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Huffman Bill Would Protect and Restore Carbon-Sequestering Ecosystems

Ocean, Coastal Ecosystems Key in Solving Climate Crisis

June 15, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, introduced the Blue Carbon Protection Act to help protect and restore blue carbon ecosystems in the United States.

“As communities grapple with the escalating impacts of climate change, it’s becoming increasingly important we harness natural solutions to sequester carbon emissions driving this crisis,” said Rep. Huffman. “Blue carbon ecosystems have proven to be immensely effective at storing carbon, but these valuable resources are being destroyed. With the Blue Carbon Protection Act, we can ensure these essential resources for solving the climate crisis are restored and protected.”

“Restore America’s Estuaries is pleased to support the Blue Carbon Protection Act. This legislation is a bold and ambitious effort to protect our mangroves, wetlands, seagrass and kelp forests that store carbon while creating healthy habitats and resilient coastal communities,” said Restore America’s Estuaries CEO, Daniel Hayden.

“Birds tell us we must act on climate change,” said Jessica Grannis, interim vice president for coastal conservation at the National Audubon Society. “The Blue Carbon Protection Act will restore and protect the places birds need on our coasts, while also storing carbon pollution and buffering communities from rising seas and more intense storms.” 

The Blue Carbon Protection Act would:

  • Establish the Blue Carbon Program within NOAA to further conservation objectives, research and evaluate blue carbon storage, and protect and restore blue carbon ecosystems.
  • Establish a Blue Carbon Partnership Grant Program to provide funding for projects that protect and restore blue carbon ecosystems and increase long-term carbon storage. The bill would authorize $300 million per year for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.
  • Require NOAA to designate “blue carbon areas of significance” and establish guidelines and measures to ensure the protection of these areas, including consultation and mitigation requirements for any proposed agency action that has the potential to cause adverse impacts to these areas.
  • Direct FWS, NPS, and NOAA to conduct coastal and marine restoration and protection activities to sequester carbon dioxide and halt carbon dioxide and methane emissions. The legislation would authorize $200 million to each agency for each fiscal year 2022 through 2026.
  • Authorize an additional $16 million per year for FY2022 to 2026 to NOAA to carry out the Blue Carbon Protection Act.

Background

Coastal blue carbon ecosystems are able to naturally sequester and store large quantities of carbon, often for hundreds of years, and include coastal habitats like mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrass beds. Blue carbon ecosystems are 10 times more effective at sequestering carbon per area than terrestrial forests. However, these ecosystems are being lost; up to 50% of some global blue carbon ecosystems have already been converted or degraded.

A report released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that by preventing the further loss and degradation of blue carbon ecosystems and catalyzing their recovery, we can contribute to offsetting 3–7% of current fossil fuel emissions in two decades.

Text of the legislation can be found here.

Huffman was joined in the introduction by Representatives Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Steve Cohen (TN-09), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Ed Case (HI-01), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).



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