Can you name the largest sources of carbon emissions in Colorado?

Number three might surprise you.

From 100 percent carbon-free power commitments to Zero Emission Vehicle standards, Colorado has taken huge steps to cut carbon emissions from its two largest sources — the electricity and transportation sectors.  

But what about other sectors? Has Colorado taken the same bold actions to address carbon emissions from all eight of its major sourcesDo we even know what these sources are?

Colorado’s Largest Sources of Carbon Emissions

  • Transportation

  • Electric Power

  • Buildings

  • Oil and Gas

  • Agriculture

  • Coal Mining

  • Industrial Processes

  • Waste Management

If you’re like us, you might be surprised to learn that buildings are the third-largest source of carbon emissions in Colorado.

That’s right, our homes and businesses emit more carbon than industry activities like oil and gas drilling, coal mining, and manufacturing. In fact, buildings contribute more climate pollution than oil and gas operations and agriculture combined. Really?! Yes, really.

Buildings are the third-largest source of carbon emissions in Colorado.

Now you’ve got to be wondering: but why?

The answer: buildings produce large amounts of carbon pollution both directly through heating and cooling processes and indirectly through electricity use. Together, direct and indirect building emissions represent roughly one-quarter of Colorado’s total greenhouse gas pollution. 

Direct Building Emissions

Heating and cooling are a source of direct building emissions.

Heating and cooling processes are a primary source of building emissions.

As the second-largest consumer of fossil fuel gas in Colorado, buildings are a primary contributor to our state’s climate and clean air issues.

Widespread use of gas-powered equipment like boilers, furnaces, water heaters, and generators in our homes and businesses directly degrades our air with noxious fumes, harmful particulate matter, and potent greenhouse gases.

Thankfully, electric alternatives exist for all of these items. Heat pumps can replace boilers, furnaces, and conventional water heaters while wind and solar systems are viable options for clean electricity generation.

Indirect Building Emissions

But even with a shift toward all-electric buildings, carbon emissions will remain a concern until our electricity supply no longer relies on fossil fuels.

Commercial and residential buildings account for more than 43% of all energy used in Colorado. So in a state where less than half of our electricity comes from renewable sources, buildings are a significant source of indirect emissions.

Fossil fuels generate about 75% of Colorado's electricity.

That’s why tackling all carbon emissions — both direct and indirect — from the built environment is essential for climate action.

So how are we going to do it?

That’s where you come in.

Colorado’s Zero-Carbon Opportunity

With your help, Colorado can continue to lead the nation in achieving a clean energy future.

Last legislative session, your activation and advocacy set Colorado on a path of climate action with the passage of more than a dozen bills to reduce carbon pollution and drive clean energy deployment.

Now it’s up to us to ensure that our state decision makers and air quality regulators craft the necessary policies to make a zero-carbon Colorado reality.

With a statute in place that sets carbon reduction targets of at least 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels, Colorado has the framework in place.

The next step is to seize the crucial window of opportunity we have to decarbonize the built environment and our broader economy through a catchall approach, reducing emissions sector by sector and economy-wide.

In doing so, we can address the climate crisis and be a model of success.

Make your voice heard! Email Colorado’s air quality regulators to tell them to pursue urgent and ambitious climate solutions.