The next mayor of Denver faces a range of pressing challenges, including homelessness, housing affordability, and public safety, that all need to be tackled. Yet, if we address those issues alone without a systemic approach to making the city more equitable and climate resilient, we will likely find ourselves in a similar spot to where we are now.

Underlying many of these social and economic issues are longstanding environmental challenges and injustices that threaten to make Denver significantly less habitable and wear away at the economy of the region. 

Over the last 10 years, the City and County of Denver has convened hundreds of experts and community members who have developed robust plans to achieve dozens of ambitious yet reasonable goals that can address these environmental issues, while also making our city safer and healthier, both physically and economically. These recommendations and plans provide a strong roadmap for a more equitable and resilient city.

However, to implement them we need significantly greater financial investment and political leadership from the City.

Together with 30-plus partner organizations, we have created the “Platform for a Thriving, and Climate-Resilient Denver” — a suite of baseline goals, commitments, and principles we believe all candidates should support and implement. This platform is founded on goals of equity and healing, and the statements have been vetted and approved by our city’s foremost experts on each issue.

Plans like those developed through the Denveright process, recommendations from the City’s Climate Action Task Force, and goals like reducing greenhouse gas emissions 65% by 2030 and 100% by 2040 are laudatory, but need real and sustained commitment from the City. 

Nearly all of the strategies address multiple issues at once – delivering greater return on investment for all citizens of Denver. Here are three examples:


We must address water demand and water loss head-on and prioritize opportunities to use and honor our water resources in smarter, more ecologically-balanced ways. The next administration must deliver on the Waterway Resiliency Program by committing and delivering hundreds of millions of dollars to match the $350 million federal investment to support flood protection and the health of the South Platte River and key tributaries.

We must also reduce water loss from water delivery infrastructure and water demand generated by City-managed properties. This includes working with water providers and other partners to lower water demand across the city and taking steps such as decreasing irrigation of and replacing non-essential turf grass.

In recent years, the city has made great strides in building infrastructure that manages stormwater flooding and protects the health of our waterways by using natural systems to hold and clean polluted water. These are big steps in the right direction, but we need the next administration to continue to prioritize our water and waterways, and invest in natural solutions that will make our city more resilient to climate change and a better place for all to live.


Urban trees provide countless benefits to people and nature including cooling streets and sidewalks by more than 15 degrees, improving air quality, making our commercial areas more economically viable, and benefiting human physical and mental health. According to a recent study that analyzed climates similar to Denver, every $1 invested in urban trees returned somewhere between $1.37 to $3.09 in value.

But many neighborhoods in Denver still have very few trees – one-seventh the number than in nearby, often wealthier areas – and many of those trees are struggling and unhealthy. We need to finally address this issue and do so in a manner that combines community input with plans and funding for every neighborhood that will collectively make our city healthier and more resilient. 



We need to build more transit-oriented development that can address myriad environmental challenges and make our city more accessible and affordable for all. By building denser communities that prioritize affordable housing and complement multi-modal transportation, we can increase access and connection to schools, employment, parks and natural areas, and other vital services while minimizing gentrification and displacement. As part of this investment, we will reduce the greenhouse gasses we produce, reduce water demand, and mitigate the impacts of increased heat.

The residents of Denver understand and have made it clear that addressing climate resilience is a priority. Over the past few years, Denverites have overwhelmingly supported ballot initiatives that prioritize investment in climate action, parks and open spaces, and environmental justice, and will be looking for a mayor with the same aspirations. That’s why we are urging whomever wins in June to commit to making the smart and bold decisions required for Denver to become the thriving, healthy, and climate-resilient city we are poised to be.

Jolon Clark, of Denver, is a member of the Denver City Council.

Carlos Fernandez, of Boulder, is the Colorado state director for The Nature Conservancy.

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Jolon Clark

Jolon Clark, of Denver, is a member of the Denver City Council.

Carlos Fernandez

Carlos Fernandez, of Boulder, is the Colorado State Director for The Nature Conservancy.