Chair Grijalva Introduces Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act – New Version Creates Virgin Plastic Fee, Includes More Than 1,600 Stakeholder Comments

This release has been updated from its original version to include a statement of support from Oceana.

Washington, D.C. – In honor of World Oceans Day, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today introduced the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, an updated version of a bill he initially offered in the previous Congress to modernize federal ocean management policy to account for climate change. The bill limits climate impacts on marine habitats, promotes carbon sinks in federal waters, advances Arctic conservation efforts with climate change in mind, modernizes fishing fleet fuel regulations and takes other steps to align ocean policies with modern environmental and economic reality.

The bill text is available at https://bit.ly/34WMJjG. A fact sheet on the bill is available online at https://bit.ly/3gw2lAf, a full section-by-section breakdown is available at https://bit.ly/3zagYkV and an explanation of how the bill was changed and updated from the previous version is available at https://bit.ly/350u0E0.

Chair Grijalva describes the bill and the need for stronger federal ocean policies in a video available at https://youtu.be/jd6aRQ1bdOc.

As the United Nations notes, the oceans of the world produce at least 50 percent of the planet’s oxygen, are home to most of earth’s biodiversity, and are the main source of protein for more than 1 billion people around the world. While an estimated 40 million people are projected to be employed directly by ocean-based industries by 2030, 90 percent of big fish populations have been depleted and 50 percent of coral reefs have been destroyed in recent years due to climate change and other manmade factors.

Among other measures, Grijalva’s bill – which is based on approximately 1,600 public comments received since the introduction of the previous version in the 116th Congress – does the following:

  • Places a 5-cent excise tax on virgin plastic in manufactured single-use products such as packaging – with exemptions for medical products and personal hygiene products – and places the money in a Virgin Plastic Trust Fund, half of which goes to the U.S. general fund and half to funding activities described elsewhere in the bill.
  • Promotes offshore wind energy and research and prohibits new offshore fossil fuel activity, except in already active areas.
  • Establishes monitoring, reporting and verification requirements for greenhouse gas emissions by seafaring vessels over 5,000 gross tons and directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to publish a yearly report on the shipping sector's emissions and efficiency.
  • Authorizes $50 million annually each year from 2022-2026 for a NOAA grants program for living shoreline project design, available to state, local and tribal governments and non-profit organizations.
  • Establishes a new grant program in the National Marine Sanctuary System to support climate research and resilience with Indigenous and local knowledge of marine and natural areas.
  • Promotes climate-ready fisheries and eliminates fishing subsidies in trade agreements.

“Federal policy has neglected our oceans for far too long, especially with whole ecosystems already disappearing to climate change,” Grijalva said today. “Ocean health is human health, which is why this bill is based on real public input rather than polluter demands or special interest favors. Every day we wait to update our ocean laws for the modern world is a day we’ll look back on with regret.”

The following representatives cosponsor the bill:

  • Don Beyer (D-Va.)
  • Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
  • Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon)
  • Julia Brownley (D-Calif.)
  • Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.)
  • Ed Case (D-Hawaii)
  • Kathy Castor (D-Fla.)
  • Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)
  • Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)
  • Charlie Crist (D-Fla.)
  • Diana DeGette (D-Colo.)
  • Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.)
  • Dwight Evans (D-Pa.)
  • Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.)
  • Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
  • Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas.)
  • Mike Levin (D-Calif.)
  • Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
  • Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.)
  • Doris Matsui (D-Calif.)
  • Eleanor Holmen Norton (D-D.C.)
  • Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)
  • Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI)
  • Albio Sires (D-N.J.)
  • Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)

Endorsements and Statements of Support

“The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act helps restore the blue in our red, white and blue. It provides security and a healthy environment for communities both human and wild. The benefits will not be limited to our endangered shorelines however. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act strengthens the entire nation from sea to shining sea.” – David Helvarg, Executive Director, Blue Frontier

