Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in The Colorado Statesman:
Gov. John Hickenlooper last week laid out a sweeping strategy for combating greenhouse gas emissions called the Colorado Climate Plan.
Citing a state report that found “Colorado has warmed substantially in the last 30 years and even more in the last 50 years” and projects that temperatures will spike another 2.5 degrees by 2050, the new state climate plan is also focused on increasing Colorado’s level of preparedness.
“Colorado is facing a potential increase in both the number and severity of extreme weather events,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “We’ve seen what Mother Nature can do, and additional risks present a considerable set of challenges for the state, our residents, and our way of life.
“This comprehensive plan puts forth our commitment from the state and sets the groundwork for the collaboration needed to make sure Colorado is prepared.”
The Colorado Climate Plan, made up of policy recommendations and direct actions, zeros in on seven key sectors, including water, public health, energy, transportation, agriculture, recreation/tourism and ecosystems. It also includes a chapter on ways local governments and businesses play a big role in mitigating emissions and preparing for climate change.
The plan was produced in conjunction with a variety of public and private sector organizations to meet the requirements of HB 13-1293, law passed in 2013 requiring a state climate change position and plan. The state agencies that developed the plan will hold public meetings on its implementation in the coming year.
“The Climate Plan helps develop our strategies for protecting public health as our climate changes,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “It also demonstrates our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through EPA’s Clean Power Plan and Colorado’s own initiatives.”
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman recently announced plans to join other states in suing to block the federal Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Colorado is already on track to meet a 30-percent renewable energy standard for publicly-owned utilities by 2020.
Oil and gas industry representatives hope their locally produced fuel sources play a key role in the state’s new climate strategy.
“We are reviewing the plan, and while clean burning natural gas doesn’t appear to be highlighted in the report, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with state leaders on the benefits,” Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley told The Colorado Statesman. “Any new energy policy should support abundant and affordable energy, including oil and natural gas.”
At least one environmental group reacted with appreciation for the administration’s efforts and focus on climate change, but still called for more action.
“The next step from this plan is to implement concrete action steps on climate change,” Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith said in a prepared statement. “More is needed for Colorado to continue its leadership on renewable energy, less reliance on dirty fuels, and other comprehensive steps to move forward on a clean energy future.”
Another group was less impressed with the plan, pointing out the state’s own report says fracking for oil and gas is responsible for 40 percent of Colorado’s methane emissions, which are far more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping greenhouse gasses.
“If Gov. Hickenlooper truly wants to lead on climate change — rather than do the bidding of the oil and gas industry — he should move immediately to ban fracking and invest his time, energy and political capital in promoting renewable energy,” said Sam Schabacker of Food & Water Watch.
State officials are acknowledging both that climate change is inevitable, as spelled out in the Colorado Water Board report “Climate Change in Colorado: A Synthesis to Support Water Resources Management and Adaptation,” and that dramatic steps need to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as methane leaks from oil and gas production.
“This plan outlines many steps state agencies can take — and are taking — to both reduce the emissions that affect our climate and prepare for the potential impacts that temperature and weather changes may have on our economy and lifestyle in Colorado,” said Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources.
Here are some the plan’s key recommendations, according to last week’s press release:
Water: Promote and encourage drought preparedness through comprehensive drought planning mitigation implementation; incorporate climate variability and change into Colorado’s Water Plan.
Public Health: Coordinate with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Public Utilities Commission, the Colorado Energy Office, and additional stakeholders to develop and implement a Colorado-specific plan to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel fired EGUs, in accordance with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan; continue to assess potential correlations between vector-borne diseases and climate factors.
Energy: Assure the timely and complete attainment of the state’s RES 2020 goals; assist all utilities (investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative) in identifying and implementing best practices for integrating cost-effective renewable resources, both utility-scale and distributed; increase access to capital for commercial, residential, agricultural, and industrial customers seeking to improve the energy performance of their facilities.
Transportation: Promote and encourage fuel-efficient vehicle technologies and programs to reduce vehicle emissions; provide guidance to local governments on land use planning strategies to promote efficient use of public resources and reduce GHG emissions through compact, transit-oriented development that utilizes smart growth practices and complete streets.
Agriculture: Partner with research institutions and federal agencies to support producer’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change through improved irrigation and efficiency and enhanced tillage practices.