Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates are calling on Colorado to reduce greenhouse emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates are calling on Colorado to reduce greenhouse emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Is Governor Hickenlooper Going Far Enough With His Climate Plans?

Governor John Hickenlooper was lauded with plenty of praise for his July executive order calling for Colorado to commit to big greenhouse gas cuts by 2025 and to increase renewable-energy resources.

But two advocacy groups are saying that Hickenlooper's order and Colorado in general isn't going far enough in its plan. A joint study by Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates called on Colorado to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels — a sizable increase from Hickenlooper's proposed 26 percent decrease by 2025, as issued in his executive order earlier this summer.

“Governor Hickenlooper’s important actions on climate change this summer set us on the right path," says Pete Maysmith, former executive director for Conservation Colorado, who co-authored the study. "And now we need to embrace the challenge and implement specific policies that grow our clean-energy economy and defend against the impact of climate change that we’re already feeling in our state.”

Hickenlooper implementing more stringent policies is not likely to happen. State Republicans strongly opposed the order, with Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell saying he plans to rescind the order should he be elected. Changing plans would challenge the widely held perception that the governor is a compromise-driven centrist. Hickenlooperhasn't responded to our request for comment.

“The governor implicitly admitted that the state’s renewable-energy goals cannot be accelerated without closing additional power plants ahead of schedule and creating substantial unemployment in rural communities,” Republican state senator John Cooke of Greeley said in July. “It’s folly and hypocrisy for one arm of state government to consciously destroy jobs in rural communities while another arm of government promises assistance to mitigate the horrible impact of that policy.”

On the other hand, the advocacy groups' criticism stems from the declaration of some scientists that increasing Earth's average temperature by two degrees Celsius would bring on the worst effects of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. If the Earth warms by two degrees Celsius (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists fear that a combination of sea-level rise and an increase in extreme weather could make the world considerably more vulnerable to — and likely to see more — big storms, floods and droughts.

“Climate change is already causing more severe wildfires, droughts, flooding and other harm to our communities, and current carbon pollution reduction plans are not enough to avoid even more severe impacts in the future,” says Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates. “Our state, businesses, local governments and communities need to get behind comprehensive statewide action on climate change to reduce carbon pollution by 45 percent by 2030 and to ensure a healthy and resilient economy.”

Climate change has been an extra-hot topic this summer, first with President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord back in June, then following a recent string of strong hurricanes that have impacted Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and parts of the Caribbean.

Hickenlooper committed Colorado to the U.S. Climate Alliance with the July order, an initiative driven by fourteen states and Puerto Rico to maintain targets of the Paris accords even as Washington pulls out of it. The question for Hickenlooper and the fourteen other governors, it seems, is just how far to push those numbers.

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