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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 WestermanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland courts moderates during tense confirmation hearing | GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change | White House urges passage of House public lands package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Tanden's odds plummet to lead OMB GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change 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.

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Democrats joined their chairman in criticizing Westerman's bill.

“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 HuffmanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House rescinds Trump proposal to restrict greenhouse gas consideration | Texas governor limits shipping natural gas out-of-state amid power shortages | Lawmakers clash over gun prohibition in Natural Resources committee room Lawmakers clash over gun prohibition in Natural Resources Committee room Boebert responds to criticism of her gun storage in Zoom background 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 TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills 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.”