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Over the past few years, science, awareness and recognition of the effect humans are having on the planet has evolved. From increases in droughts and extreme weather events, to public health concerns and the economic impacts related to infrastructure, the evidence clearly shows communities across the globe are experiencing the consequences of a warming planet. 

When Denver released its original Climate Action Plan in 2007, the City became among the first large American cities to recognize the potential threats and broad-reaching impacts of climate change.

Since then, the City has continued to lead in municipal climate planning. By measuring tracking and setting goals for the reduction of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, the City leads the way in ensuring that economic investments consider the impact on our climate.

Denver was one of the first cities to sign on to the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and recently joined the more ambitious Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda. In addition, Denver released the 2020 Sustainability Goals in 2013, the 2014 Climate Adaptation Plan, and most recently the 2015 Climate Action Plan.

Since 2009, Denver has conducted annual GHG inventories to closely monitor changes from year to year. The data is used to quantify emissions from different sectors. This information helps track the effectiveness of programs and to identify future opportunities.

In 2013, Denver’s GHG emission were below those of 2005, declining from 13.20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mt-CO2e) to 12.99 million mt-CO2e.

Denver’s emissions trend has mirrored national trends, responding to impacts such as economic activity, efficiency gains, population, and weather.

Using the original 2005 inventory and historical data from 1990, Denver has estimated emissions from 1990 through 2004, as well as a business as usual forecast through 2020.

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. 

The 2015 Climate Action Plan (CAP) integrates the most recent climate science, an updated GHG inventory, and GHG reduction strategies to meet the 2020 climate goal. It also sets a new long-term goal to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.

The CAP includes a variety of strategies that span multiple agencies and partners within the City and County of Denver. It also includes state, regional, and federal actions that align with the City’s goals.

Top strategies to meet Denver’s 2020 Climate Goal:

  • Improve Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Energy used in Denver buildings is the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 64 percent of core emissions. By engaging stakeholders, the City aims to cut emissions in the building sector by as much as 25 percent by 2020. 
  • Lowering the Electricity Emissions Factor – Denver’s sole electricity provider, Xcel Energy, has committed to incorporate more renewable and low-carbon energy sources into its electricity portfolio. From 2005 to 2014, Xcel reduced its carbon emissions by 26 percent.
  • Strategic Land-Use and Transportation Development –Denver has set a 2020 goal to reduce single-occupant vehicle community travel to no more than 60 percent of all trips, a reduction of roughly 15 percent from the 2012 level. Mass transit infrastructure, supporting sustainable growth and urban infill, and encouraging shifts in travel behavior will be essential in the updated 2016 Strategic Transportation Plan

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

The 2014 Climate Adaptation Plan provides a collaborative path forward to protect what we cherish. The plan outlines the key climate vulnerabilities the City faces and lays out agency actions to prepare for and address those vulnerabilities. Taking action now to prepare for climate change can ensure future generations will enjoy economic opportunity, effective and efficient infrastructure, parks and open spaces, and an environment conducive to supporting residential health and well-being.

These three impacts 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 here

Released in 2007, Denver’s first Climate Action Plan set a goal to reduce GHG emissions by 10 percent per capita below 1990 levels. At the time, this was equivalent to an overall GHG reduction of 3 percent. Denver exceeded this goal in 2010 due to strategies in the energy sector, with reductions in buildings and transportation.

View the 2007 Climate Action Plan here