Feb 19, 2020
Denver - Mayor Michael B. Hancock today announced his appointment of Grace Rink, a leader in the sustainability field with nearly two decades of experience working on climate issues, as Denver’s first Executive Director of the new Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency.
“Climate change represents the greatest environmental challenge to our planet, and while leadership at the federal level is lacking, states and cities are moving to take action. Denver is taking a major step forward with this new office and Grace’s leadership, Mayor Hancock said. “I also want to acknowledge City Council President Jolon Clark’s passion for this work, and his efforts to push Denver into the forefront of those cities that are addressing climate strategies at the local level.
As Executive Director, Rink and the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency will work to engage the community in efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, safeguard our historically marginalized communities of color who are disproportionally affected by the health impacts of climate change, power our city with 100 percent renewable electricity, and ensure environmental justice and equity as Denver transitions to carbon-free energy and transportation systems.
“The need for cities to take a leadership role in addressing climate change has never been more important, because this is where the on-the-ground work is being done and real progress is being made,” Rink said. “Denver has been leading the way and is taking the steps necessary to shape this work, and I want to thank Mayor Hancock and the Denver climate team for this opportunity to advance those efforts and make some real, positive impacts on communities and in people’s lives.”
Rink is currently President & CEO of Quercus Consulting, the top-grossing woman-owned sustainability consulting firm in the Chicago metropolitan area. As President & CEO, Quercus has been the leading sustainability consultant for metro Chicago local governments, including Lake County, IL, the City of Highland Park, the Chicago Housing Authority, and multiple City of Chicago Departments. Rink led the development of the nation's first multi-jurisdictional RFP for solar power covering Lake County and 11 municipalities; managed implementation of a solid waste and food scrap diversion program for the Lake County Jail, resulting in a waste reduction of over 50 percent; and conducted multiple economic impact studies of environmentally beneficial transitions, including electric vehicles and energy efficiency rebates, demonstrating significant financial benefits to the local economy.
Prior to her ownership of Quercus Consulting, Rink served as a Senior Project Manager for AECOM (2007-2012), where she provided sustainability consulting – including leading multiple sustainability plans and studies – in the areas of water, transportation, environment, planning and architecture for Chicago-area local governments and LEED certified Silver and Gold projects. From 2001-2007, Rink served as the Assistant Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Environment where she managed Greencorps Chicago, a green jobs training program, and the Chicago Center for Green Technology, the nation’s first LEED Platinum municipal building.
Rink will assume her role as Chief Climate Officer for the City and County of Denver on March 16, 2020.
Denver has been at the forefront of driving climate action at the local level. The city’s 80x50 Climate Action Plan was adopted to drive action on the long-term greenhouse gas reduction goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050, including converting the city to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. To lay the groundwork for that effort, the city has accelerated adoption of electric vehicles, which will help clean up our air; installed charging stations all over town; changed our parking system to provide favored status for electric vehicles; and committed to converting the city’s fleet vehicles to electric vehicles are applicable. Denver is also implementing a project to deploy cutting-edge air pollution sensor technology to create a city-wide air quality monitoring network at public schools, resulting in better informed policy decisions using environmental and health data.
With the conversion of 44,000 street lights to high efficiency LED bulbs, the city will save millions of taxpayer dollars annually, and achieve a 50 percent reduction in energy use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and no carbon footprint. Through the Energize Denver program, the city incentivized more green buildings through a “stretch” code that rewards building owners for going beyond Denver’s minimum requirements, and improvements to the Green Roof Ordinance have given building owners much more flexibility in how to achieve the results supported by the voters. These actions and more led Denver to become one of the first cities in the U.S. to achieve platinum-level certification in the new LEED for Cities program.