying it would not do enough to mitigate climate change. 

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“We must not lose focus on what the science tells us we must do to stabilize global temperatures and avoid catastrophic impacts. This will require a lot more than planting new trees,” he said.  “We must dramatically reduce greenhouse gases and get to net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible.” 

Westerman defended his legislation, saying, “Every American can support planting a tree. If we can connect that action with sustainability and carbon storage, we are one big step closer to solving a complex problem.”

Grijalva’s bill, introduced late last year, would halt fossil fuel production on public lands for at least a year and set five-year targets the Interior Department must meet on the way to meeting the goal to produce net-zero emissions on public lands. 

It would be prohibited from issuing new leases until it came into compliance with the targets.

Westerman’s bill aims to set targets for increasing domestic wood growth and creating a sustainable building tax credit. It’s part of a package put forth this month by several House Republicans.

Democrats joined their chairman in criticizing Westerman's bill.

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“Any bill, no matter how well-intended, that does not respond to this crisis needs to be recognized as part of the problem,” said Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanHaaland: No plan 'right now' for permanent drill leasing ban Safe and ethical seafood on the menu this Congress Modernizing transportation can help tackle the climate crisis MORE (D-Calif.). “We should plant trees, we should perfect cross-laminated timber ... but we should not call these ‘climate solutions’ if we are using these strategies to continue deforestation and continue developing and burning fossil fuel at a completely unacceptable and unsustainable pace.”

Carla Staver, a Yale associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, similarly said that “forests do have a role to play,” but that “tree planting alone will not fix our ongoing climate emergency.”

The trees bill, which also follows a pledge by President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE that the U.S. would join the 1 trillion tree initiative, will face an uphill battle. 

Grijalva told The Hill in an emailed statement that "we’re not marking it up in the foreseeable future.”