Volunteers in hip boots form a chain to pass oyster reef material in Alabama's Mobile Bay in a reef restoration project.
Oyster Restoration Volunteers help restore a reef in Alabama's Mobile Bay. © Erika Nortemann/TNC

Policy

Nature and Clean Energy as Stimulus

Recommendations for Economic Stimulus Legislation

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented and unpredictable impact on the U.S. and world economies.

As Congress considers ways to help the country recover from the pandemic, additional, broader economic stimulus is warranted to help create needed jobs and get the economy back on track.

Flexible investments will also be needed to support state, tribal and local governments to address the needs of underserved communities during and after the pandemic.

Nature can and must have a role in the solution. Investments that will build a low-carbon economy as well as protect and restore the country’s natural resources can help provide needed economic stimulus and many other benefits.

Conserved natural lands and waters form an important basis for jobs and small businesses. Restoring natural features helps keep communities healthy and safe while reducing spending and stress on public infrastructure. And clean energy investments create jobs, spur economic development and lower costs.

To maximize these benefits, The Nature Conservancy recommends three areas of investment in the next stimulus bill: 

  • Addressing climate change and expanding the use of clean energy; 
  • Investing in resilient and natural infrastructure; and 
  • Protecting and restoring lands and waters.
A woman wearing a white hard-hat installs a rooftop solar panel.
Clean Energy for Climate and Jobs Small businesses make up a significant portion of the clean energy industry, with nearly two-thirds of its workforce employed by firms with fewer than 19 employees. © Power of Forever Photography

Address Climate Change and Expand Clean Energy

Climate change remains the greatest threat facing our planet. Fighting it by renewing and expanding incentives to reduce carbon emissions and build cleaner, more reliable energy systems can create jobs, lower costs for families and municipalities and drive local economies.

TNC supports investments in programs that improve power systems, increase electric transportation options and speed deployment of clean energy technologies.

Policy and Investment Recommendations:

  • Extend and add flexibility to an array of clean energy tax credits, including the section 45 production tax credit, the section 48 investment tax credit, the 45Q tax credit, and the 48C advanced manufacturing tax credit.
  • Provide more funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program, State Energy Program and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants.
  • Invest in a modern grid through DOE’s Smart Grid Investment Program.
  • Add transportation electrification investments through DOE and the Department of Transportation. 
  • Invest in the EPA Brownfields program to advance the siting of renewable energy on degraded lands.
A man inspects oysters on a restored oyster reef on the Alabama coast.
Investing in Nature's infrastructure Wetland and reef restoration can yield over seven dollars in flood-reduction benefits for every dollar spent on restoration. © Andrew Kornylak

Invest in Resilient and Natural Infrastructure

The increased frequency of hurricanes and other extreme weather events are inflicting unprecedented damage on local infrastructure. And throughout the nation, aging and damaged infrastructure threatens public safety and the economy.

TNC supports investments that will rebuild degraded infrastructure. Those investments should prioritize cost-effective, sustainable, nature-based solutions and climate-resilient infrastructure. Expanding job opportunities through national service programs to facilitate nature-based project work during and after the pandemic should also be a focus.

Policy and Investment Recommendations:

  • Pass a transportation infrastructure bill that prioritizes resilience and nature-based strategies.
  • Fund the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation’s construction and maintenance accounts.
  • Support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ocean and coastal resilience efforts.
  • Provide greater investment in Federal Emergency Management Agency mitigation work like the Building Resilient Infrastructure for Communities program.
  • Increase Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wastewater and stormwater grant funding.
A woman in wildland fire gear uses a drip torch to ignite a controlled burn in Florida longleaf pine forest.
Restore lands and waters Every $1 million invested in restoration and conservation related work supports 17 to 31 jobs. © Carlton Ward Jr.

Protect and Restore Lands and Waters

Strong investment in the conservation and restoration of lands and watersheds has a long track record of economic return. Natural resource industries such as timber and outdoor recreation play an outsized role in boosting rural communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

TNC supports investments in nature-based solutions that address climate change while benefiting wildlife and biodiversity, water security, public safety and rural economies.

Policy and Investment Recommendations:

  • Scale natural climate solutions through a new forest restoration and reforestation climate fund; a new tax credit for carbon captured in forests, agricultural lands and wetlands; and enhanced work on agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation.
  • Expand U.S. Forest Service capital improvement and maintenance.
  • Add more support for the Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
  • Increase funding for the Department of the Interior’s wildland fire management.
  • Provide greater focus and investment in the EPA’s geographic programs.