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Congress must embrace the national climate action plan

By Joe Neguse, Guest Commentary, The Denver Post eEdition, July 1, 2020

Last summer, Washington heard directly from Coloradans when the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis traveled to Colorado for the committee’s first — and only — official bipartisan field hearing. Committee members heard from federal scientists at our research laboratories who are studying our oceans, our earth systems and crafting innovative solutions for renewable energy, energy-efficient buildings, etc. They heard from our towns and cities, communities that are leading locally to lower their emissions and contribute to climate action. And they heard from Colorado activists, who demanded Congress take decisive and bold climate action.

This week the committee, on which I’ve been honored to serve as the only member from the Rocky Mountain West, submitted its official report to the U.S. Congress. The report is lengthy, but one thing is unmistakably clear: the voice of Coloradans — their ideas, their actions and their ingenuity — has been ingrained in a new national strategy for climate action. In Colorado, climate change is not abstract or distant. We have witnessed the impacts on our lands, our forests, our farms and in our national parks. We have seen rising temperatures, earlier snowmelt, increased flooding and erosion and more frequent wildfires and we have experienced a disproportionate level of damaging climate-related disasters.

As Coloradans, we have chosen to meet the crisis with action. Fifteen towns and counties (more than half of which are in my congressional district) have adopted 100% renewable electricity goals. In 2004, Coloradans adopted the first voter-approved state renewable energy standard. Our state has the eighth largest electric vehicle market in the nation, is home to roughly 60,000 clean energy jobs and many of the nation's leading scientists, activists, conservationists, and climate entrepreneurs. Wherever I go, as I meet with constituents and visit our communities, the state of our environment and the need for climate action is nearly always the top priority for Coloradans. Rather than fueling fear or inaction, the reality of a shortening runway and catastrophic consequences has sparked incredible ingenuity, innovation and commitment from Coloradans of all ages and backgrounds.

When I ran for Congress, I made clear that fighting climate change would be my first priority, which is why I worked to secure a seat on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. I wanted to ensure that Colorado had a seat at the table, and I’m proud that so many Colorado ideas are included within the pages of the committee’s report. The congressional climate action plan truly is a comprehensive report, which outlines climate change proposals for our public lands, for our infrastructure, for our energy systems, for our farmers and workers and for our future. And anyone who reads the report will quickly come to the same conclusion I have — that Colorado truly has a unique role to play in national and international conversations about the fate of our planet and the steps needed to create a greener, cleaner, resilient future that we can be proud to pass down to the next generation.

The plan includes our proposals to expand zero-emission vehicles and clean energy, revitalize our nation’s conservation corps, invest in regenerative agriculture research, safeguard scientific integrity, modernize our federal labs and protect the beautiful outdoor spaces Coloradans enjoy for generations to come. All of these ideas came straight from our communities and have been crafted by Coloradans to support and invest in the Colorado way of life that we love. From the scientists at our world class federal labs, to farmers across Fort Collins and Boulder, and from firefighters in Summit and Jefferson counties, to Colorado outdoorsman, outdoor retailers, and young activists — so many had a voice in the crafting of this report. Their ideas and ingenuity have ensured that Colorado is included, that our best ideas and bravest solutions can be modeled across the country and be put to use to solve this crisis.

Together we can, we must, and we will adapt, solve and act. Climate change is not the first time our nation or our globe has experienced unprecedented challenges. As we sit in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic right now, experiencing the massive public health consequences and economic hardships it has created, we see the severity and life-changing impacts a crisis of this scale will have on our state, our nation and our planet. Conversely, we also see that we are more adaptable as a society than we may have ever known. Now is the time to rebuild, and to recover with climate action at the core of our agenda. Now is the time to initiate bold change, to put the future of our children and the future of our planet at the center. The national climate action plan proposes a roadmap, and it is our job to make it a reality. Congress must swiftly act on these recommendations to begin to address the existential threat of our era. There is no time to waste.

 

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