Building on President Trump’s support for the 1 Trillion Trees initiative expressed during the State of the Union, House Republican leaders, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), recently unveiled a package of bills aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
The plan centers around three themes: carbon capture, clean energy investment and conservation. The initial set of legislation includes four bills focused on carbon capture:
- Permanent extension of the tax credit for carbon sequestration, sponsored by Reps. Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH). The bill would also enhance the value of the tax credit and allow more projects to qualify.
- The Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Innovation Act, sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), would aim to advance direct air carbon capture technology.
- The New Energy Frontiers Through Carbon Innovation Act, sponsored by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), would create a new carbon capture research program at the U.S. Department of Energy.
- The Trillion Trees Act (H.R. 5859), sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR). As a biological form of carbon sequestration, the bill would commit the U.S. to planting approximately 3.3 billion trees each year domestically, while providing technical assistance and foreign aid to help maximize forest growth and reverse deforestation internationally.
Additional legislation on the other themes is expected in the coming months.
NLC policy calls for a “sustainable energy policy that is reliable, equitable, environmentally responsible and evidence-based.” Specifically, NLC supports the efficient and affordable use of all energy sources while protecting the environment, environmentally responsible domestic production of conventional and renewable energy sources, incentives for the use of clean coal technology, and research and development for carbon capture and storage technology to reduce emissions from existing coal plants.
This week, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the Trillion Trees Act.
While trees do take carbon out of the atmosphere, the increasing difficulty of permanently storing carbon in trees and maintaining current forests in a changing climate means planting trees is not a silver bullet for reducing carbon emissions.
Moreover, while trees provide other environmental, health and community benefits – such as helping to manage stormwater runoff, decreasing heat island effect, and increasing property values – some communities struggle with tree maintenance and invasive species that are devasting urban tree canopies.
A study from the U.S. Forest Service showed that the U.S. lost approximately 36 million trees per year between 2009 and 2014.
The Republican plan comes as House Democrats last month unveiled their proposal to transition to a clean energy economy. Just as building community resilience in the face of extreme weather events has garnered bipartisan support over the past few years, more and more Congressional leaders are working across the aisle to address climate change.
Most notably, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and McKinley outlined a bipartisan plan last month to reduce emissions in the power sector. The plan would focus on innovation in a broad portfolio of clean energy technologies. Additionally, the plan would:
- promote public and private investment in clean energy technology development, demonstration, and deployment;
- establish a federal Clean Energy Standard for the power sector that will achieve an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050; and
- move away from a regulatory approach to reducing emissions, with instead a national clean energy policy.
Reps. Schrader and McKinley intend to introduce the legislation later this year.
Additionally, last fall in the Senate, Sens. Mike Bran (R-IN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) formed a bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. The goal is to craft and advance bipartisan solutions to address climate change because they “believe Congress should play a central role in guiding America’s 21st-century energy economy and addressing the challenge of a changing climate.”
Reps. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Francis Rooney (R-FL) lead the companion House Climate Solutions Caucus, initially formed in 2016.
Join NLC next month at the Congressional City Conference on March 8-11 in Washington, DC as bipartisan Congressional leaders share their vision and plans for action this year on legislation related to climate change and community resilience.
About the Author: Carolyn Berndt is the legislative director for sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.