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Conservation Groups Celebrate Signing of New California Climate-Change Bill

A new California law makes it state policy to promote greenhouse gas reduction in open space and agricultural lands. (Harold E. Malde/The Nature Conservancy)
A new California law makes it state policy to promote greenhouse gas reduction in open space and agricultural lands. (Harold E. Malde/The Nature Conservancy)
September 27, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Climate-change groups are applauding a new bill, just signed by Governor Jerry Brown, that would make it state policy to promote the role of land and soil in scrubbing the air of excess carbon. The Natural and Working Lands Climate Solution Act (Senate Bill 13-86) writes into law that agencies must consider ways to promote good soil health on forests, farms, rangelands, wetlands, deserts, parks and other open spaces.

State Senator Lois Wolk, who wrote the bill, says with proper management, microbes in the soil can actually clean the air and lock greenhouse gases underground through a process called carbon sequestration.

"People generally don't think of agricultural and grazing lands as working to reduce climate change but in fact these lands can absorb carbon from the air, much the same way that trees do, and create healthier soils, healthier air," she said.

Groups like Defenders of Wildlife, which sponsored the bill, say there are many ways to help the land trap more carbon, including planting more trees and grasses, using fewer nitrogen-based fertilizers, turning the soil less often, and keeping natural areas undisturbed.

Louis Blumberg, director of the California Climate Change Program for The Nature Conservancy, hopes this new policy will be copied worldwide.

"Many of the countries that signed the Paris climate agreement now recognize that the land base can provide climate benefit," he said. "But they're not sure how to do that. And so California is once again taking the lead in setting the policy of using land protection as a way to combat climate change."

California has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 40 percent below 1990 levels, by 2030.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA