Historic climate law includes major investments in nature-based solutions

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress on August 12 and signed by President Joe Biden on August 16, includes a crucial recognition of the role that nature can play in the fight against climate change. Along with the sustained reduction of emissions from other sectors of the economy, the law provides incentives for the conservation, effective management and restoration of diverse habitats across the country. Specifically, the law includes funding that could be allocated to the protection and restoration of wetlands and coastal forests, among other actions, that take advantage of nature’s ability to sequester carbon and store it in soils for long periods of time.

More broadly, the law introduces substantive opportunities to grow the US clean energy economy over the next 10 years and for conservation. In fact, the nearly $370 billion package represents the largest investment in emissions reduction efforts in US history. According to independent analyses, the law will reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, bringing the U.S. considerably closer to its stated goal of cutting emissions by 50 percent to 52 % by 2030. In particular, the law is expected to reduce emissions by almost 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases by 2030, compared to current policy.

The natural aspects of the law are in addition to significant investments in technical solutions to reduce emissions, such as the expansion of renewable energy and the promotion of electric vehicle use. Harnessing the power of nature to combat climate change has been shown to support species and communities by improving their ability to adapt to effects such as rising temperatures, severe weather and increased sea ​​level

The measure also includes nearly $5 billion in federal funding to protect existing carbon-rich forests, promote climate-smart and fire-resilient forest management, and restore and reforest large tracts of degraded forests across the country. This effort includes $2.15 billion for hazardous fuels reduction on National Forest System lands along the urban-forest interface and $2 billion for state and private forestry projects. In addition to a considerable carbon sequestration capacity, forests provide a large number of benefits for people and nature, such as the support of biodiversity, the conservation of ecosystem services (filtration and natural storage of water , among others) and the maintenance of local economies based on tourism and recreation.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has been advocating for years for stronger protection of coastal habitats, which stretch across the United States and contain carbon-rich soils. In fact, the saturated soil found in coastal wetland ecosystems can retain more carbon per acre than some terrestrial forests.

And along our nation’s coasts, the effects of climate change—including sea-level rise, erosion, and more frequent and stronger storms—are threatening vital habitat that provides one of nature’s best defenses against these dangers. As such, the act includes $2.6 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the conservation, restoration, and protection of coastal and marine habitats to help coastal communities cope with extreme weather and other climate-driven changes, such as now the increase in flooding; some of this funding can be used for projects that support coastal communities and others that depend on marine resources, and for assessments of marine fisheries and marine mammal populations.

Beyond prioritizing habitat conservation, the law also aims to protect the species that coexist in these places. For example, it allocates $121.3 million to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for direct expenditures, grants and contracts for the National Wildlife Refuge System and state wildlife management areas, money that could use to deal with the threat of invasive species and increase the climate. resilience of habitats and infrastructures. The package also includes $125 million for the development and implementation of recovery plans under the Endangered Species Act. Funds are also available for conservation and habitat restoration projects on lands administered by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Overall, this new law makes unprecedented investments in the fight against climate change. It offers increased and sustained momentum for emissions reduction, including solutions provided by nature. Importantly, the law also recognizes the disproportionate effects of climate change and other environmental ills on low-resource communities and includes $60 billion to begin addressing many deep inequities.

The statute will facilitate durable, equitable, and sustainable solutions for people and nature, as well as re-establish the United States as a global leader in climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, a stature that should oblige other governments everywhere of the world to intensify. their own efforts.

Courtney Durham works on the international conservation efforts of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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