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Colorado is doing a lot to address the climate crisis.
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Colorado is doing a lot to address the climate crisis.


Will Toor

Today, world leaders are gathered in Scotland to discuss the climate crisis at the UN’s latest climate conference. Here in Colorado, we are already seeing the impacts of climate change, with the largest wildfires in state history, air quality impacts from wildfires across the west, and the closure this summer of I-70 due to mudslides following last year’s Glenwood Canyon fires.

These challenges can be addressed with great success in Colorado. Three years ago, Gov. Jared Polis ran on a platform that included 100% clean electricity generation by 2040, bold climate action, as well as a platform for Gov. Through legislation, regulations, public investment and partnerships with local government, unions and the private sector, we have made real progress on an equitable transition towards a low carbon, clean energy future  — all while strengthening the economy, addressing inequities, and working to improve local air quality.

Will Toor/ Getty Images

2019 Gov. In 2019, Gov. This means that the annual GHG pollution reductions will be 70 million tons by 2030. We immediately got to work on both implementing obvious “no regrets” strategies and developing a strategic GHG roadmap to determine the most important actions to take to achieve the 2030 targets.

The first area we concentrated on was electricity generation. This is the second largest source of GHG pollution. We received commitments from utilities representing 99% state fossil fuel generation to reduce pollution by at least 80% by 2030. These commitments have been locked in by legislative requirements and state air and utility regulators. In practice, we seem to be able to exceed these targets. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, submitted a plan to the Public Utilities Commission to reach 85% by 2030. Based on our analysis, we advocate for the PUC approval of a plan that reaches 90%. Tri-State, the second largest utility in Colorado, has a plan for closing all existing coal plants and replacing them with solar and wind. This is possible because of the incredible advances in cheap renewables. The cost per kilowatthour of NEW wind or solar is often half that of operating and maintaining existing coal plants.

We also worked this year with the Colorado Legislature to pass binding requirements that industry must meet to reach the sector-specific targets established in the GHG roadmap. State regulators must now adopt new rules to reduce oil and gas industry pollution by 60% and the rest of the industry by 20% by 2030. State regulators are currently working on rules for oil and gas and a first set industrial rules that focus on steel mills, cement plants. The regulators have also adopted a phaseout plan for superpolluting fluorocarbons.

Another major source of GHG pollution comes from natural gas being burned in buildings. This year’s legislation will expand gas and electricity utility programs to help their customers electrify heat and improve efficiency. Large commercial buildings will be required to improve their energy performance. Low income weatherization investment will be increased and new financing tools created for building upgrades. Tying all of this together is a first in the nation requirement for gas utilities to develop “clean heat plans” that will achieve at least 22% reduction in pollution by 2030.

GHG pollution is the single largest source of GHG pollution. The state has already adopted low emission vehicle regulations. It has also taken major steps to support the transition from diesel-powered vehicles to electric ones. The legislation requiring utilities investment in EV infrastructure was passed. State transportation revenue will be used to fund incentives and infrastructure. These funds will be combined to invest $1 billion in EV infrastructure programs and programs, which will support a million EVs on roads by 2030. The state is also adopting an innovative new GHG polluting standard. This will require the state and regional transportation planning to shift funding towards public transport and walkable, bikeable communities.

These policies will have a net impact of 95 % on the 70 million ton target and improve air quality. We have ambitious plans for the next year. We need to collaborate with local governments to reform exclusionary zonating that keeps housing out our prosperous cities. It harms low and middle income workers, as well as forcing longer drives that cause pollution. The governor is proposing a half-a-billion dollars of investments in this year’s budget  to improve air quality and reduce GHG emissions – accelerating adoption of electric school buses, supporting industrial emissions reduction, rebates for Ebikes, expanding public transit, making fares free during the high ozone season, and more. We will be finalizing our state clean trucking strategy this winter and looking into zero emission vehicle standards next spring. This just touches the surface — there is action on carbon capture, green hydrogen, improved building codes, natural and working land… this is an all-of-government effort.

The work isn’t over. In many ways, it is just beginning: addressing climate change is the great work of our time, and will be an ongoing effort through our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes. But I couldn’t be prouder of the innovation and leadership of the state of Colorado over the last three years.

Will Toor is the Executive Director of Colorado Energy Office. It’s mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumer energy costs by advancing clean energy, energy efficiency and zero emission vehicles to benefit all Coloradans.

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