On October 20, 2020, U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) unveiled his Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act at a virtual press conference with his co-lead, House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Chair Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), original cosponsors, and a range of bill endorsers.
This landmark legislation was introduced by more than a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives to address the ocean impacts of climate change and reform federal ocean management to better account for climate mitigation.
“A healthy ocean is key to fighting the climate crisis,” Grijalva explained. “This bill provides a roadmap for ocean and coastal climate resilience, and responsibly uses them to curb the pollution that is intensifying the climate crisis. We must stop the ongoing damage to our oceans to protect the food, jobs and coastlines that millions of Americans depend on. A healthy ocean is an environmental justice issue and we made sure to put protections for low income and communities of color at the front and center. I’m grateful for the true champions for our ocean who joined me today. I could think of no better partners in this fight than the Members of Congress, scientists and advocates who have been my partners in advancing climate solutions for our oceans.”
“The ocean is a powerful ally in the climate fight, and unleashing its potential will help us reach our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier,” Castor said. “The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act incorporates many of the recommendations in our Climate Crisis Action Plan, which gives Congress a roadmap for creating a healthier, more resilient, and more just America. It will unleash the incredible power of the ocean and address the threat that offshore drilling poses to America’s coastal communities, including my own community in the Tampa Bay.”
The recorded livestream of the press conference can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3m4ciFT.
Among other features, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act:
Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The bill supports the transition to a clean energy economy by reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with ocean sectors and increasing ocean-based renewable energy—helping us to move away from fossil fuels and protect the ocean and coastal habitats that are important to healthy fish, marine wildlife, and coastal economies.
Increases Carbon Storage in Blue Carbon Ecosystems. The bill recognizes the carbon storage potential and other co-benefits provided by “blue carbon” ecosystems like salt marshes, sea grasses, and mangroves. These ecosystems absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and safely store it at a rate of up to four times that of forests on land. They also protect coastal communities by limiting the impacts of coastal erosion, flooding, and storms—all while providing habitat for marine wildlife and fisheries.
Promotes Coastal Resiliency and Adaptation to protect our coasts and communities from the climate impacts we can’t avoid. It authorizes investment in coastal restoration and resilience that is a win-win-win for our economy, our frontline communities, and our environment.
Improves Ocean Protection by promoting and protecting healthy ocean systems and wildlife populations, which are better able to adapt to the effects of climate change. Marine protected areas, like our protected areas on land, are a key part of protecting biodiversity while tackling climate change – which is more critical than ever in the face of the biodiversity crisis.
Supports Climate-Ready Fisheries with the development and implementation of strategies to improve the management of fisheries in a changing climate and also helps to promote U.S. seafood sourced from environmentally and climate-friendly fisheries.
Tackles Ocean Health Challenges by addressing the ocean health challenges of ocean acidification and harmful algal blooms, both of which cause significant harm to the U.S. seafood, recreation, and tourism industries, as well as human communities and ocean wildlife and ecosystems.
Restores U.S. Leadership in International Ocean Governance by strengthening U.S. leadership in international ocean governance at a time when transboundary pressures on our ocean demands a coordinated response. These actions would both strengthen U.S. security and promote a resilient global ocean for the 21st century.
Bill text of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act can be viewed at https://bit.ly/37CBNKP, a section-by-section summary at https://bit.ly/2HreuYY and a fact sheet on the bill can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3m35EzP.
Original cosponsors of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act include House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), and Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.).
Rep. Haaland and Rep. Sablan are Vice Chairs of the Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Huffman chairs the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. Rep. Lowenthal chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
The newly introduced legislation enjoys enthusiastic support from environmental groups and ocean experts.
