Activists celebrate passage of Denver sales tax to fund climate action

By: - November 6, 2020 2:53 pm

The Denver City and County Building at 1437 Bannock St. in Denver, seen on Aug. 5, 2020. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

Denver climate-change activists are celebrating after a two-year campaign to boost funding for the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ended in victory Tuesday night, as voters approved a ballot measure imposing a 0.25% sales tax hike to fund a new climate-action office.

With the vast majority of Denver’s votes counted, unofficial results show that Ballot Measure 2A is on track to pass overwhelmingly, winning approval from over 63% of the 315,824 city voters whose ballots had been tallied as of Friday afternoon. Supporters say that the measure, projected to raise about $40 million annually to fund climate programs, is proof that “local action is the start of global change.”

“It is now more important than ever that we bring all members of the Denver community to the table and ensure that voices that have not been historically heard are prioritized and elevated in directing the solutions funded by 2A,” said Thomas Riggle of Resilient Denver, the activist group whose efforts spurred city officials to place the measure on the 2020 ballot.

An initial push by Resilient Denver to enact a citywide tax on electricity and natural-gas consumption ran into opposition from business groups and Mayor Michael Hancock, leading to the creation of a task force that recommended that the revenue instead be raised through a sales tax increase. Despite concerns about the impact of the tax on lower-income residents, Denver City Council referred Measure 2A to the ballot in an 11-1 vote in August.

Denver’s greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to have declined slightly since peaking around 2007, largely due to its cleaner electric grid; it has made much less progress, however, in cutting emissions from the buildings and transportation sectors. The new revenue raised by Measure 2A is expected to be used by the city’s new Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency to fund programs aimed at enhancing building energy efficiency, public transit, electric-vehicle infrastructure and more.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.