A Trillion Trees is a Trillion Times Better Than Nothing
The ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR 4), made his intentions of reintroducing a version of the Trillion Trees Act this year very clear last week. However, Congressional Democrats have criticized the bill on numerous fronts, chiefly arguing that it isn’t enough. This raises the question – if a trillion steps forward on climate action isn’t enough, what is?
For context, the inspiration for the Trillion Trees Act stems from the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious goal to plant that many trees in the next decade to increase carbon capture and mitigate the impact of emissions. Experts have estimated that one trillion additional trees planted globally could “cancel out” the last 10 years of carbon emissions. To put things in perspective, there are roughly 300 billion trees already planted in the United States.
This legislation would put carbon sequestration at the forefront of the government’s forest management plans while establishing a national tree-planting target. But reaching this goal would not be driven by a top-down approach from the government; rather, it would be spearheaded through grassroots efforts, the partnerships created within communities. In incentivizing businesses to capture and store carbon, empowering private landowners to use natural sequestration on their property, and working with companies to create a demand for properly sourced wood, it’s not the government that can take ownership if the United States’ goal is met – it’s the private sector.
This legislation would be an important step forward, or rather, a trillion little steps forward, on climate. Most importantly, it would take those steps while working with the private sector to spur market-driven innovation and solutions. And yet, even if some of the language in the bill was adjusted to account for underlying concerns, many on the left staunchly refuse to support the bill.
Why? Well, according to Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA 2), “Any bill that ducks the issue of drawing down fossil fuel production on federal lands is not enough.”
It’s incredibly unclear what would be enough. Do we need to mandate that every American drive an electric vehicle? Should we do a blanket ban on fossil fuels? Delaying sensible climate action until the best political opportunity presents itself is not enough for our planet. And neglecting opportunities to work with the private sector to address the myriad of problems associated with our climate only hurts the planet further.
While no plan is perfect, a sensible solution that will bolster the economy, empower the private sector, and help sequester carbon is one worth pursuing. A solution that takes us a trillion small steps in the right direction is better than waiting around for an inevitable massive and heavy-handed plan. After all, it’s not limited and targeted bills that don’t “do enough.” It’s inaction.