Written by Kim Osborn Mullen
Climate activists were hopeful last year when Governor Jared Polis signed two bills into law aimed to push Colorado to quickly set up procedures to fight the climate crisis. HB 19-1261 committed the state to reduce GHG emissions incrementally until a 90% reduction is reached by 2050. SB 19-096 set a deadline of July 1, 2020 to propose regulations to reach those reductions. July 1 has come and gone with no regulations in place. The missed deadline prompted WildEarth Guardians to file a lawsuit on July 11 against the state.We interviewed coalition partner WildEarth Guardians Climate and Energy Program Director Jeremy Nichols about the bills and lawsuit.
Why are these bills so crucial to the Climate Crisis fight?
House Bill 19-1261 and Senate Bill 19-096, are historic in that they represent Colorado’s first ever legal commitment to confronting the climate crisis and doing so quickly. HB-1261 set forth greenhouse gas reduction targets of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050, and SB-96 required the state to propose rules to meet these targets by July 1, 2020. Taken together, these new laws give resounding authority to Governor Polis and his administration to take the bold actions needed to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and do our part to advance climate action. Most importantly, HB-1261 directed the state to prioritize reducing emissions where people and communities are disproportionately impacted, meaning not only do we need to reduce greenhouse gases, we need to prioritize environmental justice. This means the climate bills passed in 2019 ensure that Colorado not only takes effective climate action, but also achieves climate justice.
What does the lawsuit hope to achieve?
Our lawsuit targets the failure of Governor Polis and his administration to meet the deadline under SB-96, which required the administration to propose new regulations to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets of HB-1261 by July 1, 2020. It’s a fundamental legal duty that governments have to meet deadlines established by law, they can’t ignore them. Our suit is a straightforward challenge to this missed deadline.
We certainly aren’t arguing that Governor Polis doesn’t care about the climate or that nothing has been done to reduce greenhouse gases in Colorado. Our case simply highlights the fact that our progress so far isn’t even close to being on pace to meet the targets under HB-1261 and that’s not okay. Our hope is to get the administration on track to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals and achieve climate justice. With a 2025 deadline to reduce emissions by 26% fast approaching, every day matters. Time is of the essence and we hope to enforce that fact through our lawsuit.
Has the Governor responded?
The Governor hasn’t responded yet. Prior to filing suit, the Governor and his administration stated that they didn’t believe they were under any mandatory legal deadline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s unfortunate that rather than lean in and embrace the challenge of reducing emissions, the Polis administration has been playing games with legal interpretations and denying its obligations to move quickly and boldly. We are very concerned that even though the Governor has talked a good talk on climate, that he may be unwilling to fully walk the walk.
What’s next and how can 350 members keep the pressure on?
Our lawsuit is one of many tactics and strategies being advanced by climate advocates to ensure Colorado on track to confront the climate crisis. We need it all right now. In spite of our historic progress to date, we have to remain vigilant to ensure progress continues. We know there are powerful forces, like the oil and gas industry, actively opposing efforts to reduce emissions. We need to continue to do our part to hold the Governor accountable to standing up to these interests and doing the right thing. It means we need to keep sending letters, we need to show up to public meetings and proceedings to ensure climate is front and center in discussions around energy, health, and the environment, and we need to continue to engage, empower, and mobilize more engagement by our friends, families, and neighbors. More importantly, we need to ensure that those who are disenfranchised and voiceless in the development of climate policy are uplifted to ensure that climate action is just and equitable in Colorado.
Mark your calendars to attend the August 20th AQCC hearing to speak out in favor of bold action to reduce emissions now!
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