Landmark climate bill would build on Governor Polis’ Roadmap and cut emissions in half by 2030

“This bill is about meeting our climate goals, adding urgency, adding resources and making sure we are implementing the greenhouse gas roadmap plan”

On March 29th, state Senator Faith Winter unveiled a highly anticipated landmark climate bill that would build on the climate action plan that the state first passed in 2019, as well as the sector-specific emission targets established in Governor Polis’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap.

SB21-200 aligns with and codifies the administration’s current pollution reduction policies and incentives. It also strengthens the administration’s ability to reach the targets that it established both with the signing of HB 19-1261 and through a resolution by the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC).

Despite claims of the bill containing “hard caps,” the bill actually explicitly provides important flexibility, allowing the AQCC to adjust their sector-specific targets as long as they still hit Colorado’s overall emissions goals and is more cost effective.

In the face of catastrophic wildfires and devastating drought, Coloradans are ready for, and overwhelmingly support, bold climate action. Passing this popular bill would be a historic victory for environmental justice, frontline communities, and future generations.

See more of the highlights below from CPR News, the Denver Post, and the Colorado Sun.

CPR News: Democratic Lawmakers Propose Plan To Hold Gov. Jared Polis To His Climate Promises

Democratic state Sen. Faith Winter, who represents Westminster and helped craft the legislation, which was introduced Monday, said it’s not meant to aggravate a conflict with the governor but accelerate his current efforts.

“This is about implementing the governor’s own plan and the good work his office has already done,” Winter said. Nevertheless, Winter added the administration is “not yet” on board with the plan, but she remains “hopeful.”

The legislation follows up on Colorado’s 2019 climate action plan. The law calls for the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. Each of those goals is measured against Colorado’s 2005 emission levels.

Earlier this year, Polis’ office released its final climate roadmap, which laid out the state’s pathway toward meeting those goals. By the state’s own analysis, current policies only get Colorado emitters halfway toward the 2030 target. Additional changes, like a rapid shift to electric cars and buses, could be enough to close the gap, according to the policy outline.

The proposed legislation aims to put regulatory teeth behind those future policies. The 2019 climate action plan tasked Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission with regulations to meet the emission reduction targets. Under the proposed legislation, the panel would need to implement those rules by March 1, 2022.

Democratic state Rep. Dominique Jackson, a co-sponsor who represents Aurora, said that almost always means low-income communities of color.

“We have to make sure that as we work to combat climate change, we are doing so in a manner that includes the voices of those communities that have been harmed the most,” she said.

A coalition of environmental groups helped craft the legislation. Kelly Nordini, the executive director of Conservation Colorado, said her group was “deeply” involved with the effort, which she said offers Gov. Polis an opportunity to show leadership on climate change.

“We know what the pollution reduction targets are,” Nordini said. “We’re not there yet.”

Read more in CPR News.

The Denver Post: New bill aims to add specific signposts to Colorado’s roadmap for curbing greenhouse gases

Supporters of new legislation that details how the state can meet its goals of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions see the proposal as providing signposts for a roadmap released by Gov. Jared Polis in January.

“This bill builds on the climate action plan that the state first passed in 2019 and it builds on Gov. Polis’ roadmap and the policies and incentives that they’re working on there as part of that roadmap,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “We see it as very in line with that previous work and continuing on that path, taking the next step on that.”

The state has made important progress on working to reduce the emissions that cause climate change, said Stacy Tellinghuisen, Western Resource Advocates’ senior climate policy analyst.

“But it’s really clear that we have to do more, especially if we’re going to hit the 2025 target,” Tellinghuisen said.

The bill codifies the goals laid out in the governor’s greenhouse pollution reduction plan, Tellinghuisen added.

The roadmap plots how to cut pollution by 90% — more than 100 million tons a year — before 2050. The plan proposes specific reductions in four major sectors: electricity generation; oil and gas; transportation; and residential and commercial energy use.

“This bill takes that roadmap and those sector targets and puts them in statute,” Nordini said. “The science is clear. This is how much we have to reduce pollution in order to avoid the worst climate scenarios. Coloradans are living with those right now, from wildfires to droughts to air pollution.”

The bill gives the state Air Quality Control Commission flexibility if some targets need to be adjusted. What matters is hitting the overall mark, Nordini said.

Read more in the Denver Post.

The Colorado Sun: Colorado Democrats want to accelerate the governor’s emissions reduction roadmap. Polis says he’s not on board.

“This bill is about meeting our climate goals, adding urgency, adding resources and making sure we are implementing the greenhouse gas roadmap plan,” said Sen. Faith Winter, of Westminster, one of three Democratic prime sponsors of the bill. It has no Republican sponsors. 

Legislators and environmental groups have been pushing the Polis administration to take more aggressive action on reducing greenhouse gas, saying analyses show that the plans rolled out so far are inadequate. Gov. Jared Polis, however, has embraced incremental rules and voluntary action.

“Our climate goals are only as strong as our commitment to execute them,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “When we give that very clear direction, put those policies into law, it sends a clear signal.”

Many of the elements in the bill are items the administration has been working on.

“Senate Bill 200 takes the work of the administration and puts it into statute,” said Jessica Gelay, Colorado governmental affairs manager for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental policy group.

For the most part, Gelay contended, the elements in the bill reflect goals and initiatives undertaken by the administration. “It is really just trying to give them cover to get to the goals.”

People of color and indigenous people and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by pollution, the bill says, and it directs the Air Quality Control Commission to take this into account in its rulemaking.

“It’s beyond time we do what the people are asking and what the science calls for,” said Ean Tafoya, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum. “I didn’t think we’d need lawsuits and legislation to get legitimate targets that put health and safety first, but alas, here we are.”

Read more in the Colorado Sun.