Denver Climate Initiative in the works: would fund efficiency, heating system transition, and job training

On June 1st 2017 Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock released the following statement in anticipation of the White House pulling out of the Paris climate accord, “… A decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement would threaten every American community’s health and safety, not to mention impact our global alliances. Disengagement and failure to act not only demonstrates a lack of leadership on climate change, but it forfeits substantial opportunities to boost GDP, create thousands of good paying clean energy jobs and improve health.

“Climate change is a serious threat to our economy and way of life in Colorado, as we see increasing wildfires, flooding, drought and decreasing snow cover. Poor air quality and extreme heat impacts public health, especially our most vulnerable populations.

“Denver has been a leader in combating climate change and in growing the clean energy economy. We will not back down from our commitment to address this global threat and will continue the pledge to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement even in the absence of federal leadership.”

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in 2018 that warned there are only 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The authors of the report say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the targets and goals set forth in the Paris Climate Accord.


  • In order to ensure that Denver proactively works to ensure that we meet all science-based targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions based on the recommendations of the IPCC and live up to our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord we would:
    • Establish the Office of Climate, Resiliency, and Sustainability (OCRS) as a new agency within the city that focuses on and elevates the development, management, evaluation, and implementation of plans and programs related to climate mitigation, resiliency, and sustainability in Denver.  All climate change mitigation and sustainability efforts will be transferred from the Department of Public Health and Environment Climate Action Team and Office of Sustainability to the newly created OCRS.
    • Refer to Denver voters a pollution tax on natural gas and electricity usage in residential, commercial and industrial buildings to fund the work of the OCRS.
  • Funding
    • Denver’s first carbon tax dedicated to addressing climate change
    • Establishes a new excise tax on electricity and natural gas for residential, industrial and
      commercial users
    • A tax per kilowatt of electricity used and therm of natural gas used at the following rates:
      • Electricity rate: $0.005 per kilowatt
      • Natural gas: $0.04 per therm
    • The tax will generate a minimum of $40 million annually
    • The tax increase for an average residential user would be $47 a year or $4 a month.
    • As a comparison, Boulder is the only other city with a carbon tax on utilities but also has various other environmental taxes for climate mitigation and sustainability efforts that Denver does not have. In total, the tax burden for the average residential user in Boulder is approximately $160 per resident per year or four times that of the proposed Denver carbon tax.
    • Per the Chicago Booth Review, the externality (social, health, etc.) cost of carbon is $41 per ton in the U.S. In European markets, the social cost of carbon is €27. In this bill, electric is charged $6.00 a ton and natural gas is $7.55 a ton for carbon.
  • Equity
    • All efforts and expenditure of funds shall be evaluated through an equity lens on a sliding scale with larger incentives, grants, or subsidies for low-income households, and must be expended on the following:
      • Workforce Development (targeting economically disadvantaged and traditionally underemployed workers, including people of color, women, persons with disabilities, the chronically underemployed, and retraining workers transitioning from dirty energy jobs to clean energy jobs)
      • Residential climate action (incentives to increase energy and water efficiency, electrification, install solar panels and battery storage, and reduce carbon pollution from homes and multifamily buildings.)
      • Commercial and industrial climate action (incentives to increase energy and water efficiency, electrification, install solar panels and battery storage, and reduce carbon pollution from commercial and industrial buildings.)
      • Transportation carbon pollution reduction (incentives for electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, reduction in total vehicle miles traveled, and mode shift education and outreach.)
      • Adaptation to prepare for and respond to changing climate
      • Staffing for the OCRS
    • Additionally the tax would fund a one-to-one match for the LEAP program allowing it to cover more low-income households and provide a defacto exemption for low income households from the tax.
    • Utilities customers that enroll in a 100% renewable electricity program like Wind Source, Renewable Connect, and Solar Rewards or equivalent programs would be exempt from the electricity tax
  • Oversight – The OCRS would have two oversight boards.
    • The science advisory board will advise on goals, strategies, and IPCC recommendations.
    • The community steering committee will oversee grant funds and how the grants are distributed, ensuring funds are equitably distributed back to the community.

Other Cities

  • More than 1,200 mayors, governors, and education and business leaders pledged to abide by the terms of the Paris accord.
  • The New York City Council passed wide-ranging legislation to fight climate change known as the “Climate Mobilization Act,” a package of seven bills. The bills’ centerpiece requires buildings over 25,000 square feet to cut climate emissions 40% by 2030 and more than 80% by 2050. The legislation also requires green roofs; creates a Property Assessed Clean Energy financing mechanism for commercial property owners; simplifies the applications for wind turbine installation; and helps the city move towards shutting down its 24 gas-fired power plants in the city and replacing them with energy storage and renewable power. (
  • Portland: The incorporation of equity considerations in climate action plans is an effort that has been growing for the past decade, resulting in a “Climate Action through Equity” plan in 2016. The working group identified nine equity considerations to be included in the Climate Action Plan, which are: shared benefits, accessibility, engagement, capacity building, alignment and partnership, relationship building, economic opportunity and staff diversity, and accountability. To address social equity, the City is working to increases access to transit options including sidewalks and bike lanes; reduce exposure to pollution and extreme heat; improve access to natural resources and parks; and reduce housing and energy costs for low-income communities.
  • San Francisco: Since 2008, each of the city’s scores of departments has been required to submit climate action plans as required in San Francisco’s environment code. Current is to reach “zero waste” by 2020; 50 percent of all trips in the city being undertaken on “sustainable transportation,” use of 100 percent renewable energy; and a bevy of plans to protect and augment the city’s tree canopy
  • Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan serves as a tool for local government and planners that identifies vulnerabilities, prioritized actions, and integrated policy initiatives to create a clear–though challenging–path forward for the region. The RCAP includes a broad set of best practices to guide implementation of emission reduction and resilience-building actions that each jurisdiction can implement. • Houston is by far the country’s biggest municipal user of green power. It annually uses almost 1.1 billion kWh of solar and wind power, representing 89 percent of its total electricity use.