“The Center for the Blue Economy, the leading ocean economics research institute in the country, believes the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act is a critical step to help the US meet its climate goals and make sound investments in the key blue economy sectors that will define US competitiveness in the 21st century.  The OBCSA will generate hundreds of thousands of new jobs, help coastal communities adapt to the ravages of climate change, promote social justice, and provide critical protection to key coastal ecosystems. This is a bill that should generate strong bipartisan support as well as backing from inland states, who also stand to benefit from investments in the Great Lakes and lower GHG emissions from cleaner energy.” - Jason Scorse, Ph.D., Director, Center for the Blue Economy

“We applaud Chairman Grijalva on introducing the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act as a proactive comprehensive policy approach towards addressing the critical impacts of climate change on the marine ecosystem and within our coastal communities.” - CT Harry, Marine Campaigner, International Fund for Animal Welfare

“The ocean is a powerful partner in addressing climate change, and LCV appreciates Chairman Grijalva for championing opportunities to harness solutions to take proactive steps and help mitigate the impacts already affecting marine life and coastal communities. This bill provides a blueprint to reduce carbon pollution by investing in blue carbon ecosystems that naturally sequester carbon, prohibiting the expansion of offshore drilling and increasing clean energy development. It creates programs that will help protect and restore vital ocean systems and habitats, ramp up climate-smart practices and vessels in the fishing industry, and build more resilient coasts, all while prioritizing regional cooperation and prioritizing environmental justice for Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.” – Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director, League of Conservation Voters (LCV)

“As marine scientists, we know well that the ocean has contributed tremendously to moderating the impacts of climate warming pollution, but that has come at a cost to oceans and marine life. In the US, we are overdue in recognizing that the ocean is both a victim of climate change and a potential source of important solutions to it. That’s why we are excited to support the Ocean Based Climate Solutions Act; it comprehensively addresses ways that we can use the ocean to protect us and our coastal communities from the impact of climate change and mitigate the change itself. ” - Lance Morgan, President, Marine Conservation Institute

“For decades already, the ocean has both mitigated the worst of climate change, and has suffered the most from climate change. As we have continued to pump more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the ocean has absorbed 90 percent of the heat produced, at the same time the ocean is experiencing the worst impacts, with sea level rise, warming ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification. This bill recognizes the pivotal issues facing the ocean, and comprehensively addresses how the ocean can be more of a savior of the planet in the battle against climate change, and not become a fatal victim in that battle.” - Jason Patlis, President and CEO, Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

“Climate change puts people and birds in peril—driving away the fish that seabirds eat, swallowing up their habitats under sea-level rise, and putting everyone on the coast at risk. This bill is the most comprehensive answer to the litany of threats that people and birds face on our coasts.” - Jessica Grannis, interim vice president for coastal conservation, National Audubon Society

“Now is the time for action. We must recognize the importance of a healthy ocean to combating climate change. The ocean is a powerful source for climate solutions, but only if we act quickly to increase renewable offshore energy, protect blue carbon ecosystems, support climate-ready fisheries and invest in communities most at-risk due to climate change impacts. The National Aquarium urges Congress to advance ocean-based climate solutions so that Americans can rely on a thriving and healthy ocean planet for generations to come.” - John Racanelli, President and CEO, National Aquarium

“This ambitious bill recognizes the ocean’s critical role in helping us solve the climate crisis. It promotes U.S. leadership on the international stage in the creation of protected areas that will strengthen ocean economies and make marine life more resilient to climate change. It limits destructive oil and gas drilling, contains innovative safeguards for marine mammals and prioritizes the voices of Tribal, Indigenous and other communities, recognizing that traditional knowledge provides us with a critical roadmap for understanding nature. We’ll continue to fight to bolster protections for our vulnerable coastal communities and ocean wildlife as this bill advances through Congress.” - Brad Sewell, Oceans Division Director, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)

