What’s the best way for Colorado to hit its goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and by 90 percent by 2050? Can voluntary actions and incentives alone get it there? Or does the state need enforceable mandates and emissions caps, not just for its energy sector, but for transportation, industry and buildings as well?
These questions are causing a political schism in the state, pitting Democratic Governor Jared Polis, who has endorsed the incentives and voluntary actions route, against state Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups supporting Senate Bill 200. The legislation would give the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission power to set and enforce emissions caps across economic sectors.
Supporters of the bill point to multiple studies showing that the state’s current policies can’t get it close to achieving its carbon-reduction targets. Polis, who campaigned on a clean energy platform and signed into law the 2019 Climate Action Plan setting the state’s targets, has threatened to veto SB 200 on the grounds that it gives “dictatorial” powers to a board that doesn’t answer to voters. As an alternative, Polis has promised to enact policies that lower emissions without strict mandates that could harm the economy.
Now a new report adds to data indicating that Colorado’s existing policies aren’t likely to achieve the state’s goals, while making the case that stronger actions could yield significant economic benefits. Perhaps more importantly, it’s based on a data analysis tool that lawmakers and advocates can use to model which combinations of policies stand a chance of reaching those goals — and do so quickly enough to inform debate in this year’s legislative session.
[Jeff St. John]