The Ten Biggest Colorado Environmental Stories of 2019 — Westword

From Westword (Chase Woodruff):

There has always been a bit of a mismatch between Colorado’s environmentally friendly self-image, its knack for salesmanship, and the messier reality on the ground. We wax rhapsodic about escaping to the mountains for the weekend, then sit for hours in traffic in our gas-guzzling SUVs to get there. We wear $300 Patagonia jackets made from recycled polyester and boast one of the worst waste diversion rates in the country.

In 2019, some of these contradictions were more apparent than ever — and many of the biggest stories in the realm of environmental policy and activism involved attempts to reconcile them…

Colorado Prepares for a Clean-Energy Revolution…
Most of them didn’t receive a fraction of the attention that SB 181 did, but a slate of clean-energy bills passed by lawmakers in 2019 could end up having a much more transformative effect on Colorado’s economy. Legislation to set statewide goals for greenhouse gas emissions cuts, speed up the decarbonization of the electric sector, incentivize electric vehicle purchases and more passed out of the legislature and boosted the state’s efforts to tackle climate change.

…but a Denver Climate Tax Goes Up in Smoke
While climate activists celebrated some big wins at the state level in 2019, they were left frustrated by events on the other side of Civic Center Park, where Mayor Michael Hancock quashed an effort to put an energy tax on the ballot in order to better fund the city’s climate programs. In a compromise with city council members who supported the measure, Hancock agreed to boost climate funding in his 2020 budget and launch a climate action task force that will make recommendations — including for a possible tax measure — next year.

Youth Climate Strikes and the Greta Effect
The largest day of climate demonstrations in history saw more than 5,000 activists, many of them young people, march through the streets of downtown Denver and rally at the State Capitol, joining millions around the world to demand that governments take more aggressive action to combat the climate crisis. “We’re the generation that’s going to have to deal with years of irresponsible climate policy by outdated politicians,” high school student Amelia Gorman told Westword. “It’s going to really affect our future, so it’s our job to speak out about it now.”

The activist who helped inspire this global Youth Climate Strike movement, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, drew another big crowd when she visited Denver a few weeks later, while young Denverites like Thomas Lopez emerged as leaders in their own right, challenging Hancock on stage at the Sustainable Denver Summit in December. There’s a new generation of climate activists making their voices heard, and they’re only going to get louder.

Photos from the Climate Strike September 20, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.

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