Thursday, May 12, 2022

Statement for the Record of the United States Agency For International Development (USAID) before the House Foreign Affairs Committee

The United States Agency for International Development appreciates the opportunity to submit this statement for the record on HR 5830, the America Mitigating and Achieving Zero-emissions Originating from Nature for the 21st Century (AMAZON21) Act.

In April 2022, the scientific community again delivered an urgent call to action for our planet. The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the mitigation of climate change is ominous, but it makes clear that limiting global warming and avoiding the worst case scenarios of the climate crisis remains possible if we rapidly reduce global emissions this decade. Critically, the IPCC shows that we already have all the options we need—in every sector—to cut global emissions in half by 2030. One of the most important—and cost effective—of those tools is reducing emissions from deforestation and unsustainable land use.

The evidence is clear. We will not reach Paris Agreement targets without urgent actions that conserve, restore, and manage forests, land, and ecosystems to avoid and reduce emissions and sequester carbon. Deforestation and land degradation generates nearly one quarter of the world’s emissions. Importantly, improving the conservation and management of nature is the only proven, cost-effective method for removing carbon from the air at scale. The majority of Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement submitted by tropical countries will rely, in part, on natural climate solutions to meet their mitigation targets.

USAID has a long history and deep expertise in this space, with forest conservation programs in approximately 45 countries. USAID’s natural climate solutions programs work to reduce, avoid, and sequester greenhouse gas emissions by conserving and restoring, and better managing forests, wetlands, and other carbon-dense ecosystems. USAID’s biodiversity conservation programs work to address the key threats and drivers of biodiversity loss, such as conservation crime including illegal logging, overharvesting of natural resources, and the conversion of natural forest habitats to other land uses.

As part of our new Climate Strategy, USAID recently announced an ambitious target to support the conservation, restoration, or management of 100 million hectares of critical landscapes—an area more than twice the size of California—by 2030. This target will be achieved through a series of new and forthcoming programs in critical geographies including the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Southeast Asia and other critical ecosystems. Through these programs, USAID, in collaboration with the Department of State, is playing a leading role in engaging the interagency in support of the President’s Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks and the Executive Order to Strengthen America’s Forests, Boost Wildfire Resilience, and Combat Global Deforestation. These programs will contribute substantially to USAID’s overall target of supporting partner countries to prevent six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2030.

HR 5830 - America Mitigating and Achieving Zero-emissions Originating from Nature for the 21st Century (AMAZON21)

USAID supports bold action by Congress to address global deforestation that includes language to strengthen considerations of environmental and social safeguards, empower Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and clarify the rights of legitimate landowners and use rights’ holders.

USAID supports the intent of HR 5830 and its emphasis on reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration from forests and other terrestrial and coastal ecosystems as an essential strategy to helping countries meet their Nationally Determined Contributions. Section 3 of the Act, International Technical Assistance for Carbon Market Development and Participation, aligns with USAID’s new 2022-2030 Climate Strategy.

With regard to the section on international technical assistance for carbon market development and participation, Congress could clarify whether payments will be made for verified emissions reductions only after the fact. It will be challenging for many countries to rapidly increase the supply of eligible projects, which require thoughtful and well-informed design and implementation as well as critical long-term reforms to the enabling environment, such as improving laws and governance, building institutional capacity, making information accessible, and advancing equity. USAID encourages the participation of non-profits and private businesses in development project implementation, which is critical to ensuring that projects have sufficient funding to achieve results.

With regard to the International Carbon Sequestration Program created by the Act, Congress should ensure that this aligns with, but does not duplicate, other existing US Government programs to reduce emissions from and leverage private capital for investment in sustainable land use. For example, USAID has forest conservation and management programs in 45 countries to increase public and private finance for natural climate solutions, provide economic benefits to local communities, and create incentives for investment; support the implementation of policies related to natural climate solutions and sustainable natural resources management; and, work with countries to build transparent systems on land use and its environmental, social, and economic impacts to improve decision-making and track progress. The vast majority of these investments focus on tropical forests.

USAID will continue to provide technical assistance to help countries reduce emissions. The United States Agency for International Development welcomes the opportunity to further discuss with the Committee USAID policies and programs aimed at ending deforestation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

House Foreign Affairs Committee
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