From The Colorado Sun (Brian Eason):
Environmental activists and lawmakers insist there’s a mandate for aggressive action. They point to Gov.-elect Jared Polis’ huge win on a platform that included a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, and to the 1.1 million votes for Proposition 112 that would have limited oil and gas drilling near neighborhoods. But the political right and energy interests see it differently, suggesting the overwhelming defeat of the proposition is justification for the status quo.
In the middle, the new Democratic governor and legislative majorities in the House and Senate are wary about pushing too far outside the mainstream — as the party did in 2014, the last time it held the trifecta at the statehouse – and losing its support from voters in the next election.
As a result, the early mood among policymakers seems to favor incremental progress this legislative session rather than the more aggressive approach that experts say is needed to avert catastrophic impacts from climate change. A national climate assessment released in November by the federal government concluded that time is running out to prevent widespread natural disasters that could cost the United States a tenth of its economic production by 2100.
Still, the fact that climate change is atop the legislative agenda at all marks a dramatic shift in Colorado, where the oil and gas industry’s influence as an economic driver in the state also has given it considerable power to blunt tougher regulations.
“We have about 10 to 12 years to address this or we are looking at serious catastrophic impacts. And Colorado, because of our geography and the importance of water with longer summers and less snowpack, we are at the tip of that spear,” said House Speaker-elect KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat who supported Proposition 112 and called climate change her top priority entering the legislative session.
“I don’t know the approach yet, but I know I want to engage various industries in figuring it out,” she added.
A push to limit carbon
For Conservation Colorado, step one is clear: the state should treat carbon dioxide the way it does other harmful air pollutants.
“Carbon’s a pollutant,” said Kelly Nordini, the environmental advocacy group’s executive director. “We need to set a limit on that pollution and say as a state how we’re going to limit that carbon pollution.”
If the state does that, the question becomes how aggressively do regulators move to limit emissions. The “Climate Blueprint,” published by Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates, recommends a market-based solution, such as a “cap-and-trade” program or a tax that would make it costly for industries that don’t take steps to reduce carbon emissions on their own.
But while Polis supported the idea of a carbon tax in the election, it’s not clear that the administration or state lawmakers have the appetite to install the first one in the nation.
Instead, State Sen.-elect Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat and incoming chairwoman of the transportation and energy committee, says to expect legislation to address a lot of “small things that add up to something big” in combating climate change.