Colorado has a lot to be proud of when it comes to protecting our environment and leading in the fight against the climate crisis. This is a state that has set aggressive 2050 emissions targets, established nation-leading methane regulations, and just recently passed vital legislation including one of the nation’s most significant investments ever in electric vehicle infrastructure.
Yet even with all this progress, the state is still not on pace to meet its own climate goals.
That’s why the ongoing negotiations in Washington, D.C. over a landmark infrastructure package are so important to Colorado. They present a rare but timely opportunity to accelerate our shift to a more sustainable economy.
Climate policy was at the heart of President Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal. His pitch to lawmakers included major investments in electric vehicles, clean energy, and public transit, as well as new jobs programs and funding to strengthen our transportation and energy systems against the effects of climate change. These provisions are well-suited for an infrastructure package: By pairing climate with infrastructure, we won’t just be repairing systems that make our cities, towns, and businesses run, we’d be making our communities and economy more resilient and competitive for the long haul.
Unfortunately, the bipartisan infrastructure agreement that has gained steam in the U.S. Senate and was endorsed by the president falls short of these ambitions. While the agreement does include some laudable clean energy and transportation investments, it does not go far enough to meet our climate and economic needs. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to address the crisis that is already ravaging the West, and neglecting it would have dire consequences for every state—even those that have already adopted forward-looking policies. It is critical that federal lawmakers continue pushing for aggressive climate policy through infrastructure negotiations, if not by refining the bipartisan plan, then by taking it up in other near-term legislation.
While Colorado has taken a bold approach to climate, confronting it head-on will require a national response that only federal policy can achieve. A climate-centric infrastructure bill will position states like Colorado to capitalize on further investment and innovation and accelerate the private sector’s transition to clean energy and an electric-powered transportation system. A federal package would also help drive the adoption of this technology across the country.
And then there are the jobs. If Colorado adopted even stronger climate policies, the state’s economy would add 36,000 jobs and gain an additional $7.5 billion every year by 2050, according to recent research by the nonpartisan think tanks Energy Innovation and RMI. It’s no wonder that the business community and financial markets are increasingly advocating for sustainability policy: it promises private sector ingenuity, long-term stability, and a huge amount of job growth.
We must confront the climate crisis for public health and environmental reasons. But the massive economic rewards still too often go overlooked. As the chief executive at First Affirmative Financial Network since 1988, I have long believed that the ideals of a clean-energy future and economic growth are in lockstep, and our 30-year record of managing client assets reflects this philosophy as we invest in and advocate for sustainability throughout the economy to manage risk and enhance returns for our investors.
While many leading companies are already making bold commitments to reduce their own carbon footprints, they can’t get us to our climate goals on their own. Robust policy will help businesses of all sizes make the transition. And while states like ours have taken action that is among the most ambitious in the U.S., these efforts will have a much greater impact if they are backed by potent federal policies like climate-smart infrastructure programs.
We urge Sen. Bennett, Sen. Hickenlooper, and Colorado’s congressional delegation to build off the work done by our state government, ensure that climate policy remains central amid the federal infrastructure negotiations, and deliver a strong and clean economy that will benefit today’s and future generations of Coloradans.
George R. Gay is the CEO of First Affirmative Financial Network.