Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, announced today Senate Bill 1323, “Keeping Carbon in the Ground,” which directs state agencies to develop carbon sequestration goals aimed at increasing the carbon storage capacity of California’s soils, forests, wetlands, and other habitats.
“At this point in the climate crisis, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is just not enough. To halt sea level rise, we’ll need to remove carbon already in the atmosphere,” Sen. Skinner said. “Fortunately, carbon is naturally stored in healthy agricultural soils, grasslands, and forests. By focusing on the earth’s natural way of removing carbon from the air, California can make a big leap toward climate protection.”
A 2018 report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of climate change requires not only a swift reduction of GHG emissions but also the expansion of land use practices and technology to directly remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Land-based carbon sequestration projects — such as forestry management, wetlands restoration, healthy soils, and meadows restoration — have exhibited significant potential for removing carbon from the atmosphere. These strategies can also help California become more resilient to wildfires and flooding. For instance, forestry practices that clear scrubby underbrush and allow trees to grow bigger enhance trees’ ability to sequester more carbon and reduce a forest’s risk of burning. Agriculture that employs healthy soils practices like cover crops or compost application not only sequesters more carbon but also helps farmers cope with drought by improving soil’s ability to hold water.
SB 1323 would require that the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to include land-based carbon sequestration projects in the state’s updated AB 32 Scoping Plan. Additionally, no later than July 1, 2021, California’s Natural Resources Agency, in coordination with the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Air Resources Board (ARB), and the Department of Food and Agriculture would be required to establish carbon sequestration goals for natural and working lands. The legislation also directs the Office of Planning and Research to establish the California Carbon Sequestration and Climate Resiliency Project Registry to identify and list carbon removal projects in the state that are seeking funding from state agencies or private entities. Projects listed must have long-term carbon sequestration benefits, include monitoring and reporting, and improve local resilience to climate change. The bill also requires ARB to track the benefits of the carbon sequestration projects and ensure that they are real.
“The science is conclusive, we have about 10 more years to act decisively” Skinner added. “Getting CO2 out of the atmosphere through enhancing the carbon storage capacity of our soils and natural lands is a necessary and smart solution.”
Sen. Nancy Skinner represents the 9th Senate District and is the Senate majority whip.