The time is now.
Last summer, Coloradans experienced the three largest wildfires in our state’s history, which destroyed homes, businesses, and livelihoods. Our families were told to shelter in place as dangerous air quality plagued our skies.
All of this happened in the midst of a deadly virus that makes it harder to breathe. By August the entire state was experiencing some form of drought following weak snowpack and absent monsoon rains.
These events remind us that Coloradans are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. And just like COVID-19, communities of color and low-income communities are bearing a disproportionate burden.
We can still solve the problem of climate change. Colorado must move urgently to reduce climate pollution in order to protect our state’s air, land and water; as well as the health and well being of our communities.
This is why we sponsored Colorado’s Climate Action Plan, House Bill 19-1261, in 2019. The bill established science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2025, 2030, and 2050, and charged the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) with taking the necessary steps to get us there.
Yet, nearly two years after passing this bill, Colorado is still far off track from meeting our 2025 and 2030 targets. The longer we wait to take decisive action, the harder it will be to achieve our goals. We only have one chance to protect a livable climate for ourselves and our children.
Fortunately, Gov. Jared Polis has released a plan to help get us to reach our climate goals. The governor’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap provides an important overview of how Colorado can reduce emissions across our economy, from cleaner electricity generation and transportation to pollution-free homes and businesses.
We applaud the governor for releasing this plan. And to truly be a leader on climate – and to make sure Colorado achieves its climate goals no matter what – we need to transform this plan into concrete, actionable steps to reduce harmful climate pollution in an equitable way.
That’s why on Monday we introduced Senate Bill 200, titled “Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice.” This bill will set the governor’s roadmap into law, ensuring Colorado reduces pollution in line with the Climate Action Plan.
Specifically, the bill will ensure that the AQCC enacts strong, enforceable, and cost-effective regulations to reduce pollution by a date certain, close a loophole that lets polluters off the hook for paying to emit greenhouse gases, and provide Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division with further financial resources to support this critical work, among other provisions.
Ensuring justice and equity for those most harmed by climate change, including Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color, takes a specific set of tools.
That’s where the “Environmental Justice Act,” also soon to be introduced, comes in. It goes hand-in-hand with the Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice policy, and makes sure that those who face disproportionate climate impacts in Colorado have a voice in decision making and are centered in solutions.
We know Coloradans want climate action. Recent polling by Global Strategy Group found that a whopping 71% of Colorado voters agree that the AQCC should act within the next year to create rules that guarantee our state will meet its climate targets.
Decisive climate action is also a tool that will spur a locally driven recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that invests in local economies, creates 21st-century jobs, improves the health of our families, and creates a more equitable Colorado.
While progress to reduce emissions has been made over the last few years, it’s clear that voluntary commitments and incentives will not be enough to reach our quickly approaching climate goals and protect our Colorado way of life. We need verifiable, equitable, and enforceable climate action now.
We urge the General Assembly to join us and support the Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice initiatives. Let’s make the governor’s roadmap a reality and ensure urgent climate action and equitable climate justice for all Coloradans.
Faith Winter, Democrat of Westminster, represents District 24 in Adams County in the Colorado state Senate, and was a member of the state House from 2015 to 2019. Dominique Jackson, Democrat of Aurora, represents District 42 in the Colorado House of Representatives.
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