A new report released this week shows how Colorado can reach its ambitious climate goals in a way that cuts dangerous pollution, particularly in communities disproportionately impacted by air pollution. The findings highlight the need for swiftly powering the electric sector with renewable resources, reducing oil and gas production and associated emissions, and electrifying vehicles, buildings, and public transit. The report was released by Evolved Energy, GridLab, NRDC, and Sierra Club with support from PSE Healthy Energy.
The report offers a pathway for the state to meet the requirements of House Bill 19-1261, which tasks the Air Quality Control Commission with crafting and implementing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels of emissions, with a goal of reaching at least 90 percent reductions by 2050.
“From increased wildfires and smoke to high utility bills, Coloradans already know that climate action is essential,” said Ariana Gonzalez, the Colorado Policy Director at NRDC. “From this report, we know that effective, equitable, and economically-sound climate action is not just necessary—it’s possible. We must power our cars, our homes, and our workplaces in ways that keep the air clean and energy costs low for Coloradans who need it most. There is no excuse for delay.”
“From this report, we know that effective, equitable, and economically-sound climate action is not just necessary—it’s possible…There is no excuse for delay.”
Ariana Gonzalez, NRDC
The topline report finding is that the most cost-effective scenario to meet Colorado’s emissions reduction goals relies on generating 98 to 99 percent of electricity with renewable resources by 2030. Colorado is not on track to meet this emissions reductions target, having set a previous goal of reducing emissions from electric utilities by 80 percent by 2030. Powering the electric sector with renewable resources will make it easier to reduce emissions in other sectors such as transportation, buildings, and oil and gas production. Report findings for these sectors include:
The majority of new cars and trucks of all weights should be electric by 2035 or soon thereafter. Even after committing to adopt the Clean Car Standards, Colorado is not on a trajectory to electrify the transportation sector quickly enough to meet climate goals.
Emissions from the buildings sector must decrease by at least 9 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. More quickly replacing space heating, hot water heating, and cooking appliances with efficient, electric versions is necessary to provide these reductions.
Methane emissions from the oil and gas sector must be reduced by at least 54 percent by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. The report recommends reducing oil and gas production levels rather than relying solely on reducing leakage rates, as has been suggested by the state.
“Our report found that rapidly cleaning up Colorado’s electricity—even faster than what some utilities in Colorado have proposed—is going to be the cost effective key to unlocking more solutions to reduce carbon pollution across our economy,” said Amelia Myers, the Southwest Region Deputy Director at Sierra Club. “Electrifying the parts of our economy where we burn lots of oil and gas—like transportation and heating and cooling our homes and buildings—will hinge on ensuring that electricity is clean. This fundamental shift creates a major economic opportunity that’s necessary to address the climate crisis, and that opportunity must be prioritized for people and communities in Colorado who already shoulder the highest burden of our outdated, polluting systems.”
The report also found that policies focusing solely on greenhouse gas emissions—as opposed to also addressing air pollution disparities and energy burdens—will not eliminate all air contaminants at the same rate and can reinforce inequities that leave many Coloradans with dirty air, costly energy, and high transportation costs. The report found that low-income communities and communities of color are most vulnerable to pollution from the electric, transportation, buildings, and oil and gas sectors. Climate policies must alleviate pollution burdens and ensure that low-cost, reliable, clean power is accessible to families that pay disproportionate shares of their incomes on energy and transportation costs.
“The report is unique in that it incorporates health, environment, and equity into decarbonization strategies from the outset to ensure climate mitigation efforts simultaneously help reduce pollution and increase clean energy access in those communities most burdened by existing fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Elena Krieger, PhD, Director of Research at PSE Healthy Energy. “Without explicitly addressing the energy system’s disproportionate environmental, health, and economic impacts on low-income households and communities of color, climate policy risks perpetuating these inequities. However, carefully designed policies have the potential to reduce pollution and provide resilience to Colorado’s most vulnerable inhabitants.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Colorado Energy Office are expected to release their own roadmap highlighting pathways to meet the state’s climate goals on September 30th.
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