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Ritter announces plans to reduce carbon footprint

Officials have mixed feelings on plan’s local effect

Colorado governor Bill Ritter has recently unveiled a plan that he hopes will, over the next half-century, reduce pollution that causes global warming. Ritter says global warming’s effect on the environment will eventually take its toll on the economy and people of Colorado.



Governor Ritter’s Climate Action Plan calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the current level by 2020, with further cuts by mid-century, and he is asking all of Colorado to join the effort and take responsibility. Whether that means a change in lifestyle for some individuals or a change in management for municipalities as a whole is unknown.
“Climate change is our generation’s greatest environmental challenge,” Ritter said during a press conference at Coors Field on Monday, November 5. “It threatens our economy, our western way of life and our future. It will change every facet of our existence, and unless we address it and adapt to it, the results will be catastrophic for generations to come.”
To achieve the 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases  by 2020, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, Ritter says he will put stricter pollution controls on power plant smokestacks, phasing in emissions monitoring for other big greenhouse gas producers.
He is also considering enacting pollution restrictions on new passenger vehicles; rather than heavily monitoring old cars, Ritter suggests driving less and using more public transportation options. He also advocates creating more incentives for the clean energy economy to grow.
Such a plan would make Colorado the 18th state in the nation to adopt greenhouse gas reduction standards. Other states with similar plans include New York, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon.
“Today Colorado joins our western neighbors… in pioneering cost-effective solutions to global warming,” says Vickie Patton, senior attorney for the national non-profit organization Environmental Defense.
However, Ritter’s plan marks a first in asking the agricultural industry to manage wasted carbon and methane better. The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is supporting the plan and has pledged the use of eco-friendly farming techniques on 175,000 acres.
Ritter’s plan would also make Colorado the 17th state to adopt pollution standards for new cars. The Colorado Automobile Dealer’s Association has openly criticized this part of Ritter’s plan because they say it may force consumers into smaller, less powerful cars unsuited for mountainous terrain.
The Climate Action Plan also includes the development of more energy efficiency and global warming awareness programs, as well as incentives for small towns and industries to join the fight. More than 500 mayors (including those from Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte) from all 50 states, representing 66 million people, have already signed the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Mt. Crested Butte mayor Chris Morgan says Ritter’s Climate Action Plan is basically a set of goals and objectives he would like to see the state achieve. “It’s sort of like a community plan at this point,” Morgan says. “It’s the legislation that follows that will really determine how this is executed.”
Morgan says while reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 20 percent is a nice goal, there are both good and bad ways to reach that objective. Morgan says he would like to see the governor going after the “low-hanging fruit” such as incentives for green building and encouraging the use of compact fluorescent bulbs.
Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker says her town is on the right track, but if Ritter’s plan ends up forcing small towns like Crested Butte to curb pollution, additional funding may be needed to cope with new mandated programs.
“Crested Butte has taken aggressive steps,” Parker says, citing the town’s green building program and Renewable Energy Mitigation Program. “But to do any more we’re going to need help,” Parker says, pointing out that a town of 1,500 has limited resources to meet statewide goals. Parker says Crested Butte did send a letter of support in favor of this type of legislation.
Office of Resource Efficiency (ORE) director Gesa Michel says she hasn’t heard much about the details of the plan, but has seen a shift in the administration of the governor’s office over past three months. Michel says a number of new people have been hired at the state level to tackle environmental issues, including a representative for the Western Slope who coordinates the relationships of environmental groups like ORE and the state government.
Michel says the changes are helping to bring the government “a bit closer to home. Often times rural areas feel left aside,” she says.
High Country Citizens’ Alliance Climate and Clean Energy program coordinator Brittney Holder says she sees the governor’s new plan focusing more on the education and responsibility of individuals rather than towns or organizations as a whole.
For individuals, that means using tried-and-true energy reduction techniques such as switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs or driving an environmentally friendly car. “Our community is pretty aware and conscious of how they tread on the environment,” Holder says, and for some Ritter’s plan may seem like a “no-brainer.”
However, Holder says the whole energy efficiency trend is still somewhat new—not everyone has adapted to an energy-efficient lifestyle and Ritter’s plan may bring more on board. “It’s going to take a shift in lifestyle… For some it’s going to be a wake-up call,” Holder says.
According to the report, greenhouse gas emissions grew 35 percent in Colorado between 1990 and 2005. Electricity production is the biggest contributor at 36 percent, followed by automobiles and transit systems at 23 percent.
Most of Ritter’s new plan will be accomplished through executive order, but some elements, such as pollution controls for new cars, may require legislation. The governor’s office expects that some parts of the plan will be implemented as soon as 2010, with new legislation seen a soon as next year.

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