Continuing our series of blog posts on the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation debate, senior policy advisor Tom Cassidy explains the nuances of domestic adaptation funding in the proposed bill.
One of the Conservancy’s principal climate policy objectives — besides the fundamental necessity of imposing sharp reductions on carbon emissions — is to create a dedicated funding source for adapting natural and human systems to a changing climate.
The importance of this objective, while seemingly obvious to those of us who work for a science and biodiversity driven organization, will not necessarily rise to the top of the Congressional agenda as it fashions legislation that will fundamentally restructure the American economy.
The Conservancy and its allies have made a strong case for the inclusion of dedicated adaptation funding in the leading legislative proposals now before the Congress. The basic proposal is to dedicate 5 percent of carbon allowance revenues to a broad suite of adaptation programs.
A key provision that could substantially advance our mission is the inclusion of funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy program. The existing proposal would provide funding for land acquisition projects that would abate the effects of climate change. Such dedicated funding would be separate from the programs that are not limited to climate.
This is one of the most significant policy proposals in the adaptation funding agenda. Although it is clear that our recognition of particular effects of climate change on specific places is evolving, there is consensus among land managers that protection of buffer areas and migration corridors is essential.
The principal means of ensuring such land protection is a strategy the Conservancy knows as well as anyone — buying land and conservation easements. In the short and medium term, while more precise scientific assessments are developing, we should be identifying “no-regret sites” where we can confidently predict that land acquisition efforts will benefit biodiversity in a changing world.
Of course, we are a long ways from identifying projects to fund with cap and trade revenues. Legislation has to pass and our policy proposals need to be among the winners in a very crowded market of policy proposals. The conservation community has made significant progress in developing policy proposals – the test in the months ahead will be whether we can rally the political support necessary to ensure adaptation funding is included in successful climate legislation.
(Photo: Cyprus planting in North Carolina’s Albemarle Sound is part of a coastal adaptation project. Souce: Erika Nortemann/TNC)