The past several months have shaken our nation and state to the core. The combined crises of a global pandemic, economic recession, racist violence against people of color and climate change have exposed weaknesses and destructive inequities in our state’s economy, support systems and infrastructure.
As we seek to rebuild from these crises, Colorado and the nation have an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and “rebuild better” by investing in an economy that is healthier, more equitable, resilient, creates good jobs and builds a legacy of a brighter and healthier tomorrow for our children.
Unfortunately, if we do not address the climate crisis, we will continue to deepen the divides and weaknesses our society has seen during the pandemic.
Effective action to avoid worse climate impacts and protect our public health, land, air and water can — and must — reverse these inequities.
At some point – hopefully sooner rather than later — Congress is going to have to act on a major economic stimulus bill, which is essential to help our country recover from the pandemic and economic free-fall.
We urge our members of Congress not to miss the moment to rebuild better and prioritize the health and well-being of future generations by ensuring some stimulus funding fights climate change and protects clean air and water.
Rebuilding better is good for our economy and our health. Our clean energy economy brought Colorado out of the Great Recession faster and stronger than other states and it can do so again.
Two of our largest and fastest-growing job sectors — clean energy and outdoor recreation (both of which are larger than oil and gas) — have hundreds of “shovel ready” projects that would mean jobs and community investment if stimulus spending was focused there.
Colorado has leading policies to promote renewable energy and reduce carbon pollution.
Our delegation should now ensure that stimulus dollars complement these bold policies so Coloradans can be confident that renewable energy powers our buildings and transportation; clean air and water is available for everyone; transportation infrastructure moves people, not just cars; and parks and protected public lands and waters are accessible for all to enjoy.
We call on our congressional delegation to support stimulus funding in these areas, and to ensure that the funding supports family-sustaining, good-paying jobs with high labor standards:
- More lands conserved: we must meet the needs for more protected parks and public lands and more access for all Coloradans by increasing investments in public and private lands conservation. This can start with completing Fishers Peak State Park, investing in ten additional new state parks, increasing incentives for land conservation, and by filling funding gaps for trails and open spaces across the state.
- Clean, renewable energy deployment: fossil fuels still comprise the majority of our electricity and home heating and cooling, which degrade our health and environment. We must invest even more in wind, solar, transmission and other clean technologies to make sure that Colorado is 100% clean-powered.
- Transportation of the future: we should invest in electric cars and buses, expanded public transit and EV charging at highway systems, workplaces, retailers and multi-family housing units across both rural and urban parts of the state.
- Water sources and safety: we must protect and improve the sources of our water for people and nature to thrive by enhancing our rivers and watersheds. We must also invest in upgrades to drinking water and wastewater treatment systems, green infrastructure and stormwater infrastructure in order to improve health, strengthen communities and create jobs.
- Energy efficiency: funding to retrofit buildings so they use less energy will create jobs for those installing and selling energy efficient materials and equipment, lower utility bills for all Coloradans, and reduce air and carbon pollution.
Someday soon Congress is going to make a once-in-a-lifetime investment in stimulus funding to rebuild our country.
Colorado’s delegation, our governor and state officials must ensure those funds build a more innovative economy that benefits all people and makes Colorado an even better place to live, work, and play.
Kelly Nordini is executive director of Conservation Colorado. Jon Goldin-Dubois is president of Western Resource Advocates. Carlos E. Fernandez is Colorado state director for The Nature Conservancy.
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