REPS. WINTER AND JACKSON: Time to Act on Colorado’s Climate Action Plan

A hoax. A conspiracy. A political ploy. For those of us working toward climate action, loud denials about the COVID-19 crisis have a familiar ring. But complaints from a vocal few will not stand in the way of necessary action – action centered in public health and science-based decision making.

Earlier this summer, as we celebrated the one year anniversary of Governor Polis signing HB19-1261, the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, we were reminded that Colorado’s leadership on this issue has never been more critically important. It is this kind of bold action that put our state back on the map as a national climate leader. So, while the Trump administration continues to roll back protections for our air, water, and climate, Colorado is hard at work building upon the success of landmark policies that create a better world for generations to come. 

Ninety-seven percent of scientists, NASA, and the Department of Defense, agree that climate change is a grave risk to our future. Already we are seeing climate impacts in many forms: increasingly strange and severe weather, diminishing snowpack levels in the high country, detrimental decreases to our water supply, and more severe wildfire seasons. These events have devastating consequences for everyone, but especially farmers, people with underlying health conditions, and fire fighters who will have to put their lives at risk fighting longer, hotter fires. Without further action, worsening climate conditions will continue to have widespread ramifications for communities, economies, and ecosystems across the state. 

We also see disproportionate impacts on communities of color — especially those living in low-income neighborhoods — as well as Indigenous communities, which confront particularly poor air quality. These discrepancies also make residents more susceptible to the harmful and sometimes deadly health effects of COVID-19. 

We cannot wait a moment longer. Colorado must act to reduce the impacts of climate change and air pollution for everyone in our state.

We are proud of the outstanding work Governor Polis, our colleagues in the legislature, regulators, utilities, and other leaders have done to reduce pollution. Sadly, these efforts are not enough. New data show just how vital it is for us to continue to act with greater ambition and innovation to ensure we meet the carbon pollution reduction targets necessary to achieve our goals.

As authors of Colorado’s Climate Action Plan, we formulated science-based targets that we knew would help us avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Then we charged experts at the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) with the task of creating the tools to meet this moment – a particularly important undertaking due to our current public health crisis.

Unfortunately, the work to formulate and implement science-based regulations to tackle climate change has turned into a game of political hot potato. Last week, John Putnam, the Director of Environmental Programs, even tried to put the mandate for action back on elected officials, stating that the Department of Public Health and Environment should “wait for the legislature.

For this reason we need to be very clear: our intention was always for leaders within the AQCC to use their regulatory power to adopt policies that ensure Colorado meets the targets outlined in the Climate Action Plan. Setting goals, but letting scientists guide the way, empowers experts rather than lawmakers to determine how we can best move forward. So it is critical that everyone do their part and do so urgently, because we are running out of time. According to leading climatologists, we have as little as ten years to reverse our trajectory or we will see the earth become significantly less inhabitable – with mass migrations, food shortages, and species extinction defining much of our future.

In this moment, it is crucial that we look ahead and consider the steps we must take to build a sustainable economy that is centered around people and the environment while concentrating on the workers and communities that are facing the brutal beginnings of climate change. And we must start this work at once, together.

One year ago, the world looked very different. And while many parts of our lives have changed, the values that bind us together – community, family, and stewardship – remain the same. Living those values means taking action to tackle climate change. We urge the AQCC to act boldly to implement just, science-based policies that achieve our climate targets.

State Senator Faith Winter represents Colorado’s Senate District 24. State Representative Dominique Jackson represents Colorado’s House District 42.