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Climate Action

picture of the blue sky and the sun with a caption that reads climate

 

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. The effects of a warming planet are already being felt in our city and around the world. From increases in wildfires and droughts to the spread of disease to worsening air quality, the evidence clearly shows that climate change is having a broad-reaching impact on our daily lives. Cities generate more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That makes us a key part of the climate solution. Denver is committed to do our part to ensure our children have a climate safe future.

Denver’s 80x50 Climate Action Plan defines how we will meet our long-term climate goal to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2050. This plan calls for deep decarbonization in buildings, transportation and electricity generation. Denver will continue to evaluate new high-impact strategies in these sectors as cost, policy and technology evolve.

Climate action refers to efforts to reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions. Examples include: increasing renewable energy use, upgrading and replacing equipment to energy-efficient models, informing consumers to make sustainable decisions, increasing transit ridership, and enhancing areas that accumulate and store carbon (such as trees).

Climate adaptation are the efforts to prepare for and adjust to the current and future impacts of climate change. Examples include: ensuring the availability of cooling centers in the face of extreme heat events and upgrading stormwater infrastructure to better withstand extreme rainfall events.

Climate action and adaptation strategies can be implemented simultaneously. Many strategies provide mutual benefits that help us adapt and lessen greenhouse gas emissions. 

80x50 Climate Action Plan

The 80x50 Climate Action Plan identifies interim carbon reduction goals, new targets for buildings, transportation, and electricity generation, and high-impact strategies for achieving deep decarbonization in each of these key sectors. The plan was developed after a thorough review of dozens of strategies, activities and best practices from many cities around the world. A robust stakeholder engagement process with national and regional experts helped to set interim targets and prioritize strategies. The plan is a living document that will evolve over time with changes in cost, technology and policy.

The Denver Climate Adaptation Plan outlines the key climate vulnerabilities the City faces and lays out agency actions to prepare for and address those vulnerabilities. Acting now to prepare for climate change can ensure future generations will enjoy clean air and water, economic opportunity, effective and efficient infrastructure, parks and open spaces, and a healthy environment that supports wellbeing.

Three top vulnerabilities are identified in the plan:

  1. An increase in temperature and urban heat island effect
  2. An increase in frequency of extreme weather events
  3. Reduced snowpack and earlier snowmelt

Read the 2014 Climate Adaptation Plan.

Read the 2015 Climate Adaptation Plan Update

  • Energize Denver assists large buildings to reduce their energy use. 
  • Home Energy is a resource page to help Denver residents prioritize energy upgrades at home and sign up for a free Home Energy Score
  • Electric Vehicle Education and Outreach is done through our “Pass Gas, Drive Electric” campaign.
  • Solar in Denver is a resource page dedicated to Denver’s solar history along with solar resources for residents and businesses.
  • Sustainable Neighborhoods Program supports neighborhoods in deepening their sustainability efforts, while getting support and recognition from the City. 
  • Certifiably Green Denver provides free sustainability advising services to Denver’s business community.
  • Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships invests in two programs designed to support energy efficient nonprofit facilities, the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program and ResourceSmart for Nonprofits.

  • Public Works Solid Waste Master Plan provides the City with a vision for Denver's future collection, transfer and disposal of solid waste, recyclables and organics. 
  • Public Works' Strategic Transportation Plan is a multi-modal plan to understand and address the current and future transportation needs in Denver.
  • Public Works' Mobility Action Plan will support the transportation choices people want to make and move more people, more efficiently and more safely.
  • The Denveright planning process will shape the future of land use, mobility, parks and recreational resources in Denver.

What does a GHG Inventory Do?

A GHG inventory serves two very important purposes:

  • Provides an understanding of all resource consumption and activities within a community that contribute to global emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Measures detailed community GHG emissions over time that can be aggregated with other communities for state, regional, or national level accounting.

Knowing our sources of emissions is critical in developing strategies to reduce our community-wide emissions to meet our climate goals. In some instances, like gas and diesel, consumption happens right here in our community. But the fuel comes from and is processed in areas outside our community – all of which have emissions of their own. In other cases, like food and waste, our community is the end user of a product, but emissions mostly occur when it is produced, distributed and thrown away. 

 

How does Denver collect data for its GHG Inventory?

Denver has consistently collected data from the electricity, heating, transportation, food, waste, and materials sectors.  In 2005, 2007, and 2009 through 2016, Denver utilized a Demand Centered Life Cycle Analysis methodology that was peer reviewed and published in a scientific journal. Prior to 2015 there was not a consistent method for reporting community-wide GHG emissions. Cities like Denver simply reported all known emissions according to where the emissions occurred. Because Denver had consistently tracked GHG emissions it was evident where emissions were falling and where we needed to take more action to drive further reductions. In 2015, international reporting entities finalized a new methodology for reporting emissions associated with communities, or local governments. While this new requirement changed what and how communities reported GHG data, it did not change the way communities counted or collected the foundational data for the inventory.

