Bonamici, Posey, Beyer, Mast Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Advance Blue Carbon, Protect and Restore Coastal Ecosystems
WASHINGTON, DC [1/13/20] – Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), Congressman Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), and Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act.
The legislation is designed to capture the power of our ocean and estuaries for effective climate mitigation, strengthen federal research on blue carbon, and protect and restore coastal blue carbon ecosystems. Healthy blue carbon ecosystems, like mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrasses, and kelp forests, can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it for centuries to millennia in stems, branches, leaves, roots, and soils.
According to the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, the protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems could prevent approximately one gigaton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere by 2050.
“The unprecedented scale of the climate crisis requires that we act immediately, and our ocean and coastal ecosystems can be part of the solution,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Blue carbon refers to the powerful ability of coastal ecosystems to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it for centuries to millennia in plants and soil. Despite their value, coastal blue carbon ecosystems are disappearing at an unsustainable rate. The bipartisan Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act will strengthen blue carbon research and support the conservation and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems so we can maximize this effective carbon sequestration tool in our fight against the climate crisis.”
“I’m pleased to join my colleagues in sponsoring this proposal that will put a focus on the carbon sequestration contributions of our coastal ecologies like the Indian River Lagoon in my district,” said Representative Bill Posey. “This bill will bolster the work of the Congressional Estuaries by directing natural resources managers to integrate carbon storage into restoration and protection goals for our coastal ecosystems and to collect the data and advance the science to pursue these goals. I thank Representative Suzanne Bonamici, who co-founded the Congressional Estuary Caucus with me, for her leadership on this issue, as well as my colleagues Representatives Mast and Beyer.”
“Earth’s oceans cover more than two-thirds of its surface and absorb more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. As our oceans and estuaries continue to warm at an alarming rate, the severity of the climate crisis worsens daily,” said Representative Don Beyer. “That is why we need the Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act – to enhance climate mitigation, and restore and protect coastal blue carbon ecosystems. I thank my colleagues for their leadership on this legislation, and urge the Senate to take it up as soon as possible.”
“Blue carbon ecosystems like those all along Florida’s coastlines serve a critical purpose providing habitats for fish and oysters, protecting our shorelines and improving water quality,” said Representative Brian Mast. “But if we continue down the current path of mistreating our coastal ecosystems and poisoning our waterways, we are going to exponentially increase the damage and risks for future generations. Making sure we protect and restore these ecosystems is a must.”
The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act would create a national map and inventory of coastal blue carbon ecosystems and their sequestration potential, study the effects of climate change and other environmental stressors on rates of carbon sequestration, improve protections for existing coastal blue carbon ecosystems, and restore and expand degraded ecosystems.
A summary of the bill is available here and the bill text is available here. Additional cosponsors of the bipartisan bill include: Jared Huffman (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).
The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act has been endorsed by: Restore America’s Estuaries, Conservation International, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.
The legislation follows the 2019 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, which projected that 20 to 90 percent of coastal wetlands will be lost by 2100 because of sea level rise and habitat degradation.
As Co-Chair of the Congressional Estuary Caucus and the House Oceans Caucus, Bonamici has advanced multiple pieces of legislation to help communities better understand and mitigate the effects of climate change on estuaries and the ocean, including the COAST Research Act and the ICOOS Act, which passed the House last year. Following the IPCC’s Special Report last September, Bonamici led her colleagues in introducing a resolution highlighting the scientific findings and committing to ocean-centric climate action. She is the only member from the Pacific Northwest serving on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The Committee recently held a hearing on natural climate solutions, including blue carbon.