Legislature Greenlights Skinner & Rivas’ Carbon Sequestration Bill, SB 27

September 3, 2021

The California state Senate today greenlighted Sen. Nancy Skinner’s carbon sequestration bill, SB 27, on a vote of 34-4. SB 27, which is co-authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Salinas, won unanimous approval in the state Assembly yesterday on a 75-0 vote. It would expand California’s carbon removal capability, also known as sequestration, as well as improve the carbon retention of the state’s natural and working lands. SB 27 now goes to Gov. Newsom for consideration.

“It’s clear that climate crisis is already upon us – from hotter weather to more devastating wildfires and bigger and deadlier storms. To lessen the crisis, we need to put every tool to use, both to reduce emissions and capture climate-harming carbon that has already in the atmosphere,” said Sen. Skinner, D-Berkeley. “SB 27 will maximize nature’s ability to store carbon in soil, grasslands, farmland, wetlands, forests and other natural systems, as well as explore cutting-edge technology like Direct Air Capture that mimic this natural process.”

“Our natural and working lands are a common-sense tool in the fight against climate change,” said Assemblymember Rivas, who presented SB 27 in the Assembly. “We need to put more carbon back into the ground, and SB 27 is a big step forward in achieving our state’s ambitious climate goals. I applaud Sen. Skinner’s efforts and was proud to co-author and present the bill in the Assembly to help secure its passage.”

Scientists on the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have concluded that stopping the worst impacts of climate change will require not only swift cuts in global carbon emissions, but also deploying land use practices and technology that can directly remove heat-trapping CO2 from the air.

Effective natural carbon removal solutions, also known as carbon sequestration, exist today. A 2020 report by Lawrence Livermore National Labs concluded that carbon sequestration can be among the least expensive ways to mitigate climate change. Land-based carbon retention and capture practices like healthy soils agricultural practices, rangeland improvements, wetlands restoration, and sustainable forestry management use nature’s own systems to suck carbon out of the atmosphere and support the natural carbon cycle which retains carbon within these systems. These natural systems also help farmers and communities be more resilient to drought, flood, and fire.

Such land-based projects are inexpensive – about $11 per ton of CO2 removed. Newer technologies like direct air capture, which pulls carbon straight from the atmosphere, are more expensive, but costs are coming down fast.

In 2020, Gov. Newsom directed state agencies to deploy a number of strategies to store carbon in the state’s natural and working lands. Simultaneously, companies around the world – as well as many based in California – are making pledges to go “carbon neutral.” Updating California’s climate planning to include carbon sequestration, while continuing to aggressively reduce emissions, is critical to tackling climate change. Linking quality carbon sequestration with companies who are investing in “carbon neutrality” is a unique opportunity to fund the fight against climate change and make the state more resilient to climate impacts.

SB 27 directs the California Air Resources Board CARB) to include carbon sequestration targets in the next AB 32 Scoping Plan. And it directs the Natural Resources Agency to establish carbon sequestration goals for natural and working lands by July 2023, create a registry of carbon sequestration projects for potential public and private investment, and track the carbon benefits of the projects.

“By directing state agencies to set goals for natural carbon removal and establishing a registry of California-based carbon sequestration projects, SB 27 supports our farmers and land managers and will make California more resilient to climate impacts,” Sen. Skinner added.