Colorado Announces GHG Reduction Road Map

By Patrick J. Paul

On January 14, 2021, Colorado published its Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, representing the most substantive planning process the state has ever undertaken on climate leadership, pollution reduction and clean energy transition. The Roadmap is a testament to the efforts of numerous state agencies including the Colorado Energy Office and the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Public Health and Environment, and Transportation.

During the 2019 legislative session, Colorado passed House Bill 19-1261, the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution which identifies in part science-based climate targets of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030% and 90% by 2050 compared with 2005 levels. However, two years later there has been no funding for the bill which is anticipated to cost millions of dollars per year.

Gov. Jared Polis, who successfully campaigned in 2018 with a commitment to move the state to renewable energy by 2040, directed state agencies to develop the Roadmap in furtherance of the ambitious science-based targets.  Development of the Roadmap commenced in late 2019 with a review of Colorado’s 2015 Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and an evaluation of the data used to project future GHG emissions for Colorado in the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Inventory Tool.

Originally set to reconvene for the 2021 lawmaking session on January 13, but delayed due to the spread of COVID-19, Colorado’s General Assembly now plans to return in full on February 16, 2021. When the Democratic controlled legislature ultimately reconvenes, implementation of the Roadmap will be paramount among its legislative goals.

At front and center of the implementation debate will be whether incentives or mandates will be more effective, and how best to transition to clean energy while preserving jobs and assisting those workers already employed in the fossil fuel industry. In response to the Roadmap, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce stated that, “economic and environmental progress is best achieved when emissions reduction goals are realistic, achievable and market-driven.”

Given relatively recent record heat, extreme drought, and the three biggest wildfires in Colorado history, many in the legislature believe it is past time to address climate change as one root cause of these issues. Whether tighter and more significant regulation, free market solutions or some hybrid approach is preferred remains to be seen but one thing seems certain, the issue itself will be roundly debated this session. Stay tuned.

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