Statements of Support
“Climate change is threatening the ocean’s ability to sustain us. From dying coral reefs to disappearing fish, coastal communities across the country are struggling to survive in the face of a hotter, more acidic, and stormier ocean. Yet for far too long, the ocean has been left out of conversations about climate solutions. Today, that has changed. From protecting the frontline communities most at risk to restoring American global ocean leadership to supporting the clean energy economy, this groundbreaking bill has put the ocean on the climate agenda. I applaud the leadership of Chairman Grijalva and his colleagues for their bold and urgently needed vision.” – John Podesta, Founder of Center for American Progress
“Resilient communities need resilient oceans, and the Ocean Climate Solutions Act pursues both. Restoring and protecting our ocean ecosystems will protect the frontline communities who are most at risk from climate change, while increasing our capacity to secure a just, stable, and biodiverse future. Earthjustice thanks the House Natural Resources Committee for continuing to serve the American people by strengthening and stewarding our environment, and we look forward to turning these concepts into reality.” – Steve Mashuda, Oceans Managing Attorney, Earthjustice
“From sea to shining sea, coastal waters — and the amazing animals that live in them — have always held a special place in Americans’ hearts. Now, climate change is threatening those habitats. We’re grateful for the introduction of this bill that could limit global warming and give awe-inspiring marine species ranging from whales to coral reefs a fighting chance at survival.” – Wendy Wendlandt, Acting President, Environment America
“Protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030 is critical if we hope to restore America’s rich ocean ecosystems and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. ?The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act outlines an innovative and ambitious plan to couple this ocean protection with a new generation of Blue Economy jobs and a renewed, climate-ready vision for our nation’s fisheries. ?This is an inspiring piece of legislation, and exactly what America needs right now.” – Arlo Hemphill, Senior Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace USA
“A comprehensive plan for ocean-based climate solutions has been a long time coming and we applaud Chairman Grijalva for his determination and leadership to put forward this landmark legislation. Our ocean is often portrayed as a victim of climate change, but the reality is that it offers a wealth of powerful solutions to fight the climate crisis–from spurring offshore renewable energy and banning new offshore drilling, and from protecting blue carbon ecosystems to creating new marine protected areas to conserve 30% of the ocean by 2030.? We are excited to see this incredible roadmap for what equitable climate solutions can look like for our ocean and our communities. It’s about time we made our ocean a part of the solution.” – Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director, League of Conservation Voters
“Oceana welcomes the introduction of the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act. By presenting smart, focused solutions to the climate crisis, this pioneering legislation propels the oceans into the heart of the climate debate in Congress. The oceans are bearing the brunt of global warming: rising ocean temperatures will decrease fish catch, endangering livelihoods and undermining food security. This bill shows us our oceans can be part of the answer. Common sense policies like stopping the expansion of offshore drilling, supporting fisheries, protecting important habitat areas and increasing safeguards for ocean wildlife like dolphins and whales can help fight climate change. Oceana applauds Chair Grijalva and his colleagues for introducing this important bill that gives the oceans a leading role in tackling the climate crisis.” – Jacqueline Savitz, Chief Policy Officer for North America, Oceana
“By introducing the Ocean Climate Solutions Act, our elected officials are recognizing the crucial role that the ocean and our ocean communities can play in addressing the climate crisis. The ocean provides millions of jobs, provides food for almost half of the world’s population and is the reason our planet is even habitable. By committing to ocean-based climate action, not only can we harness the potential of the ocean—from offshore wind energy to blue carbon storage—but we can also protect the ocean, its resources we all rely on, and the iconic and essential ocean ecosystems we all love. I hope that we as a country can follow the House Natural Resources Committee’s lead and commit to a climate strategy that will spur drastic and immediate climate action that incorporates all solutions. Our communities are already suffering from climate change’s devastating impacts to our planet, ocean and coasts—particularly Black, Indigenous and other communities of color that have long suffered from environmental racism. Neither they nor our ocean can wait any longer for our elected representatives to take action.” – Janis Searles Jones, CEO, Ocean Conservancy
“Historically, Congress has led the way with solutions at times when the Earth needed it most. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act were all passed in a bipartisan fashion by Congress when bold and decisive action was needed to address the greatest threats to environmental and human health our country had seen. Now, we face that existential threat again, more urgently than ever before, and we need Congress to act quickly and purposefully on climate change and take ocean climate action before it is too late. The Ocean Based Climate Solutions Act is the kind of forward looking, comprehensive approach we hope for from our decision makers, and we are grateful to Chair Grijalva, Chair Castor, and all other sponsors for their vision.” – Jean Flemma, Director, Ocean Defense Initiative and Co-founder, Urban Ocean Lab
“When it comes to the health of our ocean, we stand at a crossroads. We can continue down the path of overexploitation and neglect. Or we can choose a better way. Protecting at least 30 percent of America’s ocean allows it to heal and recover. And it allows all of us to enjoy the many benefits a healthy ocean provides.” – Amy Kenney, National Ocean Protection Coalition
“This ambitious plan will?protect ocean life and economies, while capturing the vast potential the sea can play in solving the climate crisis. Instead of more risky offshore drilling leases, it promotes clean offshore wind. It protects natural carbon sinks like seagrasses and wetlands, and ensures the creation of protected areas that will make wildlife more resilient to climate change. It also provides a critical roadmap that prioritizes equitable solutions for Tribal, Indigenous and other communities that have too often been ignored or shortchanged.” – Gina McCarthy, President and CEO, NRDC
“The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act will make our coastlines more resilient to sea level rise and extreme weather events, while protecting an ocean recreation and tourism economy valued at over $129 billion annually. The legislation will also fight climate change by permanently banning offshore oil drilling and protecting marine ecosystems that store large amounts of carbon.” – Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation
“This is the bill we have been waiting for. It draws on the latest science to tap the treasure-trove of ocean solutions to accelerate progress on climate change. The outcome? People win, the economy wins, nature wins. The ocean feeds and sustains, it connects us. The ocean is our past and our future. The ocean has indeed been a victim of climate change, but it also holds powerful solutions. This bill will tap those solutions, and everyone benefits.” – Jane Lubchenco, University Distinguished Professor, Oregon State University, Former Administrator of NOAA (2009-2013), Former U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean (2014-2016; US State Dept)