Senate Committee Moves Carbon Market Bill Backed by Industrial Agriculture Titans Closer to Passage

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 23 Apr 2021 16:55:00 GMT

On Thursday, Earth Day 2021, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved by voice vote the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 (S. 1251), which would expand voluntary agricultural carbon sequestration markets under private control.

“On Earth Day, our committee came together in a bipartisan way to pass the Growing Climate Solutions Act,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “This brings us one step closer to providing more opportunities for farmers and foresters to lead in addressing the climate crisis and also benefit from new streams of income.”

The legislation was introduced by Stabenow and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) with the support of the biggest corporations in industrial agriculture, including Cargill, Bayer, McDonald’s, Archer Daniels Midland, General Mills, and Syngenta, as well as Big Ag lobbying groups like the American Farm Bureau and the US Chamber of Commerce. Corporate-funded-and-allied environmental organizations like the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Climate Leadership Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund are also supporting the bill.

Agribusiness has contributed $2,546,199 to Stabenow and $367,483 to Braun over their careers.

The bill now has 42 co-sponsors in the Senate, ranging from climate hawk Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to climate denier Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).

Companion legislation was introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.). Agribusiness has contributed $198,675 to Spanberger and $478,040 to Bacon over their careers.

Other original co-sponsors of the House bill are Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Jim Baird (R-Ind.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), and Josh Harder (D-Calif.).

Advocates for small farmers, sustainable agriculture, and aggressive climate action criticized the legislation. In 2020, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Tara Ritter explained how the bill works:

Although farmers should be incentivized to adopt practices that boost resilience and sequester carbon, carbon markets have a failed and wasteful track record compared to public investments in proven conservation programs. This bill would tee up a framework incentivizing false solutions to climate change that benefits private companies over farmers. . .

Voluntary carbon markets are privately-run schemes that pay farmers for carbon sequestered in their soils to generate carbon credits. Then, the company running the carbon market sells those credits to other companies or individuals interested in reducing their carbon footprint. Companies such as Indigo Ag and Nori are starting up voluntary carbon markets, claiming that they will increase farm profits while addressing climate change, all without imposing government regulations on farmers. Yet, Indigo Ag also plans to sell farmers proprietary seed coatings and collect farm data, raising questions of who will benefit most. Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest backers of these schemes are large agribusiness companies, including ADM, Bunge, Cargill and more, that will be able to generate, buy and sell carbon credits to boost their profits and greenwash their own operations.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act sets up a weak verification system for the markets. The system relies on third-party entities to both provide technical assistance and verify the carbon credits. Allowing an entity to both consult on best practices and certify adherence to those practices could lead to conflicts of interest. In addition, verifying entities may self-register in the program simply by notifying USDA that they will “maintain expertise in and adhere to the standards published.” This type of self-reporting will almost certainly be abused, and without strict enforcement it will weaken the results of already flawed carbon markets.

Jason Davidson, Senior Food and Agriculture Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, responded to the committee’s approval of the bill:

We already have policies that will help farmers enhance soil health, protect biodiversity, and combat the climate crisis without perpetuating environmental injustice. Carbon markets have failed to reduce emissions and failed to provide opportunities for America’s family farmers.

Ecologically regenerative farming should be incentivized in addition to, and not instead of, carbon reductions in the energy sector. We should increase incentives for organic transition and heavily invest in existing successful USDA conservation programs while retooling them to help producers sequester carbon. Congress should support existing USDA technical assistance programs rather than outsource them to polluting agribusiness giants like Bayer. Family farmers should be supported in these efforts with structural reforms that ensure fair markets and fair prices, rather than creating more false promises of new markets that will predominantly benefit Big Ag.

“There are better bills on the table to meet the goals of maximizing soil carbon sequestration and reducing emissions from agriculture,” Ritter wrote, “including Representative Chellie Pingree’s (D-Maine) Agriculture Resilience Act and Senator Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) Climate Stewardship Act.”

Markey and Ocasio-Cortez Introduce Civilian Climate Corps Act of 2021

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 20 Apr 2021 19:09:00 GMT

Today, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are introducing the Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act of 2021. The act establishes the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), to be administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service within AmeriCorps.

Over five years, 1.5 million Americans in the CCC will complete federally-funded projects that help communities respond to climate change and transition to a clean economy. CCC work will reduce carbon pollution, enable a transition to renewable energy, build healthier and more resilient communities, implement conservation projects with proven climate benefits, and help communities recover from climate disasters.

