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Hoyer Urges Congress to Commit $9 Billion to Fight Worldwide Deforestation

November 4, 2021 by Dan McCue
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours after President Joe Biden joined more than 100 world leaders in a promise to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer moved to turn words and handshakes into concrete government action.

Speaking in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday, Biden unveiled a new $9 billion plan to conserve global forests, bringing together a range of government tools to halt forest loss, restore carbon sinks and improve land management.

“Conserving our forests and other critical ecosystems is an indispensable piece of keeping our climate goals within reach,” Biden said at the COP26 climate summit. 

“If we all work together to make sure these precious resources are conserved in Africa and around the world, forests have the potential to reduce carbon globally by more than one third,” he said.

Barely waiting for the president to return to U.S. soil, Hoyer introduced legislation aimed at fulfilling Biden’s commitment. If it passes both the House and Senate, Hoyer’s AMAZON21 Act would establish a $9 billion trust fund at the U.S. State Department to finance bilateral forest conservation projects with developing countries around the world.

Another provision would create a new technical assistance program in the U.S. Agency for International Development to help developing countries participate in carbon markets, an important tool to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

As House majority leader, the Maryland Democrat is the second-ranking member of the House Democratic Leadership. 

That means he spends much of his time on the Hill scheduling legislation for consideration on the House Floor, shaping House Democrats’ legislative priorities, and delivering the Democratic message. 

The job doesn’t typically leave a lot of time for introducing legislation.

In this case, however, Hoyer said he simply couldn’t stand by and not take action directly.

“Addressing the critical challenge of deforestation is an issue I have cared deeply about for many years,” he explained in a written statement. “This is an issue that demands urgent action and long-term commitment as part of the broader global effort to confront the climate crisis.  

“At COP26 [on Tuesday], we saw world leaders from more than 100 nations commit to ending deforestation by 2030, and President Biden committed to investing $9 billion in the global fight against deforestation. The Congress of the United States is ready to back up President Biden’s commitments with action,” Hoyer said.  

“In addition to the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, AMAZON21 is a central component of House Democrats’ agenda to address climate change,” he continued, adding that the new bill alone will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 180 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year — the equivalent “of taking every passenger car off the road in the U.S. for as many as two years.”

According to a fact sheet distributed by the majority leader’s office, the trust fund model usually lasts about five years because of congressional appropriations, which is too short a time span to enter into global agreements.

Funding would only be granted if developing countries or communities can demonstrate they’ve committed to previously agreed upon targets that can also be independently verified.

But Hoyer’s bill doesn’t just address the immediate need to stop deforestation, it also encourages countries to reforest their lands as well. 

In addition to planting trees, countries could also be encouraged to plan other land-based carbon sinks including grasslands, peat, and mangroves.

Hoyer told CNN earlier this week that the bill could come up for a vote in the House this week.

However, given everything else currently on the House’s plate — the budget reconciliation package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, not to mention the looming need to once again address the debt ceiling issue before Christmas — it’s equally possible the measure will be approved as part of the chamber’s normal appropriations process.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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