Boulder wants goal of cutting greenhouse gas 80 percent by 2050

Source: By Erica Meltzer, Denver Post • Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013

The city of Boulder is set to adopt a goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Meeting that new goal, which is expected to be adopted by the City Council next year, will require an “unprecedented level of action,” a city staff memo said.

The goal is aimed at Boulder doing its part to cut man-made emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that have been linked to climate change.

“Accomplishing a goal of this magnitude will require very significant changes — both locally and regionally/nationally — from a high-carbon-based economic and social system to a low-carbon one,” the memo said.

Achieving an 80 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the same goal adopted by Portland, Ore., would require Boulder residents to cut their electricity use by a quarter by 2020 and in half by 2030. They would have to reduce their travel by car from an average of 20 miles a day in 2013 to less than 4 miles in 2050.

Roger Pielke Jr., of the University of Colorado’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, said Boulder’s climate commitment is more an expression of values than a realistic goal.

“How much effort, cost, political capital, etc., does Boulder wish to deploy to demonstrate its commitment to an ethical position?” he said. “This is really what the debate is about.”

Boulder officials say they are serious about the goal. “We know this is the direction that larger human society has to take, or we’re cooked,” said Brett KenCairn, a senior environmental planner for the city. “It’s the communities that take early action that are going to be social, economic and environmental leaders.”