After President Joe Biden entered the US into a global pledge at COP26 to end and reverse deforestation, a top Democrat in the House introduced a bill Wednesday to put financial weight behind Biden’s commitment.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s legislation would establish a $9 billion trust fund at the US State Department to finance bilateral forest conservation projects with developing countries around the world, the same amount Biden said the US should contribute.
“We need them to keep it in the ground,” Hoyer told CNN – speaking about preventing countries from cutting down trees. “The first step [is] stop losing the forest.”
More than 100 world leaders representing over 85% of the planet’s forests committed this week to ending and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030. It was the first substantial deal announced at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Twelve parties to the agreement – including the US and EU – committed $12 billion in public funding to protect and restore forests, in addition to $7.2 billion of private capital. In addition to Biden’s pledge, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged the EU would spend $1.1 billion over five years to help protect forests worldwide, including $290 million for the Congo Basin alone.
Speaking Tuesday morning, Biden said countries need to approach deforestation “with the same seriousness of purpose as decarbonizing our economies.”
“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,” Biden said.
Hoyer is proposing a trust fund model because US appropriations usually lasts around five years – which isn’t long enough to sustain a bilateral financing agreement with other countries.
“We picked $9 billion; I think it’s going to take significantly more than that,” Hoyer told CNN. “If you have a $9 billion appropriation, that runs out soon, so this creates a trust fund at the State Department to compensate.”
Hoyer’s bill would give US funding to countries that can demonstrate they are meeting goals to preserve forests, grasslands, and other land-based carbon sinks. 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.
“That’s going to require an agreement, the monitoring of whether they’re doing what they say they do,” Hoyer told CNN, adding monitoring could be done with satellite imaging or in-person visits. “If I rent your forest, I want to make sure you don’t cut your forest down.”
Hoyer’s bill deals with the immediate need to stop deforestation, but 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.
“Once you stop the deforestation, it makes sense to continue to assure you can expand the forest because they’ve been reduced so heavily,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer added his bill won’t be part of Biden’s economic and climate bill, which could be coming up for a vote in the House as soon as this week, but it may be approved as part of the annual appropriations process.