Earlier this summer, CRES enthusiastically shared news about the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA), a bipartisan, bicameral bill led by first introduced in the U.S. Senate. Contrary to the posturing on so many other issues, members of both parties support the bill along with dozens of farm groups, environmental organizations, and companies. We were particularly proud of this commonsense legislation because CRES Forum conceived the idea of a voluntary framework as a conservative climate policy and our team worked with the staff of Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) to bring it to fruition.
But no good deed goes unpunished. Some activists in liberal circles are currently organizing to derail the bill and are spreading myths about it, dismissing the GCSA as a cap-and-trade “scheme” that will fail to address the climate crisis, leave farmers behind, and create injustice. In their minds, the only remedy for climate change is the government takeover of large sectors of the economy and trillions in spending through the Green New Deal.
We should not let ideology overshadow practical solutions. Ignorance is no excuse. Advocates on the left should better understand the bill’s fundamentals.
The takeaway for supporters of CRES is that the legislation empowers farmers to be part of the climate solution on a voluntary basis and creates options for people and companies to offset carbon emissions without mandates. It also promotes conservation and sustainable land-use practice—which are good conservative values—and it will help lower the costs of tackling climate change by creating the framework for a larger carbon offset market.
But let’s address the baseless charges one by one.
First, the GCSA is a voluntary system, not a cap-and-trade scheme. A cap-and-trade system includes two components designed to reduce pollution in our atmosphere. A mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions, such as those from power plants, that gets stricter over time; and a marketplace that establishes an emissions price and allows companies to buy and sell allowances. GCSA does not include a cap—it is solely focused on the trade of carbon offsets to empower companies that are voluntarily taking action to reduce emissions.
It will also serve to lower emissions—a first step to addressing climate challenges. The authors of the GCSA never claimed the legislation would be a silver bullet for ending climate change overnight. It simply is a necessary tool in the toolbox that will help to address the climate crisis by reducing emissions while supporting the economic viability of small and family-scale farmers.
Furthermore, it will help farmers, ranchers, and foresters because it provides independent, private landowners a way to sell credits into private carbon markets on a voluntary basis. Far-left critics have suggested it is designed to benefit large “factory farming,” but it clearly is structured to help small businesses. In fact, it would establish a certification program with third-party agriculture and forestry experts to assist farmers in designing agriculture projects that will benefit them financially while also reducing carbon, and it helps them every step of the way. Large producers in the industry simply would not need such assistance. The GCSE will not remedy all of the challenges facing small farmers—but it will help diversify income for some farmers.
And it encourages responsible resource management, contrary to claims of injustice. The GCSA encourages farmers, ranchers, and land managers to use voluntary actions to reduce emissions, including reforestation, conservation tillage, nitrogen fertilizer reductions, grassland management, tree and grass planting, on-farm power generation including methane digesters for livestock, and fuel switching. The National Farmers Union, which has a storied history of promoting equality and opportunities for farmers of all backgrounds, has endorsed the bill, along with dozens of other environmental and agricultural organizations.
So, don’t believe everything you read. Climate change is a massive problem that will require many solutions to adequately deal with its many contributing factors and its many impacts. The relatively few activists opposing it are concerned with pursuing unrealistic and politically motivated measures. Perhaps most important about the GCSA is that it is a reasonable place to start and it can gain the bipartisan support needed to actually pass into law and be implemented.