City Hall on Sustainability Sets County Emissions Reduction Targets
Local stakeholders gathered for a virtual town hall on sustainability Wednesday, June 16, to discuss plans and strategies to reach the county’s goal of significantly reducing carbon emissions in the decades to come.
Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard moderated the discussion and said those conversations should start to move away from decades-long drought and towards the long-term effects of climate change from a sustainability perspective.
“We know that Summit County is certainly suffering from the effects of climate change through a variety of different things – drought, wildfires, reduced snowpack, less water runoff.” Blanchard said. “… I can’t think of a single industry in Summit County that isn’t related to the outdoors.”
Blanchard also highlighted the county-wide climate action plan adopted in 2019, which aims to reduce the county’s emissions by 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
“Sometimes we set these goals as goals for the future, but if we don’t start now, then the future is upon us, and so we need to make sure we take action,” Blanchard said. “Real climate action requires that we, as a community, do things differently than before. … 2030 may seem like a long way from here, but we really need to implement these systematic changes to achieve these goals.
Blanchard then introduced the event’s speakers including Jess Hoover, High Country Conservation Center Climate Action Director, Mike Nathan, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area Sustainability Manager, Iffie Jennings, Xcel Area Manager Energy, and Michael Wurzel, Summit County Sustainability Coordinator.
Hoover said 35% of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions come from commercial energy use, 33% from transportation, 30% from residential energy use and 2% from waste.
She said after the United States announced it would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in 2017, the county wanted to show it still cares about climate change by creating the Action Plan. for the climate.
“I talk a lot about climate change – it’s my job to talk about climate change,” Hoover said. “But this week it seems especially relevant given that I’m sitting in my office, sweaty and wishing our office building maybe air conditioned, which is kind of crazy in Summit County. We are in the middle of a record heat wave, we have already had a handful of forest fires.
“Sometimes people have a hard time visualizing ‘what does climate change look like?’ because in the past it was referred to as a problem somewhere else. … Well, I’m here to tell you tonight that what’s happening right now is climate change in Colorado. It’s climate change in the American West. We live it and it is here.
Hoover said the United States and the European Union had recently set the goal of achieving full carbon neutrality by 2050, so it’s possible the county’s targets could result in larger reductions than originally anticipated. . She said changing emissions production takes time, so there may not be big changes in this year’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory – something that the conservation center does every three years.
Hoover also said that globally two-thirds of oil consumption is for transportation, and transportation has recently become the biggest source of emissions in Colorado and the United States.
Breckenridge and Frisco have already adopted the curatorial centre’s electronic vehicle readiness plan, and Hoover said they recently presented it to the county and Dillon. She said they will also present the plan to Silverthorne in late July.
She added that Summit County is in the top 10 communities for electric vehicle adoption nationwide, excluding the robust California market. The EV readiness plan aims to have 10,000 electric vehicles registered in the county by 2030 with at least 420 charging stations.
“This plan is not only good from a climate standpoint, but we are preparing ourselves as a destination community for a rapidly approaching future,” Hoover said.
Xcel Energy also has programs that will encourage customers to charge their electric vehicles at home as part of the company’s transportation and electrification plan, Jennings said.
Wurzel said the county officially opened its first three zero-emission Summit Stage buses last year. He said Summit Stage is also designing a new transit administration building / bus barn that will have enough power for a fully electric fleet.
He also said the county has been working to increase the efficiency of its buildings, partnering with Xcel Energy to conduct energy audits with ideas on how to improve efficiency. The county has added remotes, LED lighting, solar panels and improved HVAC systems to its facilities.
Wurzel also said the country tracks the amount of energy used by its 13 facilities on a monthly basis and also makes adjustments based on that.
“We really take care to operate our Summit County facility to an extremely high standard, which is really exciting,” said Wurzel.
Jennings said that Xcel Energy’s new resource plan aims to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2030. She said that so far Xcel has reduced its carbon emissions by 44% and that 2019, the company recorded its largest annual drop in carbon emissions of 10%. .
She said the company also recently filed its clean energy plan with the Colorado Utilities Commission this spring, which details the work needed to provide clean, affordable energy to the Colorado community.
“We look forward to continuing to achieve this goal through our collective goals,” said Jennings.
Xcel also aims to provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, Jennings said. She said the company is leveraging emerging technologies to bridge the gap between 2030 and 2050.
“We believe that the technology has evolved so rapidly over the past few years that the technology that we will need to close that gap will be available at that time, but we are continuing to research it,” Jennings said.
Jennings also said that Xcel aims to reduce its reliability on coal to 4% by 2030, with 16% reliability on natural gas and 80% on renewables.
Wurzel said learning about climate initiatives underway in the Summit community can bring optimism to what may appear to be a grim scenario. He said Summit County had some of the highest per capita emissions in the United States, and emissions to the atmosphere reached 419 parts per million – the highest level they have been in the past four million years.
“We really have enormous moral authority to take as much climate action as possible,” Wurzel said.