Climate groups urge Colorado to ‘correct course’ on emissions progress
State officials developing ‘roadmap 2.0’ as projections show state at risk of missing 2025 target
A layer of smog covers the skyline of Denver. (Courtesy of EcoFlight)
Environmental groups on Thursday reiterated their longstanding calls for Colorado to “go further, faster” to combat climate change, as state officials promised to develop an updated plan for emissions reductions.
In a letter to members of the Air Quality Control Commission, representatives of a dozen major conservation and climate-action groups wrote that time is running out for the state to “correct course on our emission reduction goals.”
“All analyses performed both by the state and third parties come to the same conclusion: policies currently in place and regulations on-the-books are failing to drive down climate pollution at the pace and scale required by Colorado law,” said the letter, signed by advocates from the Environmental Defense Fund, Conservation Colorado, 350 Colorado and other organizations.
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The letter followed a progress report presented to the AQCC last month that showed Colorado isn’t on pace to meet a 2025 deadline to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels. The target was set by House Bill 19-1261, a landmark climate-action bill passed by the state Legislature in 2019.
Two of Colorado’s top climate officials returned to the commission Thursday to lay out the next steps as the state tries to get back on track. Clay Clarke, head of the climate change unit in the state’s Air Pollution Control Division, acknowledged the state is falling short of its goals, especially when it comes to transportation.
“Emissions from the transportation sector, based on actual fuel sales last year, were higher than initially projected, indicating additional strategies necessary to achieve the sector’s 2025 emissions targets,” Clarke said.
With Colorado’s 2025 climate goal less than two and a half years away, the commission has limited time to enact regulations to close the emissions gap.
– Environmental activists to members of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission
In the long run, state officials remain confident that the wide-ranging, flexible approach they laid out in a 2021 emissions “roadmap” will result in the necessary reductions, including a 50% statewide cut by 2030. That’s especially the case following the passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act and the billions in clean-energy funding the state is expected to reap from the new law over the next decade.
“We’re going to have significantly more resources to further lean in on climate action,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office.
Toor’s office has begun development of what it calls “roadmap 2.0,” which will incorporate the projected impacts of the new funding and other changes. The updated roadmap is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
“None of this means our work is done,” Toor said. “We need to keep going and go faster. But we’re going to need to carry forward in a thoughtful, holistic way.”
Officials will give another update on the new roadmap’s development to the AQCC in January.
That’s unlikely to assuage environmental advocates, who are urging the commission to use the next three months to identify near-term regulatory actions that could close the “glaring gap” between projected emissions and the 2025 goal.
“With Colorado’s 2025 climate goal less than two and a half years away, the commission has limited time to enact regulations to close the emissions gap,” advocates wrote.
But Elise Jones, an AQCC commissioner and director of the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, said the roadmap update was a positive step.
“I think we have a process to get to a plan,” Jones said. “I am sympathetic to the fact that the 2025 target is still quite in question, and unlikely to be met.”
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