Portman, Senate Colleagues’ Bipartisan Bill to Promote Conservation & Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Passes Senate

December 20, 2018 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Burr (R-NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI), applauded the Senate for passing the Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act (TFCA) last night. This legislation reauthorizes a program that has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest by allowing developing countries that meet certain criteria to be relieved of debt owed to the United States in exchange for their conservation efforts.  In addition, this legislation expands these efforts to coral reef ecosystems. To date, the TFCA program has sequestered 56 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking 11.8 million cars off the road. Once passed by the House, the bill will go to the president to be signed into law.  

“This bipartisan legislation takes significant strides to build stronger relationships with countries around the world while ensuring our natural resources are protected and preserved for the next generation,” said Senator Portman co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus. “Since 1998, this common-sense and proven approach that has protected millions of acres of tropical forest from deforestation—a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. I’m pleased that this important, bipartisan legislation passed the Senate last night, and I look forward to the president signing it into law soon.” 

“This bipartisan legislation is simply smart policy: it helps preserve and protect precious eco-systems all while strengthening the United States’ economic and security relationships around the world,” Senator Udall said. “I am glad that the Senate came together to pass the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which represents the sensible and creative approach to policy-making that we need to take if we want to confront the increasingly grave threats to our planet and global stability.” 

“I believe that conservation is one of the greatest gifts we can give to future generations, and that we have a responsibility to preserve and pass down the incredible natural wonders we’ve inherited,” Senator Burr stated. “I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to help protect tropical forests and coral reef systems.” 

“Carbon pollution and other human activity is driving dramatic changes in our oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere. That’s why it’s more important than ever to protect beautiful but fragile places like tropical forests and coral reefs. This bipartisan bill will help American allies preserve these habitats for threatened species and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere to fight climate change,” said Senator Whitehouse.  

“This program has already saved enough tropical forests to fill the entire state of Colorado, and with our update, we can start protecting coral reefs too,” Senator Schatz said. “I’m glad our bill has passed the Senate, and I hope the House of Representatives and the President will do the right thing and make it law.”  

“The Tropical Forest Conservation Act is a program with proven results, having protected millions of acres of forests while strengthening America’s partnerships with developing nations,” said Kerry Cesareo, Vice President for Forests at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). "By reauthorizing and expanding it to include coral reef ecosystems, this bipartisan legislation will build on these past successes to encourage our partners to continue to protect these irreplaceable natural treasures, including the ‘rainforests of the sea.’ If signed into law, it will help drive economic prosperity both at home and abroad. It's a triple win for people, species, and nature."  

When we invest in conservation abroad, we protect important wildlife habitat around the world and enhance our own country’s economy and national security,” said Lynn Scarlett, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy.By protecting tropical forests that store carbon, the Tropical Forest Conservation Act taps into a natural climate solution that helps countries across the globe reduce harmful carbon emissions. This expanded legislation will now protect other forests and coral reefs, heightening benefits to local economies and communities. We are grateful to the Senate and especially to Sens. Portman, Udall, Burr, Whitehouse and Schatz for supporting this bill and these significant international conservation efforts.” 

“U.S. government leadership on international conservation strategies such as debt-for-nature swaps is respected globally.  Protecting intact forests, coral reefs and the communities that rely upon these natural resources can strengthen governance structures and our natural security,” said Kelly Keenan Aylward, Washington Office Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society.  “Thanks to Senators Rob Portman, Tom Udall, Richard Burr, Sheldon Whitehouse and Brian Schatz who have shepherded the Tropical Forest Conservation Act through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the U.S. government’s continued ability to negotiate debt-for-nature swaps with foreign countries is close at hand.” 

“Conservation International commends the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act. The Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) is already a highly successful program that has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest since the program was first enacted in 1998. Today’s reauthorization significantly expands the TFCA to protect coral reef ecosystems, enabling the protection of some of the world's most biologically diverse areas.  We applaud the leadership of Senators Portman and Udall as well as Representatives Chabot, Royce, and Engle,” said James Roth, SVP of Global Policy for Conservation International. 

NOTE: Portman first introduced the TFCA in 1998 as a member of the House of Representatives.  According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1998, 20 TFCA agreements have been completed with 14 countries, raising more than $339 million for tropical forest conservation.