Three Reasons why Colorado needs a Climate Action Plan (House Bill 1261)

By: Asheton Gilbertson

Each year our stunning landscapes attract over 80 million visitors to our state. These visitors are drawn to the world-class recreation opportunities that our mountains, lakes, and rivers offer, along with the unique agricultural products that Colorado is known for.

But in recent years, we’ve all saw how this could change as we witnessed some of the worst temperatures, wildfires, and snowpack in our state’s history.

Wildfire scar with Aspens

Wildfires scorched more than 430,00 acres of Colorado’s forests and grasslands in 2018.

With the passage of House Bill 1261, Colorado committed to a Climate Action Plan that includes a 90 percent carbon-reduction target by 2050.

But analysis released this month reveals that we are not on track to meet our goals. If we rely solely on currently planned policies, Colorado will exceed its emission goals by roughly 30 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution in 2025 and 46 million metric tons of pollution in 2030.

Our work to shape a healthy climate future and meet the targets set forth in House Bill 1261 must intensify, because the consequences of inaction are immense.

House Bill 1261 has huge potential to support these three parts of Colorado’s legacy and economy:

  • Recreation


    Flyfishing in a river.

    Owners of water sports businesses who rely on healthy, flowing waterways had real concerns about their future customer base last summer. Flows in nearly every river across the state were at least half of their average and in many places, water levels were too low for fishing and rafting. A drier climate threatens to make these impacts even worse, which could seriously hurt our state’s $3.8 billion water-based recreation industry.

  • Farming


    Peaches from a Colorado farm.

    Farmers who depend on adequate water levels to cultivate their fields to feed our communities and a $40 billion agricultural industry feared that their crops and life savings would dry up after some water users were shut off. If our snowpack continues to deplete, water shortages will likely become more frequent along with crop failures and our position as the nation’s largest grower of organic produce.

  • Ranching


    Three cows with mountains in the background.

    Ranchers who count on predictable rainfall patterns to nourish our nationally renowned sheep and cattle herds were concerned whether they would have enough water for their livestock to drink, let alone to irrigate pasture or other crops. Inability to plan when and what to plant due to a changing climate could lead to early auctions and selling off parts of herds to avoid long-term profit loss—measures that many have already been forced to take.

There’s no question Coloradans are already grappling with the risks that climate change and air pollution pose to our future. Rising temperatures and dirtier air are jeopardizing our health, livelihoods, agricultural heritage, and outdoor recreation economy.

As one of the fastest-warming states in the nation, Colorado has a responsibility to prevent the worst effects of a changing climate by setting science-based goals to reduce carbon pollution. House Bill 1261, passed in 2019, set economy-wide targets for reducing carbon pollution. Now is our moment to implement our Climate Action Plan to tackle climate change and preserve our outdoor legacy by reaching a 90 percent carbon-reduction target by 2050.

We must act now to ensure a better future for the next generation of Coloradans. Air pollution is already harming our communities; hotter temperatures will only exacerbate its negative health effects. It’s up to us to stick to our Climate Action Plan and leave a livable, healthy Colorado to our kids and grandkids. 

The Air Quality Control Commission is listening: use your voice today to support Climate Action Now!