For many Coloradans, the looming threat of climate change is top of mind.
From worsening air conditions — felt particularly keenly throughout Colorado because of ozone pollution and increased wildfires — to increasingly severe and unpredictable weather, the impacts of our warming planet are quickly becoming impossible to ignore. These issues affect our daily lives, as the negative health impacts of our worsening air quality are beginning to take their toll on people across the state, particularly our children and chronically ill citizens. And wildfires have dramatically increased in frequency and intensity throughout Colorado and the entire West, threatening our lives, homes, recreation and economy.
In 2019, Colorado was the first state to adopt a statute setting both short-term and long-term goals for cutting climate pollution. By 2025, we committed to reducing our state’s pollution rate by 26%. Coloradans voted to take on the fight against the climate crisis, recognizing the very real risk that it poses to our livelihoods.
In the battle to combat climate change, we need to utilize every tool we can, and the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act offers a welcome addition to our work at the state level. Through its historic incentive programs, our own climate investments have been backed-up by significant support from the federal government, and we’re set to make real progress towards reaching our climate goals.
Colorado is leading the way in well-paying sustainable jobs. In 2021, over 61,000 Coloradans were employed in the clean energy sector, and the Inflation Reduction Act is investing more than 13 billion into expanding these opportunities here at home, providing additional bonuses for businesses that pay a prevailing wage. For the 148,000 Coloradans employed in manufacturing jobs, the act will bolster the production of steel, aluminum, cement, and more, preserving the skills and industries that make Colorado great.
Shockingly, however, this law, and our ability to pass state laws supporting a green transition and creating good jobs for our communities, are under threat from the unaccountable institutions governing international trade policy.
Right now, government subsidies to green jobs programs in eight U.S. states — Colorado not among them — have been declared to be in violation of the rules of the World Trade Organization out of concern that they could discourage investments in European green-energy initiatives. Even worse, the European Union and a number of countries are threatening to pursue legal action at the WTO against the United States to challenge critical investments offered through the Inflation Reduction Act — jeopardizing huge jobs and climate incentives already making a difference in states nationwide and right here in Colorado.
That’s why I joined nearly 200 legislators from all 50 states to urge the White House to defend our vital actions to protect our climate and to support a Climate Peace Clause, which would commit the U.S. and other nations to refrain from using outdated trade rules to challenge others’ climate policies.
Colorado can’t wait. We have to act now, and international trade bodies shouldn’t stand in the way of our fight against climate change. Coloradans voted for a sustainable transition, and governments have a responsibility to respect the democratic will of the people.
This is not simply a political battle between politicians in Washington and those in other global capitals — it’s a local fight that threatens the very nature of our state governments. If outdated, unfair trade deals can restrict us from doing what needs to be done to fight climate change, we have lost the ability to govern our own states. And it is more critical than ever that we are all pulling in the same direction to make the changes necessary to address the climate crisis. Now is the time to unite to protect – to the degree that it is still possible – our planet for future generations.
Therefore, incentives to create good local jobs and help us transition our energy systems should be promoted and protected – not threatened by trade rules to benefit big companies abroad. Colorado has been a leader in the clean energy sector, and action by the WTO could significantly impact our future progress.
By committing to bold climate policies at home, and by adopting a climate peace clause to stop trade challenges against climate policies abroad, we can show the world we are finally getting serious about fighting climate change.
Lisa Cutter, of Littleton, represents District 20 in the Colorado Senate.
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