'Roadmap 2.0': Colorado updates 2021 plan to reduce emissions, improve air quality with 49 new goals

The state said its to-do list outlined in this plan will save people money on energy and transportation.
denver pollution skyline emissions
Posted at 5:03 PM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 20:14:07-05

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Colorado has released a second, updated version of its Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, originally released in 2021, after accomplishing about 95% of its near-term actions.

Joined by partners from various state departments on Monday afternoon, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the state will begin tackling a set of 49 new near-term actions with the development of this updated plan. Also called Roadmap 2.0, the plan will identify strategies that are cost-effective and address emissions from transportation, electricity generation, buildings, oil and gas industry, lands used for agriculture and more, the state said.

Since the beginning, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap created a path to cutting greenhouse gas pollution in half by 2030, and toward net-zero by 2050, in Colorado. Within three years of the release of the 2021 plan, about 95% of the identified actions had been completed, Polis announced on Monday.

“That’s why we need to raise the bar a little bit right now," he said.

Historic statewide emissions, updated baseline emissions projection, and statutory emissions targets in Colorado
Historic statewide emissions, updated baseline emissions projection, and statutory emissions targets in Colorado, shown in million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMT CO2eq). This excludes emissions from land-use.

All of the agencies involved — which include members of the Colorado legislature, local governments, transit agencies, utilities and more — came together to identify new actions and double down on efforts to advance the state's clean energy future and save Coloradans money on their energy and gas bills. They created Roadmap 2.0 using input from communities around Colorado during in-person and virtual meetings, focus groups and comment forms online.

"This updated roadmap continues to ensure that Colorado leads on saving people money, protecting our air and water, making progress toward 100% zero emission electricity by 2040 — a sustainable, affordable and resilient future," Polis said.

The state said the 49 near-term actions in the new plan will get underway beginning this year through 2026. The goals for 2024 alone include:

  • Update clean energy planning for 2040
  • Reform electric distribution system planning for investor-owned utilities to support statewide goals
  • Modernize clean energy permitting
  • Pursue strategic electrification or thermal energy projects to improve safety and affordability of natural gas distribution
  • Encourage land use policies to build more housing, grow walkable neighborhoods, and increase transit access
  • Encourage land use policies to support strategic growth
  • Increase energy efficiency and electrification for state’s affordable housing programs
  • Create local Climate Action Accelerator
  • Build more complete and connected streets
  • Expand and increase statewide transit service, including passenger rail
  • Pursue programs to increase transit ridership
  • Streamline local EV charger deployment
  • Reduce pollution from urban freight
  • Expand low-income access to distributed solar
  • Expand on-bill financing for building energy improvements
  • Develop 2035 clean heat targets
  • Achieve emissions reductions from well plugging
  • Study alternative uses of oil and gas wells
  • Expand funding for voluntary industrial decarbonization projects
  • Lead a regional strategy on direct air capture and carbon dioxide removal
  • Establish statewide regulations for carbon management
  • Expand renewable energy development and transmission on state lands
  • Implement the Natural & Working Lands strategic plan
  • Secure funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to enhance resilience of agricultural operations
  • Maximize Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act investments in Colorado
  • Secure long term funding for Office of Sustainability
  • Lead a workforce development plan to support clean energy and climate action

These actions to reduce co-pollutant emissions are expected to result in about 500 avoided deaths and more than 10,000 avoided asthma attacks between now and 2050, the state reported.
Polis explained that improving air quality isn't only good for human health and the environment, but it's also good for business, as the strategies in the updated plan will create an estimated 95,000 good new jobs.

Unlike the prior plan, Polis said the new version ties housing into the climate crisis, and identifies ways to make housing more sustainable and affordable. Future transit-oriented developments will help people get where they need to go quickly, efficiently and for a lower cost, Polis said. He added that Colorado can build these housing opportunities near job centers to further reduce emissions.

Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor added that housing policy is climate policy — so the state is reforming land use to provide the opportunity for people to live near their workplaces,

As of now, Colorado is about 80% of the way to its goal of cutting emissions by 50% by 2030 when compared to the levels in 2005, said Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor.

Colorado launches update climate action plan

“This is definitely not a report that just sits on a shelf," he continued. "In a very short time, we’ve made remarkable progress toward meeting our climate goals.”

Looking ahead to the new plan, Toor said it prioritizes actions based on environmental justice and equity to ensure people who live in disproportionately affected communities can feel the benefits. This will improve their lives and keep housing costs relatively low — all while also tackling the climate crisis.

Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shoshana Lew said, in line with the plan, that the department is working on building more options to travel around the state, including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes along some of the busiest roads in the Denver metro area. BRTs are designed as a more reliable, convenient and faster alternative to traditional bus services, according to CDOT. Lew said CDOT is collaborating with RTD and other partner agencies to make sure Colorado's most popular corridors get high-performance services.

She also explained how CDOT is rapidly developing rail options to offer train services around the Front Range, as well as a mountain rail option to connect Union Station, Jefferson County, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs and communities in northwest Colorado.

"CDOT takes this work with significant ambition," she said.

The Department of Natural Resources is also heavily involved in the efforts behind Roadmap 2.0. Department Director Dan Gibbs said the Colorado Energy & Management Carbon (ECMC) Commission will continue to work to regulate oil and gas in a way that's protective of public health, safety, welfare and environmental resources, as well as wildlife. Under direction from the updated plan, the ECMC will work to identify other strategies to reduce emissions from oil and gas development, Gibbs said.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety has identified opportunities to reduce methane emissions from the state's coal mines, and the Colorado State Forest Service is working on a statewide assessment for carbon, he added.

“The future of natural resources that we love and rely on in Colorado depends on all of us working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impact of climate change," Gibbs said.

Multiple stakeholder proposals were not selected as part of the updated roadmap, including new pricing mechanisms to disincentivize driving, clean heat plans outlined in Senate Bill 21-264, zero-emission appliance requirements for residential and commercial buildings, ending gas line extension allowances for natural gas hookups, the adoption of California's Advanced Clean Fleet rules, and the adoption of a low-carbon fuel standard.

Roadmap 2.0 is a 161-page document and includes a lengthy look at what steps the state has already completed as it moves toward its goal. You can read it in full here.

"If this work was easy, it would have been done already but I know that Colorado’s future is bright and together we can fight for clean air, save people money, create new jobs and ensure a healthy, vibrant future that is more livable, sustainable and affordable," Polis said.

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