Climate Initiatives takes bold, innovative, and collaborative actions to create systemic change that equitably addresses the global climate crisis and ensures quality of life in Boulder and beyond.
The City of Boulder is deeply committed to addressing the global challenge of climate change and has been taking meaningful actions since 2006 when our first Climate Action Plan was completed. As part of this early initiative, Boulder voters approved the nation’s first local carbon tax to fund emission reducing strategies. The Climate Initiatives department (Climate Initiatives) supports our community’s values and adopted policy goals by implementing equity-centered climate action planning, developing and implementing climate action programs and strategies, and conducting ongoing assessment, monitoring and reporting in the service of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and other pollutants, increasing the recapture of atmospheric carbon dioxide in living systems, reducing material consumption and associated emissions through increasing recycling and waste diversion, coordinating other municipal and community sustainability activities, and supporting city and community-based efforts that increase resilience, social justice, and sustain a healthy local environment. Climate Initiatives primarily focuses on local and regional climate action strategies guided by the city’s Climate Targets adopted in October 2021:
• Reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 when compared against a 2018 baseline
• Become a net-zero city by 2035 and
• Become a carbon-positive city by 2040.
Since 2005 (based on 2020 data), the city has reduced its GHG emissions by 36% and diverted 53% of its waste from landfills. Using the new 2018 baseline, the city has reduced GHG emissions (2020 data) by 21%. Data from 2021 will be available on Boulder Measures in Fall 2022.
Climate Initiatives implements its mission through strategic investment in a combination of regulatory and voluntary programs and in facilitating broad community and stakeholder engagement. Climate Initiatives’ work increases the city’s effectiveness in sustainability-related efforts within the community and the region through strategic partnerships with key partners and organizations. Many of these — such as the Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), University of Colorado, Boulder Valley School District (BVSD), Boulder County, Colorado Recycles, other cities, and state and federal agencies and legislators — are designed to inform climate and sustainability policy and programs. These regional efforts help to set the city’s state and federal policy agenda related to climate and sustainability, which in turn supports changes to legislation and regulations. The city also partners with national and international organizations such as the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA), the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) and the Resilient Cities Network to advance the community’s goals.
In 2023, Climate Initiatives will continue to work with the community to center equity, build resilience and expand our focus to improve our public lands. The goals and strategies are to address the current accelerated urgency of a changing climate, as detailed in the city’s Declaration on the Climate Crisis and supported by the most recent reports from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In addition to the many existing mitigation (emissions reduction) efforts, the focus on adaption (resilience) will be more central. All the work has the design principles of equity and climate justice at the center.
Funding sources for the Climate Initiatives department include the Climate Action Plan Tax Fund and the General Fund. The Climate Action Plan Tax Fund is supported through a voter-approved Climate Action Plan Tax, and the General Fund portion is comprised of two voter-approved funding sources, including the Trash Tax and the Utility Occupation Tax.
Operating Budget (FY2021-23)
Energy Systems efforts entail working with Boulder businesses, residents and key partners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efﬁciency, local renewable energy development and building and transportation electrification using a combination of education, incentives, technical assistance and regulatory requirements. Existing strategies are designed to support residents’ and businesses’ ability to reduce environmental impact, reduce costs, become more resilient to the impacts felt from a changing climate and become more inclusive and equitable.
The Circular Economy (CE) team works with key partners, the Boulder community and city departments to reduce the generation of waste and change the system of consumption. This is done through a combination of policy development, education, pilot programs, incentives, investments in zero waste facilities and technical assistance.
The Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) team works with both public and private sector landowners and managers to develop and implement actions that capture and cycle carbon into living ecosystems in ways that contribute to climate stabilization and enhance critical ecosystem services that enhance resilience to climate change. Key focus areas include utilizing urban forestry and other urban landscape management strategies to reduce urban heat extremes, particularly in historically marginalized and vulnerable segments of the community; reducing wildfire risk, improving the ability of terrestrial systems to store water and carbon; and managing habitats to improve biodiversity, overall ecological health and resilience, and as a natural means to pest control.
Climate work and climate resilience is happening across the city organization, not just a single department. Looking forward, emissions reductions and climate resilience cannot be addressed through siloed efforts. Like equity, resilience must be centered in all our work, not as something standing alone. Similarly, climate efforts span all aspects of our economy, from our use of energy to our food systems, to our use of material goods, to the way we interact with our natural systems. Unifying climate and resilience strategies across the organization will support an integrated approach to address the greatest needs.