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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Denver should declare a binding climate emergency

To avoid the dystopian impacts of the climate crisis, members of Denver’s City Council are right to take swift action to reduce the City’s carbon emissions so soon after many were sworn in for the first time.

Their sense of urgency deserves praise, as does the work of Denver staff and citizen advocates to build the case. Yet, council member Robin Kniech insists that we can do better, and she is right.

Angie Fyfe

When council meets Monday night, they should not send a recently proposed carbon tax to voters, a measure that will fail to provide the emissions reductions necessary to achieve the city’s stated goals. 

Rather than scramble to put a climate revenue source in place, members of the council should first join 888 other jurisdictions from 18 countries and declare a binding Climate Emergency.  

An emergency declaration does what a tax on businesses will not. It communicates the threat of climate change to the health of Denver’s residents and its economy, and creates an awareness of environmental degradation that demands we protect and connect with nature.

A carbon tax only ensures that a certain amount of revenue is collected — revenue that would funnel money into a new and necessary climate and resiliency office — but it does not ensure achievement of the city’s carbon reductions goals. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

If they take some time to do it right, council can spend the coming weeks building business community support and thinking through the unintended consequences of a narrowly defined approach to a systemic challenge. 

They can lead by example through accelerated action to reduce emissions related to municipal operations and mobilize community support of the appropriate budget and revenue package.

We’ve all contributed to the climate crisis and we all have a role to play in solving it. A climate emergency declaration reflects council’s justified response to the severity of our planetary situation and the risk it poses to the livability of our community.

Angie Fyfe is a 35-year resident of Denver (Council District 6) and the Executive Director of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA.  Previously, Angie was a Program Manager and Associate Director at the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office.


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