WASHINGTON – Following up on one of President Joe Biden’s pledges to combat climate change, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, introduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at ending global deforestation, creating a $9 billion trust fund to assist developing countries.
“Addressing the critical challenge of deforestation is an issue I have cared deeply about for many years,” Hoyer said in a 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.”
The legislation, formally titled “America Mitigating and Achieving Zero-emissions Originating from Nature for the 21st Century Act,” or “AMAZON21,” would authorize creation of a State Department trust fund for developing countries to reverse deforestation and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Forests cover 31% of the global land area, with only five countries — Russia, Brazil, Canada, the United States and China, retaining more than half of the world’s forests, according to the UN’s 2020 State of the World Forests report.
The bill’s introduction comes after more than 100 countries committed to ending deforestation by 2030 during Tuesday’s international climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
The world lost 10% of its tree cover between 2001 and 2019, according to Global Forest Watch, an initiative monitoring the planet’s forests. And 27% of that loss was in areas where there was urbanization, farming, logging, wildfires and other factors, the report said.
In remarks Tuesday at the summit, Biden announced a “first of its kind” plan to mobilize the federal government, in concert with Congress, to dedicate billions in American aid to conserve and restore global forests and raise billions of dollars more from global partners.
“Preserving forests and other ecosystems can and should play an important role in meeting our ambitious climate goals as part of the net-zero emissions strategy we all have,” Biden said.
“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 — reduce! – carbon globally by more than one third,” the president said. “So, we need to approach this issue with the same seriousness of purpose as decarbonizing our economies.”
Hoyer said in a tweet shortly after announcing his deforestation bill: “Congress is ready to back up President Biden’s commitments with concrete action.”
The legislation will invest in programs that will help developing countries lower greenhouse gas emissions by reducing deforestation.
Trees soak up carbon dioxide, along with sunlight and water, to make their food, a process known as photosynthesis. This process makes forests what scientists call natural carbon sinks.
Protecting natural carbon sinks aids in reducing a leading cause of climate change, Hoyer said.
Maryland is the nation’s fifth most densely-populated state and of its 6.2 million acres, almost 40% is covered by what experts define as forests, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’s 2020-2025 Forest Action Plan.
“The anticipated impact of AMAZON21 reflects the seriousness with which we approach this issue: this bill will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking every passenger car off the road in the U.S. for as many as two years,” Hoyer said.