Taking action to combat climate change

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Not a day goes by that the effects of a warming planet are not in the news. Fires, floods, drought and famine all across the globe. Here at home, Denver is experiencing more triple digit days, our water sources are drying faster than normal and the return of the brown cloud hurts our air quality and harms our most vulnerable residents.

Fortunately, Denver voters took a bold step with the passage of initiative 2A — which created the Climate Protection Fund, a $40 million a year fund generated from sales tax, to mitigate impacts of climate change, build resiliency and adapt to changes. Denver is only the second city in the United States to have a taxpayer-supported fund dedicated to climate action. I was proud to sponsor the legislation to put the initiative on the ballot and work with stakeholders to develop climate policy that is focused on equity.

Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) recently released its 5-year plan designed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. In just the past year, the Climate Protection Fund has funded more than $7 million in projects, from providing electric bikes to essential workers, to funding six different organizations that provide training for jobs in the green economy.

Some highlights of the fund include:

• $18 million in community solar, with 30% of the power generated helping pay bills for Denver Public Schools families with lower incomes.

• Nearly 1,000 paid positions in workforce development programs designed to give under-resourced residents a clear pathway to the quality, in-demand jobs of the future.

• Planting more than 2,000 trees to increase tree canopy in climate-vulnerable neighborhoods.

• A free, on-demand micro-shuttle to help Montbello residents move around their neighborhood and connect to transit.

• Co-creating climate and environmental justice solutions with historically underrepresented communities.

• Retrofitting the Forum Apartments to an all-electric building, improving the health, safety and comfort of residents experiencing homelessness.

More than half of the Climate Protection Fund’s first-year investments directly benefit our most climate-vulnerable residents, surpassing its mandate to direct at least 50% of the funds towards those communities.

Some of these programs include:

• Rebates for e-bikes and e-cargo bikes to replace car trips, covering up to 100% of the cost. This program is extremely popular — the last release of rebates ran out in less than 24 hours — so be sure to check denvergov.org/climate for more information on when rebates will be available again.

• Rebates for energy efficient heating and cooling, covering up to 100% of the cost.

• Free e-bike libraries for essential workers in the Westwood and Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods.

• Reduced costs for solar panel installations.

• Paid workforce training programs.

• Free reusable bags (contact our office at district7@denvergov.org if you are interested in receiving free bags).

• Funding to assist neighborhoods and small businesses to go green.

Initiatives sponsored and passed by city council:

• Implementation of Energize Denver. This will provide more than $1 billion in benefits to the city by drastically cutting buildings’ reliance on fossil fuels with energy efficiency improvements and strategic electrification of all existing large buildings. Buildings and homes are responsible for 64% of the greenhouse gas emissions in Denver, so this legislation is a major step towards achieving net zero emissions.

• Bring Your Own Bag, led by city council and implemented by CASR to reduce the use of plastic bags.

• #SkiptheStuff, led by city council and implemented by CASR to reduce the use of single-use items when ordering takeout or delivery.

• Expanded waste collection services, which will change billing for solid waste customers in 2023 by implementing a fee on the amount of trash discarded, and provide free and weekly compost and recycling. This direct economic incentive will decrease the amount of waste we send to the landfill, a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more, visit www.denvergov.org/expandedcollection.

During my seven years on council, I have been a passionate advocate for implementing bold changes for the environment. We have to do everything that we can as a city to combat climate change, and we have to take that action now.

Jolon Clark represents District 7 on Denver City Council. He can be reached at jolon.clark@denvergov.org or 720-337-7777.

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