July 28, 2015
Yesterday, I spoke on the Senate floor about another solution to climate change, stopping deforestation. This is an underrated solution with a high impact and low cost. Global demand for palm oil, soy, beef, and timber products greatly contributes to forest loss in the Amazon, the Congo River Basin, and Southeast Asia. This is why the United States must lead on stopping deforestation.
There are three ways we can do this.
First, we must fully implement and fund the Lacey Act.
This law prohibits the import of illegally harvested wood products but has only been in place since 2008. Full enforcement of the Lacey Act could keep 27 million metric tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere each year. This is equivalent to the emissions from more than 5 million cars per year.
Next, we must support private sector commitments to stopping deforestation.
Driven by consumer demand, 34 corporations recently committed to cutting deforestation from their products in half by 2020 and ending it by 2030. These are big companies – Walmart, McDonald’s, and Unilever among many others. These businesses were joined by 35 governments, 16 indigenous groups, and 45 NGOs. This was the first time that leaders from developed and developing countries have partnered around a timeline for ending deforestation.
Finally, we must provide forested countries with technical and financial support to protect and grow their forests.
Absorbing carbon with trees is more cost effective and more energy efficient than doing so from coal or gas power plants. We also have to provide financial incentives for landowners to protect their forests. The economic benefit of forests is real. They store carbon, filter water, keep soil healthy, and protect against erosion.
Thankfully, forests in the United States absorb more carbon than they release. However, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that loss of forests through urban growth and wildfires could make our forests a source of carbon pollution as soon as 2030. We must ensure our forests continue to absorb more carbon than they release and work with our allies to encourage forest protection abroad.