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A Path Forward For Climate Action in a Divided Washington

Last updated on January 25th, 2024

After a hard-fought mid-term election, divided government once again reigns in Washington, DC. In this era of heightened partisanship, the specter of gridlock has re-emerged as Democrats and Republicans stake out divergent positions across a whole host of issues, including climate change. Will these divisions in the Congress constitute a requiem for climate action for the coming two years? Or will the two parties succeed in harmonizing their agendas, developing a new path forward on climate change? 

Broad Bipartisan Support

A wide, brightly lit road to bipartisan climate action beckons if the two parties are ready to put on their boogie shoes and follow the lead of a growing number of Americans. Natural Climate Solutions. A recent poll of 1,000 registered voters commissioned by U.S. Nature4Climate revealed overwhelming support for the expansion of Natural Climate Solutions to address climate change, with 86% supporting expansion and only 14% opposing it. Support was strong across party lines, with 93% of Democrats, 81% of independents, and 81% of Republicans supporting the expansion of practices like conserving and replanting forests, regenerative agriculture practices, and reducing the loss of natural areas. Long story short, there is very little political risk in supporting these climate strategies.

The strong support is remarkable, especially considering our poll didn’t share some of the most compelling reasons to support Natural Climate Solutions. In addition to addressing climate change, these solutions create jobs and provide new sources of income for many farmers and forest landowners. They can lower heating and cooling bills in urban communities. And provide increased habitat for wildlife. And they help improve water quality. And help strengthen resilience in urban communities, rural farmland, and coastal areas to all kinds of extreme weather. Even without hearing some of our greatest hits, voters are flocking to download the album. 

Environmental Interests & Business Interests Align

But wait a minute. Polling often frames economic growth and environmental action as a zero-sum game – where leaders must choose one or the other. Setting aside that this is a false choice – it is possible to do both at the same time – it is noteworthy that organizations representing both environmental and business interests favor the expansion of Natural Climate Solutions. It may not be surprising that The Nature ConservancyEnvironmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council have all embraced Natural Climate Solutions as an important climate change strategy. But so has the business community. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported the recently passed Growing Climate Solutions Act, which makes it easier for farmers and forest owners to participate in carbon markets. And Ceres, a network of investors, companies, and non-profits, is working to help corporations integrate Natural Climate Solutions into their climate commitments. 

Natural Climate Solutions are also strongly supported by organizations with a variety of ideological perspectives. The progressive Center for American Progress favors investment in blue carbon climate solutions and coastal restorationreforestation on both public and private lands, and supports increased funding for conservation agriculture programs. On the right, American Conservation Coalition Action, an organization representing the voice of young conservatives who support climate action, has made Natural Climate Solutions one of the main pillars of its policy agenda

Compromise is Possible

It is true that a Natural Climate Solutions bill written by Democrats may prioritize different strategies and funding mechanisms than one written by Republicans. But compromise is possible. And upcoming legislation like the Farm Bill offers an opportunity for both parties to strengthen existing programs, while supporting innovative approaches that put our lands and waters to work in the effort to tackle climate change.  It has happened before and it can happen again. 

Natural Climate Solutions are only part a comprehensive strategy to address climate change. They can complement necessary efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy and transportation sectors. A climate change strategy that featured ONLY Natural Climate Solutions wouldn’t work – it’d be kind of like trying to perform a rock concert with only a bass guitar. On the other hand, rock music generally sounds better with a bass in the mix (White Stripes notwithstanding). Likewise, a climate change strategy that includes Natural Climate Solutions is more effective than one that does not. The crowd-pleasing encore to this metaphorical climate change concert is that not only are many of these strategies ready to go now, but they can also help do something about the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. While Natural Climate Solutions can’t single-handedly solve climate change, they do provide an opportunity to help break through the partisan noise and add a popular new song to our climate action playlist.

Seeking to chart a path forward on climate policy that taps into the power of America’s natural and working lands?

The Decision-Makers Guide to Natural Climate Solutions Science provides an opportunity for experts to discuss and debate the uncertainties in forest, agriculture and coastal wetland science that are limiting our efforts to implement climate-smart strategies. Click below for more.