A new plan from the Democratic members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis was released on June 30, 2020. The report, “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy, and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America”, includes recommendations provided by AIBS in response to the Committee’s 2019 request for information from the public. AIBS urged the Committee to secure “increased federal investment in the biological sciences to improve our understanding of how living systems are being influenced by climate change, identify novel biotechnology and management practices that promote biological resilience to and mitigation of climate change, and develop innovative strategies for improving agricultural productivity while reducing the energy required to produce food and fiber.”
The select committee was established by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the beginning of the 116th Congress to offer climate policy recommendations to the standing committees across jurisdictions. The report, initially scheduled for release in March, was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 500 plus page report provides a roadmap for Congress “to build a prosperous, clean energy economy that values workers, advances environmental justice, and is prepared to meet the challenges of the climate crisis.”
Select Committee Chairwoman Kathy Castor (D-FL) said that if all the recommendations in the report were enacted, $8 trillion in climate benefits would be created through 2050. According to the analysis, the policies would reduce net U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and 88 percent below 2010 levels by 2050. The plan would also deliver significant health benefits and help avoid approximately 62,000 premature deaths annually by 2050, mainly by reducing fine particulate matter pollution.
“Confronting the climate crisis requires action across sectors and at all levels of government,” emphasizes the report. The committee offers several policy proposals, from carbon pricing and deploying decarbonization technologies to modernizing infrastructure. One of the many recommendations outlined in the report is capturing the “full potential of natural climate solutions” by expanding protections for and restoring the nation’s lands, waters, ocean, and wildlife.
The plan calls on Congress to establish a national goal of protecting at least 30 percent of all U.S. lands and ocean areas by 2030, prioritizing federal and nonfederal lands and waters with high ecological, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration value. “Conserving, protecting, and restoring natural landscapes and ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands, is critical to solving the climate and biodiversity crises,” according to the report. “Congress should protect mature and old growth forests; invest in forest restoration, reforestation, and afforestation on public and private lands, including urban areas to improve urban tree canopy; manage wildfire for community safety and ecological health; ensure forest management activities focus on climate and biodiversity benefits; and protect and restore native grasslands.”
The framework urges lawmakers to expand and sustain federal support for climate science, including national and international climate assessments, foundational Earth system science research, and studies of climate impacts on human and natural systems. The committee recommends that federal agencies develop a National Nature Assessment, a comprehensive and periodic report to provide policymakers and the public with “clear and actionable information on the condition of America’s natural areas, wildlife, wildlife habitat, ocean health, watersheds and wetlands, and other natural systems.”
The report also calls for investing in agricultural solutions to climate change, with a recommendation to expand rural broadband infrastructure to support precision agriculture.