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Protecting nature — a bright spot from Glasgow
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Protecting nature — a bright spot from Glasgow

Protecting nature — a bright spot from Glasgow


It’s up for debate whether the latest chapter in the global climate talks was a “success.” 

One thing is certain: The UN climate conference in Glasgow at COP26 had a significant impact on climate change.

And now, a plan has emerged that could seize on this moment.

Last week, U.S. House Majority Leadership Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: House aims to pass Biden spending bill as time runs out White House economic adviser confident spending package will pass this week Biden spending bill to likely slip in Senate after House delays MORE (D-Md.) (D-Md.) America Mitigating and Achieving Zero-emissions Originating from Nature for the 21st Century Act (AMAZON21). This bold legislation would directly respond to the growing threats against our planet’s most carbon-rich and biodiverse landscapes.

Many bills in Congress don’t focus on carbon. This one is, and for good reason. Research out this week from Conservation InternationalThe evidence shows that some ecosystems contain so much climate-warming CO2 that humanity must protect these ecosystems from destruction or face climate doom. Their destruction would release large amounts of greenhouse gases — which is entirely preventable and would worsen climate change.

Even if we stop using fossil fuels tomorrow, we won’t meet the goals of the Paris Agreement unless we protect nature, so it’s fair to say that these places — including the very biome that the bill is named after — hold the key to our climate future.

AMAZON21’s core mission is to address the climate crisis through investments in nature conservation. Science has shown that protecting nature’s ecosystems could reduce one-third of global emissions. Yet, nature-based solutions are currently receiving a low level of attention. paltry 3 percentGlobal climate funding. AMAZON21 addresses the gross inequity of climate funding through two innovative strategies.

First, AMAZON21 would grant grants to countries that can show protection of their forests or other natural carbon sinks. Second, AMAZON21 will establish a trust fund to finance bilateral forest preservation and terrestrial carbon-sequestration programs at the national and subnational level. It’s not a blank check: To receive these “results-based payments,” countries must agree to strict monitoring, reporting and verification requirements.

The second approach benefits tropical forests and well-meaning companies looking to reduce their carbon footprints by accelerating the growth of carbon markets. As the name implies, carbon markets are trading systems where units of carbon (“credits”) are sold by landowners in carbon-rich areas and bought by those looking to compensate for their own carbon footprints. The challenge is that many countries around the world — including those rich in natural carbon reserves — lack the technical capacity to participate in carbon trading.

AMAZON21 is here to help. Under the legislation, the U.S. Agency for International Development would provide technical assistance to developing countries to help them acquire the administrative and legal capacity to participate in carbon markets. There is also a growing market for carbon credits, with more companies looking to purchase them. Recent reports indicate that the voluntary market for carbon credits is poised to surpass $1 billion USD in transactions. 

Hoyer’s legislation could not have been more perfectly timed. One of the real achievements on the final day of Glasgow was the completion of a provision in the Paris Agreement that had eluded negotiators for years — the establishment of rules for carbon trading under what is known as Article 6. After six years, countries finally agreed on a set of accounting principles for the trading of carbon credits — potentially a massive source of finance for poor and heavily forested countries. Hoyer’s legislation would provide technical assistance to countries looking to do that very thing. 

Hoyer’s leadership on climate finance is a much needed shot of adrenaline just days after a report revealed that wealthy countries will fall short of their pledge to provide $ 100 billion to help developing countries cope with climate change. The disappointing announcement further underscores the need to unlock private-sector funds — which AMAZON21 does.

The bill’s backers are hopeful for its prospects: U.S. policymakers have long supported efforts to encourage developing countries to engage in conservation. Under the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Act and its predecessor, the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, legislators and presidents from both parties — including former President Trump — have approved hundreds of millions in congressionally appropriated funds being used to protect tropical forests in developing countries. 

AMAZON21 is a perfect complement to the nature/forest preservation plan announced by President BidenJoe BidenBiden restates commitment to ‘one China’ policy on Taiwan in call with Xi Biden raises human rights with China’s Xi during four hour meeting Biden, Xi hold ‘candid’ discussion amid high tensions MOREIn Glasgow. The president’s strategy is to incentivize countries toward forest conservation, generate private-sector investment and build developing-country capacity — all components of Hoyer’s legislation.

Rachel Carson, the pioneering conservationist, famously warned that “man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”

As the world gets to work after Glasgow, this legislation offers a powerful and immediate opportunity to answer Carson’s call and create a stable climate future.

James Roth is senior vice president of global policy and government affairs at Conservation International.


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