Reasons for hope about the climate change crisis

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Reasons for hope about the climate change crisis | OPINION

By Chris Hansen


Climate change hits Colorado harder every year. Between increasingly severe wildfires and more extreme and destructive storms, unpredictable growing seasons for farmers and a devastating drought endangering our water supply, the impact climate change is having on our landscapes and communities is unmistakable. And it’s only getting worse.

Scientists recently reported that 2023 was the world’s hottest year in recorded history. As a lawmaker and parent, it’s evident we have to do better. Colorado legislators were elected to make progress on the biggest challenges our communities face — and we’ve heard loud and clear the demand for action on the climate crisis.

The good news is this legislative session, we have an opportunity to build on previous progress and exemplify to other states what is possible to prevent the worst consequences of climate change and ensure an equitable clean-energy transition. I’ve introduced a suite of new legislation — SB24-207SB24-212 and SB24-218 — which, if enacted, will allow Colorado to make proactive investments in the local grid to keep up with population and economic growth while prioritizing action to address our climate shortfalls.

In keeping with our state’s independent spirit, Colorado is blazing our own trail to become a national leader on climate policy. From accelerated investments in clean energy, to enacting better consumer protections and embracing new technologies, bills signed into law last year are part of a comprehensive climate strategy that, combined with the bills Democrats are proposing this session, will benefit Coloradans environmentally and financially.

In 2023, my bill to improve greenhouse gas reduction established a multi-faceted approach, recognizing we need every part of the economy to act to mitigate the climate crisis, along with supporting action from individuals, businesses, and state regulators. Created as the result of countless discussions over two years with Coloradans sharing many diverse perspectives, the legislation pushes our state to reach 100% net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, an ambitious, yet achievable, goal that aligns with the global scientific consensus.

The bill also establishes a first-of-its-kind price on GHG emissions, incentivizes the purchase of electric lawn equipment to reduce the use of small, but highly polluting, fossil-fuel powered engines, and penalizes utilities if they are too slow to incorporate local clean-energy projects.

This year, we are looking to go further. SB24-212 requires state agencies, at the request of a local or tribal government, to provide technical support concerning renewable energy projects like wind and solar and coordinate with local experts to create a set of best-practice local codes for new development. This work will ensure the protection of high priority habitats while providing pathways for renewable energy siting to exist in areas with suitable wind and solar resources.

Opening the door for more people to access renewable energy technology like solar is also an important step in order to meet our climate goals. SB24-207 will connect more Coloradans to community solar, and complements the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) historic investments in scaling clean-energy technologies signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Colorado will be well positioned to benefit from federal incentives. SB24-207 puts Colorado in a strong position to leverage hundreds of millions of federal dollars from the IRA to expand access to the clean-energy transition, upgrade Colorado’s electric grid and reduce energy costs through Colorado’s community solar program.

Expanding access to clean-energy technologies also requires access to a robust grid, which means Colorado needs to urgently improve our distribution systems. The third bill in this package, SB24-218 includes a series of policy changes to build the local electric grid of the future. Upgrading our distribution systems will help communities and utility consumers electrify heating and cooling in buildings, accelerate the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and solar energy and reduce air pollution.

These policies are coming at a critical time for our state. Time is short, and climate-denying interests are lined up against us, working hard to stop our progress in its tracks. With just weeks left for Gov. Jared Polis to sign the bills into law, we can’t let this opportunity slip through our hands.

As a father, this work is deeply personal for me. My work in the legislature aims to use every tool at our disposal to make a difference and I am always looking for new innovative ways to move our state forward. I’ve fought tooth and nail to make these urgently-needed investments now. These measures will bring our state that much closer to addressing the climate crisis and leaving a better planet for my children and yours.

Chris Hansen, D-Denver, represents District 31 in the Colorado Senate.