Growing Climate Solutions Act passes US Senate

The United States Senate has passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 92-8. The bill has 55 co-sponsors—27 are Republicans, including the original bill sponsor Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, who introduced the bill with Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. The 92-8 vote marks a major bipartisan moment for climate legislation, and a clear shift in the political status quo.

For the first time, we have more than 9 in 10 members of the United States Senate signing on to climate-specific legislation. This is even more significant, when you consider that the bill recognizes the greenhouse effect of carbon emissions and empowers a federal agency to monitor, verify, and track those emissions.

If made law, this legislation will not only work to limit climate disruption; it will diversify rural economies and enhance farmer livelihoods. The bill does this by creating a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program to ensure farmers and foresters receive quality technical assistance for implementing climate-smart practices, building soil biomass, stewarding denser forest cover, and receiving compensation through carbon markets.

In April, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) explained it this way:

this legislation allows Idaho’s farmers and forest landowners to more easily access private, voluntary carbon markets and be rewarded for climate-smart practices. I continue to support policies like this that protect ecological health, facilitate sustainable and multiple use of our public lands, and incentivize the proper stewardship of private property.

The overwhelming bipartisan majority supporting this legislation did not just materialize out of nowhere. The Growing Climate Solutions Act has had consistent support from Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) volunteers and local chapters, who meet multiple times a year with everyone in Congress—citizens talking with their own Senators and Representatives about what matters to them and their communities.

In a statement posted on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry website, Ben Pendergrass, CCL Senior Director of Government Affairs, said:

America's farmers and ranchers bear an outsize burden of the impacts of climate change, but they can also play an important role in addressing America's greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill has widespread support from more than 75 environmental organizations and agricultural associations. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) described the Growing Climate Solutions Act as

the first major piece of bipartisan legislation that would help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience through voluntary, market-driven programs.

Zippy Duvall, President of the AFBF, said:

The Growing Climate Solutions Act acknowledges the potential of climate-smart farming while ensuring farmers would be respected as partners who can build on our strong foundation of environmental stewardship.

The bill was also reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), having been first introduced last year, during the previous Congress. On reintroducing the bill, Rep. Spanberger said:

As Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, I know that agriculture can and should be a part of our solution to the climate crisis — and we need to invest in voluntary practices that have a proven record of success for America’s farmers.

Climate-smart land use is critical to achieving a livable future. Deforestation and depletion of ecosystems, watersheds, and soil biomass, release climate-disrupting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Global heating undermines climate stability and accelerates this cycle of degradation, making it harder for farmers and ranchers to earn a living.

Megadroughts and the unraveling of rural economies and communities are direct effects of this cycle of degradation. World-leading scientific research shows this situation is leading to a significant risk of multiple breadbasket failure—the simultaneous harvest failure of multiple major food-growing regions—within the next two decades.

In some areas, soil ecology is so depleted, farmers could multiply soil biomass 1,000-fold before it becomes difficult to continue enriching the soil. The Growing Climate Solutions Act is an important step toward making sure farmers, ranchers, and foresters are rewarded for practices that achieve such carbon absorption services, from which we all benefit.

As the world looks to shift finance flows toward climate-smart practices, legislation that makes it easier for food producers, foresters, and land stewards to access payment for climate services will play a critical role in fostering sustainable shared prosperity. The historic 92-8 vote in the United States Senate shows there is near universal agreement in American politics that such climate-smart investment is needed, and should support better rural livelihoods.

We still need to directly eliminate pollution and safeguard human health in frontline communities. What this bill does is expand the investment everyone—across the economy and across the political spectrum—has in tracking and reducing climate-disrupting emissions as a national priority.