During this summer of extreme fire throughout the west, and the Cameron Peak fire still raging on our western horizon, keeping the air in Fort Collins air hazardous to breathe and raining ash upon us, we all know the immediacy of climate change. It is not some future event: it is here and now.
Accordingly, the anticipation was great for leadership from the Polis administration to make progress on this pressing issue; unfortunately, the governor is coming up short.
After two years with great opportunities for significant action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Polis administration is not meeting the public’s expectations or the law’s requirements.
The Larimer Alliance pays close attention to news from other environmental organizations with more resources, and better access to fast moving information; so with this post we wish to call your attention to the following press release from 350 Colorado, which came out Oct 1, 2020, in reaction to the much anticipated “GHG Pollution Reduction Roadmap.” The release speaks for itself, and contains yet more links to given an in-depth reasoning to its calling out our state leaders to take further action — because action on climate change can’t wait:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 1, 2020
Contact: Micah Parkin, email@example.com, 504 258 1247
Michaela Mujica-Steiner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 720-365-4860
Colorado Energy Office Releases Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap
Climate movement groups say the plan is insufficient to adequately address the climate crisis
DENVER, CO – Yesterday the Colorado Energy Office released its plan for how the state intends to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals established by House Bill 19-1261. This legislation requires a 26% reduction in GHG emissions by 2025, a 50% reduction by 2030, and a 90% reduction by 2050. The 2019 legislation aimed to address Colorado’s contribution to the climate crisis and curb emissions that not only contribute to climate change, but also adversely impact air quality and contribute pollution harmful to respiratory health.
350 Colorado, which is the largest Colorado-based organization focused on the climate crisis, says that the proposed Colorado GHG Reduction Roadmap released on Sept. 30th is a start, but to achieve the goals of HB 19-1261 and eventually more aggressive goals that climate science and justice demand, more specific policies and enforcement will be needed.
“The droughts and wildfires that have turned our skies orange are a reminder that addressing the climate crisis and ensuring a habitable climate requires a transition off all fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” said Micah Parkin, Executive Director of 350 Colorado.
Colorado has not met federal air quality standards for over a decade, and the AQCC has been sued by Wild Earth Guardians for failing to meet its July 1, 2020 deadline to provide notice of a plan to meet the state’s new GHG emissions reduction goals passed by the legislature. The state has the opportunity to address the required GHG emission reductions and improve the F-grade Front Range air quality through the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Roadmap. Yet in order to do this, activists say the Roadmap will have to incorporate far stronger sector-specific targets, policies and enforcement.
“Despite the potential for bold climate action that the Roadmap represents, the protections and emission reduction goals laid out in the Roadmap must be more ambitious, equitable, quantifiable, and enforceable,” said 350 Colorado Oil and Gas Campaign Coordinator Michaela Mujica-Steiner. “Currently, the Roadmap doesn’t address development of enforceable measures to monitor and reduce emissions from oil and gas extraction. Having clear, enforceable limits for various sectors to reduce GHG emissions are necessary in order to lock in reductions, and there must be third party monitoring of emissions and meaningful consequences for polluters when proposed rules are violated.”
350 Colorado is also concerned that the current proposed plan in the Roadmap does not align with a 66% likelihood of achieving the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) goal of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5℃, which requires 100% GHG emissions by 2036. In fact, they say the state is not even on track for a 50% chance of staying below the 1.5℃ threshold needed to avoid climate catastrophe.
The group says that while the plan considers reducing upstream and downstream operation leak rates, it ignores the reality that adequately addressing climate change and ensuring a habitable climate requires a transition off of fossil fuels largely within this decade, including a rapid phase out of all new fossil fuel development.
“We are encouraged to see a commitment to a just transition away from coal toward a renewable energy future written into the Roadmap to support workers and frontline communities, and this just transition must be extended to all fossil fuels,” said Mujica-Steiner. “Additionally, the proposed emission reduction targets laid out in the Roadmap are far too low, especially in regard to the oil and gas sector, the electric sector, and the phase out of coal-fired power plants.”
Currently, the Roadmap proposes 80% pollution reductions by 2030 compared to 2005 for the electric sector. For the oil and gas sector, the plan proposes a 33% reduction in emissions by 2025 and a 50% reduction by 2030. For both of these sectors, many activists say the plan falls short.
350 Colorado instead calls for 70% emission reductions from the electric sector and a phase-out of all existing coal-fired power plants by 2025 and a 98% reduction by 2030, noting that electricity from renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels. They also recommend a 45% reduction in oil and gas emissions by 2025 and 90% reduction by 2030. In order to reach these goals, they strongly recommend a 10% per year reduction in new oil and gas permits, for a total phase out of permitting new wells by 2030.
“We cannot continue to dig the hole deeper by continuing to permit additional new oil and gas development,” said Parkin. “The existing 80,000 wells in Colorado will leak increasingly over time as well casings break down. Meanwhile record numbers of fracking companies are going bankrupt and leaving us to pay to clean up orphaned and abandoned wells, so phasing out permitting of new wells will help protect our climate, health and taxpayer dollars.”
350 Colorado and other groups are also deeply concerned that the Roadmap does not start with an accurate baseline of emissions, especially methane from the oil and gas industry. Recent research on the air quality impacts of oil and gas development in Colorado indicates that methane emissions are likely 2-4 times higher than current industry estimates. Research from Cornell, Harvard and NASA shows a worrying spike in global methane emissions over the last decade from fracking in North America, primarily the U.S. Colorado is the sixth most fracked state. 350 Colorado, Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, and Be the Change have all called for a more thorough GHG inventory using best available technologies, including top down atmospheric measurements of oil and gas basins and continuous emissions monitoring at all polluting sites, to be conducted by an independent third party, rather than industry self-reporting.
“Amidst wildfires, a statewide drought and serious air quality issues, there is no time to lose to begin making real progress toward taking bold climate action to ensure a liveable planet and future,” said Mujica-Steiner.
###For the full statement from 350 Colorado, please visit https://350colorado.org/350-colorados-take-on-the-governors-roadmap/.