Beginning in 2015, and to meet national and global GHG reporting standards Denver started reporting in what is referred to as the “GPC format.” This new required reporting format allows for community emissions to be collected with other community emissions in a way that does not double-count emissions. The most important element of this process is that Denver is maintaining the collection of the same data it has since 2005. Denver must now simply apply a new “filter” of the data to report up to the global reporting agencies. 

 

What are Denver’s Biggest Sources of GHG Emissions?

Denver, like most large cities, has a dense built environment of large commercial buildings and homes. As a result, Denver’s largest source of emissions is from the electricity generation that powers our many buildings and homes. Heating energy from natural gas is also a large source of emissions but is just behind transportation fuels to round out the top three emissions sources in Denver. All told, electricity generation, transportation and heating account for roughly 90 percent of Denver’s basic reported emissions. Below are the three sector’s contributions to Denver’s GHG Inventory from 2005–2015.

See a graph of Denver's Community-wide Buildings and Energy Emissions (thousand MTCO2e)

See a graph of Denver's Community-wide Transportation Emissions (thousand MTCO2e)

 

What factors influence GHG emissions in Denver?

Denver can influence many of the drivers of emissions in the three biggest sectors of emissions (Electricity Generation, Transportation, Heating) through policy and programs. 

  • Demand reductions reduce the amount of energy we consume for a particular activity - like replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs.
  • Supply side changes change the amount of GHG emissions from the source of energy - like renewable energy or electric vehicles.

Some factors are outside of Denver’s control like:

  • Year to year weather differences – where a mild winter might require less heating, for example. 
  • Economic issues can influence occupancy rates of large commercial buildings or whether individuals drive a car or use public transportation. 

To better understand how all factors influence changes in emissions, Denver has partnered with ICLEI to help identify the various drives of change of emissions within Denver. The example below demonstrates drivers that changed emissions from 2005 – 2015. Note, this is only a comparison of the two years and does not reflect continual change within the time period.

See a graph of Denver's Drivers of Change in GHG Emissions 2005 vs 2015.

 

Are Denver’s Emissions Going Down?

Denver’s total GHG emissions have gone down from their highest point in 2007. However, some sectors have fallen more than others. In the electricity generating sector, emissions have fallen the most due to additional renewable energy developed by Xcel Energy, as well as increased use of renewable energy and energy efficiency by Denver residents and businesses. Natural gas and transportation fuel (gas and diesel) consumption have decreased slightly as well. These decreases have occurred during a time in which Denver added over 100,000 people. 

 

Do you report all the data you collect?

No. Reporting requirements have evolved since 2005 to ensure better accuracy and eliminate double counting of emissions (see “How does Denver collect data for its GHG inventory). Even though Denver and other communities collect more data than they report, some data may better inform strategies and programs even if those data are not reported as part of the official GHG Inventory.

 

Where can I find Denver’s GHG inventory?

Denver is working to upload all inventories to a new website where users can get a more detailed look at the sectors and subsectors of emissions that Denver tracks. Users can look at how carbon is tracked from sources like energy generation, to site specific data like commercial or residential sectors.  The website is intended provide a tool for the community to understand Denver’s sources of emissions. 

 

Can I see your historical data?

This chart shows annual GHG emissions in Denver for years when the City has conducted a greenhouse gas inventory. 1990 is the baseline year for our 2020 climate goal. This data is based on our old Demand Centered Life Cycle Analysis methodology. 

Denver has a long history of leadership on climate change. The City conducted its first greenhouse gas inventory in 2005, has reported to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) since 2012, released its first Climate Action Plan in 2007 and its first Climate Adaptation Plan in 2014.

Denver was also one of the first cities to sign on to the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the ambitious Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda, and the Global Covenant of Mayors.  Mayor Hancock reinforced that Denver will remain committed to the target of the Paris Climate Agreement by signing the We Are Still In pledge.

2015 Climate Action Plan

The 2015 Climate Action Plan (CAP) integrated climate science, an updated greenhouse gas inventory, and greenhouse gas reduction strategies to meet the 2020 Climate Goal to reduce emissions below 1990 levels or to 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Denver is on track to exceed its 2020 goal.

Read the 2015 Climate Action Plan here and the Executive Summary here.

2007 Climate Action Plan

Released in 2007, Denver’s first Climate Action Plan set a goal to reduce GHG emissions by 10 percent per capita below 1990 levels. Denver exceeded this goal in 2010.

View the 2007 Climate Action Plan here

Using Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios, DDPHE paired with the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) to make Denver-specific projections to help residents better understand how climate change will affect their lives.

The results — released on September 22, 2016 — project that the Denver metro area will see an increase in the frequency and extent of extreme heat days by mid-century if significant global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not made.

If heat-trapping emissions continue increasing, the Denver metro area is projected to experience an average seven days a year at 100° or hotter by 2050, and more than a full month’s worth — 34 days a year — later in this century.

Denver has also created a Heat Vulnerability Index that identifies the neighborhoods most vulnerable to extreme heat.

This graphic features 95+ degree days per year projections in Denver. These figures are based on current projections if no significant global action is taken.