Newsletter: Mind the gaps in Colorado’s climate plan

Two camps of climate planners are squaring off over how to decarbonize Colorado.
By Julian Spector

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Two camps of climate planners are squaring off over how to decarbonize Colorado.

Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat who ran on a clean energy platform, favors public investment and an incentives-based approach that encourages industry to clean things up over time. But a group of state legislators and environmentalists is pushing for a hard mandate to cut emissions across the economy in legislation called SB 200.

At one level, this is a sign of how far climate politics has come: The debate is not whether the state should drastically slash emissions, but rather how best to achieve that outcome.

Then again, it looks like Polis’ positive engagement strategy isn’t strong enough to meet his own goals, according to a new independent analysis from think tanks Energy Innovation and RMI (whom you may recognize as a sponsor of Canary Media).

Jeff St. John explains:

According to Friday’s report, this mix of legislation, utility commitments, and executive action in 2019 and 2020” still falls short of setting Colorado on a path to reach a level of greenhouse gas emissions consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the coming century. That’s the target set by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and endorsed by President Joe Biden’s commitment under the Paris climate accord to cut nationwide carbon emissions in half by 2030.

And while Polis expresses concern about the negative effects of overly rigid regulation, the study finds that stronger policies governing electricity, transportation, buildings, industry, land and agriculture could generate more than 20,000 new jobs and $3.5 billion in economic activity per year by 2030.

The specifics of this debate may be unique to Colorado, but it raises questions that plenty of other jurisdictions will need to answer for themselves:

  • Are climate carrots sufficient without accompanying sticks?
  • What evidence of future benefits is needed to overcome inertia and assertions that decarbonization will be expensive and difficult?

(Image credit: limaoscarjuliet licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.