Colorado’s climate plan


In 2019, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill (HB 1261) establishing goals for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our state.  These goals were further supported by Governor Polis’s GHG Reduction Roadmap which was completed in January of this year. The goals are a statewide GHG emissions reductions from 2005 levels of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050. These goals are generally consistent with the United Nations’ call to limit worldwide temperature rise to 1.5oC to prevent catastrophic changes on our planet. Due largely to man’s activities, temperatures have already risen by 1oC from preindustrial levels. With these actions, Colorado has placed itself at the forefront of climate action in the USA, along with several other states. 

I believe it is fair to say that the Colorado Climate Plan will affect everyone living here.  The question you might ask, will the actions needed to meet these goals be good or bad for me, and for my family?  One way to address this question is to look at what is already happening in our state.  In the past several decades temperatures have risen (2018 was the warmest year on record), average precipitation has dropped (2018 was the second driest on record), wildfires have raged (2020 was our worst wildfire year ever), extreme flooding has increased (2013 front-range flooding was the most severe on record for this area), and the associated economic impacts have been great–billions of dollars have been spent or lost due to these climate-related impacts. Two of our base industries, tourism and agriculture, are and will increasingly be threatened and negatively economically impacted by climate change unless we act.  Climate impacts will broaden and become more severe unless we and many other countries, including China and India, significantly curb GHG emissions.  While it will take national and international action, much of what is required will come down to individual understanding, willingness to change and supportive action. 

The Colorado Greenhouse Pollution Reduction Roadmap of 2021 (Roadmap) calls for specific areas of action to achieve the goals set by our legislature. It also recognizes that new legislation and regulatory action, led by the Air Quality Control Commission, is required.  A move away from fossil fuels and a very significant expansion in renewable energy, mostly wind and solar, is required.  All sectors of our economy and infrastructure contribute to GHG emissions and will need to change. These include transportation, electricity generation, oil and gas production and fuel use in residential, commercial and industrial spaces. This will mean the elimination of the remaining coal-fired power plants and eventually all fossil fuel derived natural gas plants, control and eventual elimination of methane (the main component in natural gas) releases and leaks from oil and gas production and distribution, changes in our transportation network as a means to reduce traffic, electrification of buildings and automobiles, control of GHG emissions from industrial sources and a reduction in methane (80 times more potent than CO2) emissions from landfills, sewage plants and agricultural operations.  All of this is planned to be accomplished through innovation and to spur economic growth, implemented in a just and equitable manner to address current environmental and economic inequities and not create new ones. 

Much is currently being done to implement the Roadmap. Our future depends on us and many others doing it right and achieving our goals in a manner that is demonstrably equitable and improves every Coloradan’s quality of life over what it might otherwise be.

Bob Doyle is a Greenwood Village resident, a retired engineer and a recognized expert on the subject climate change.