Corpsmembers will receive education and training in coordination with local institutions, including labor unions, and will coordinate closely with local groups to help develop career pathways and union opportunities in new green sectors.

Markey and Ocasio-Cortez discussed the bill on the National Mall today:

The CCC will administer a large national service program and provide simplified and enhanced grants to scale up the existing network of over 130 local and state service and conservation corps.

All corpsmembers are guaranteed the following benefits:
  • Salary and benefits: Compensation of at least $15 per hour, full health care coverage, and critical support services such as transportation, housing, and childcare.
  • Educational Funding: Enabling educational grants of $25,000 per year of service, up to $50,000, eligible for further education at any level or to pay down student debt.
  • Career Opportunities: Corps will prioritize registered pre-apprenticeship curricula and union membership as part of service. Corpsmembers will receive vocational training appropriate to the local job market.
  • Explicit antiracist language ensures that environmental justice communities receive benefits of at least 50% of CCC and Partner Corps projects, and 50% of corpsmembers will be recruited from these same communities, with no age limit for participation in at least 50% of Partner Corps.
  • Labor groups will beintegrated into CCC and Partner Corps planning and operations, with DOL registered pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs prioritized for grants, required coordination with local labor unions, buy American provisions in procurement, and advisory board representation from labor groups. The corps, partner corps, and any private companies partnered in corps activities will adhere to neutrality and card check agreements.
  • Tribal communities will receive 10% of the dedicated EJ benefits.
Eligible projects include but are not limited to:
  • Weatherizing and retrofitting residential and non-residential buildings for energy efficiency and electrification and participating in the construction of new net-zero buildings
  • Maintenance and operation of energy-efficient and net zero buildings and properties
  • Building energy-efficient affordable housing units
  • Conducting energy audits
  • Recommending ways for households to improve energy efficiency
  • Installing and upgrading public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Installing clean energy infrastructure in homes and small businesses, on farms, and in communities
  • Advising on climate and energy policy
  • Providing clean energy-related services
  • Expanding broadband access and adoption
  • Working with schools and youth programs to educate students and youth about ways to reduce home energy use and improve the environment
  • Assisting in the development of local recycling and composting programs
  • Renewing and rehabilitating public and tribal lands and trails owned or maintained by the Federal Government, an Indian tribe, a State, a municipal or local government, or any formal partners of those entities
  • Improving air quality or other pollution monitoring networks
  • Remediation of the effects of toxins and other hazardous pollution
  • Building and maintaining green stormwater management infrastructure
  • Creating and expanding local and regional food systems
  • Developing farm to institution distribution models to make schools, hospitals, and other institutions healthier and more food resilient
  • Performing community resilience assessments
  • Collecting and analyzing data related to climate change and disasters
  • Advising and planning for community resilience and adaptation
  • Building and maintaining resilient infrastructure
  • Conducting prescribed burns or engaging in reforestation activity
  • Supporting the activities of local emergency management agencies and programs
  • Advising and supporting farmers and ranchers in the implementation of management practices that account for climate change organizing community-based resiliency coalitions and working groups
  • Providing disaster preparedness or community emergency response team training to community-based organizations and residents, bincluding for animals in disasters
  • Providing education on climate change, disaster, and resilience at community-based organizations and schools
  • Developing community climate resilience hub infrastructure
  • Clearing debris after climate disasters
  • Repairing and rebuilding homes and buildings
  • Replanting locally adapted native trees and plants
  • Stabilizing shorelines and hillsides
  • Conserving, protecting, and restoring habitat, especially habitat to threatened, endangered, and at-risk species;
  • Stabilizing shorelines or riparian areas using green infrastructure such as native wetlands
  • Removing invasive species and planting locally adapted native species
  • Collecting, storing, and propagating native seeds and plant materials
  • removing hazardous fuels within one-quarter mile of dwellings and homes or one-quarter mile around delineated communities
  • Planting and maintaining urban, tribal, and rural forests, trees, native grasslands, and natural areas developing urban farms and gardens
  • Reforestation of native forest ecosystems, afforestation, and other projects to achieve demonstrable carbon sinks
  • Reclaiming unneeded roads and tracks and restoring affected lands to natural conditions
  • Restoring and managing wildlife corridors and habitat connectivity for native species, including building wildlife crossings and removing barriers to wildlife movement
  • Assisting farmers and ranchers in a transition to more regenerative farming and ranching systems

Download the bill here.