“Our ocean and coastal resources are not only incredibly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they also have an indispensable role to play in stemming the crisis. Chairman Grijalva’s Ocean Based Climate Solutions Act includes a suite of urgent measures to conserve, restore, and leverage these ecosystems for the benefit of communities and wildlife along our coastlines and throughout the nation.” - Jessie Ritter, director of water resources and coastal policy, National Wildlife Federation

“The ocean is vital to humanity—from our economies, to the foods we eat, to our health. If we are to protect our blue planet for future generations, we must recognize the importance of the ocean in combating climate change. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act is a crucial step toward prioritizing ocean health and resilience.” -Vikki N. Spruill, President and CEO, New England Aquarium

“The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act provides an expansive vision of how our ocean must play a crucial role in lessening the devastating effects of climate change. By committing to ocean-based climate action, we can help prepare our coasts and those who live along them for the changes and threats they face today and in the future, while helping our country transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources. So many people along our coasts, and in particular people and communities of color, are suffering not only from climate change but also from the harms and discrimination of environmental racism. Ocean-based climate actions such as those included in this bill can and must help continue to put us on the path to restoring justice for those communities. We thank Chair Grijalva and the House Natural Resources Committee for their leadership on ocean-based climate solutions and I hope that the rest of Congress will follow their lead.” - Janis Searles Jones, CEO, Ocean Conservancy

“From coastal flooding and rising seas to shifting fish stocks and warming waters, there’s never been a greater need for Congress to take bold ocean climate action. The Ocean Based Climate Solutions Act recognizes that the ocean is not only suffering from climate change, but it also offers some of our best climate solutions. This comprehensive approach will put us on the right path to improve ocean health, strengthen coastal resiliency, and reduce harmful emissions before it is too late. We are grateful to Chair Grijalva, Chair Castor, Congresswoman Bonamici, and all other cosponsors for prioritizing this important legislation.” - Jean Flemma, Director, Ocean Defense Initiative and Co-founder, Urban Ocean Lab

“Our ocean acts like the beating heart of our planet—its health is essential for healthy economies, communities and ourselves. While climate change poses insurmountable challenges to it, the ocean offers climate solutions and can help heal our blue planet if we take the steps to protect it. At Shedd Aquarium, we applaud the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2021, as it seeks to leverage the ocean’s natural strengths in the fight against climate change, protecting marine habitat and ocean life, increasing nature-based coastal restoration, supporting climate-ready fisheries, and more.” - Andrea Densham, Senior director of Government Affairs and Conservation Policy, Shedd Aquarium.

“Oceana commends Chair Grijalva for his continued leadership in the fight against climate change. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act recognizes that our oceans bear the brunt of the climate crisis, but can and should play a pivotal role in helping to address the problem. Common sense policies like stopping the expansion of offshore drilling and transitioning to a clean energy future, promoting responsible fisheries management, protecting important marine habitat, reducing the production and use of unnecessary single-use plastics, and increasing safeguards for ocean wildlife like dolphins and whales can help fight climate change. Oceana thanks Chair Grijalva and his colleagues in Congress for introducing the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act that both protects our oceans and puts them to work in tackling the climate crisis.” - Beth Lowell, deputy vice president for U.S. campaigns, Oceana

“Conservation International applauds Chairman Grijalva on this bold, comprehensive legislation for ocean conservation, ocean health, and climate change. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2021 recognizes blue carbon as a core plank to the climate change platform. Coastal ecosystems must be protected and restored, and irrecoverable carbon in mangroves, seagrass, wetlands, and peatlands are especially effective in sequestering and locking away carbon naturally. The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act is a key piece to this bill, as are funding for coastal resilience conservation programs; protected areas for conservation of marine biodiversity in the high seas; and removal of ocean plastics.” - James Roth, Senior Vice President for Global Policy and Government Affairs, Conservation International

The bill is also endorsed by the National Ocean Protection Coalition.

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana

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