Three Ways Colorado’s House Bill 1261 Tackles Climate Change

May 4, 2019

By Asheton Gilbertson, Conservation Colorado

Coloradans are already seeing the negative impacts of climate change in our everyday lives. We see it in shallower snowpacks on our mountains, reduced flows in our rivers and more severe wildfires spreading across our forests. And we’re feeling it—hotter temperatures and dirtier air are making it harder for Coloradans to breathe and lead healthy lives.

We are living during a pivotal window of time to leave a livable, healthy climate for future generations. With a federal administration actively undermining climate action, it’s up to states like ours to lead. By passing House Bill 1261, Colorado is paving the way towards a clean energy future.

Here are three ways the “Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution” bill will help Colorado tackle climate change and build a better future for our kids and grandkids.

Setting Strong Goals to Limit Carbon Pollution

Reducing carbon pollution is critical to protecting our way of life. Numerous studies show we have a small and shrinking window—12 years—within which to prevent the most damaging impacts of climate change.

HB 1261 sets science-based reduction targets to cut carbon pollution at least 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels in order to limit warming and its harmful impacts.

Dirty air costs millions of dollars in health expenses and years of life, but cleaning it up yields huge benefits for millions of people.

Each year, at least 3.5 million Coloradans are exposed to unhealthy air pollution and its many health-related impacts including asthma, respiratory problems, and lung disease. Projections show carbon pollution-fueled increases in smog and wildfire smoke will exacerbate these impacts while extreme temperatures will cause a spike in the number of heat-associated illnesses and death.

Cutting carbon emissions ensures that Colorado does its part to avoid a climate crisis and leave a clean, healthy environment for future generations.

Creating Cost-Effective Regulations

To put Colorado on track to achieve these targets, HB 1261 directs our state’s public health and air quality experts at the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to find the best, most economical ways to reduce emissions. The bill calls on state regulators to work hand-in-hand with elected officials and industry leaders to ensure that these solutions are cost-effective — one of the many reasons major employers, businesses, and investors across Colorado strongly support this policy.

Decarbonizing our economy presents immense opportunity for our state. Colorado’s clean energy industry is significant and growing, employing more than 62,000 workers and attracting multi-million dollar investments in addition to saving ratepayers an average of 15 to 50 percent on energy costs.

Establishing policies to meet our carbon reduction targets will help Colorado’s clean energy economy continue to grow by driving innovation, job creation and further cost savings for consumers. This will allow us to reinvest in our businesses, employees, and the communities in which they operate.

Engaging Local Communities

The negative impacts of carbon pollution directly affect the health and wellbeing of people across Colorado. But not all communities or individuals are affected in the same ways. Lower-income communities and communities of color who are already more likely to experience chronic health conditions and greater exposure to harmful pollution will be disproportionately burdened by climate change.

HB 1261 addresses this inequity by requiring public health leaders to identify specific strategies for reducing emissions in frontline communities and seeking their direct input on how to best do so. These strategies will help communities craft local solutions to protect their residents from climate change.

This is especially important in a state as unique as Colorado. A recent report found that although climate change impacts vary widely across the state, most communities—more than 59 percent—are unprepared to cope with climate disruptions.

Successfully tackling these changes across Colorado will require policies and approaches that are as diverse as the communities in which they’re created. By accepting public input through robust community engagement processes, HB 1261 promotes local solutions that are meaningful and inclusive and as a result, more equitable and just.

Thanks to your support, House Bill 1261—the most significant climate change bill in Colorado history—passed its final vote in the legislature and is on track to become law! Passing it will mean cleaner air, healthier communities and a Colorado-based path toward a zero-carbon future.