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Top-down approaches are not the best way to protect Colorado’s environment

Nov 5, 2020 by AFP

Whether we are enjoying the breathtaking Garden of the Gods or skiing the celestial slopes of Vail, Coloradans have a deep appreciation for our natural surroundings. Being good stewards of our environment will always be a priority and something all Coloradoans can agree on.

However, not all paths promising environmental progress help achieve those ends. Top-down climate policies like the Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap are costly, regressive and ineffective.

We should be wary of policy proposals that seek to implement unproductive, top-down approaches that do little for our environment, foment corporate welfare and, in the process, hurt the least fortunate in society.  Like Californians have come to learn.  

An infeasible roadmap to reduce pollution 

The Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap is the wrong approach because, rather than focusing on cost-effective, targeted interventions that deliver the greatest benefits, the plan offers the same bureaucratic approaches that have already proved ineffective at reducing greenhouse gases. 

In addition to making rosy assumptions about the impact of “cap and tax” policies that are completely detached from market realities, the roadmap also expands government mandates and raises energy costs for all Coloradans. This is especially harmful to those already struggling to make ends meet.

Simply put, the plan allows more rent-seeking and corporate welfare to run rampant in Colorado.

The reality of Colorado’s progress reducing carbon emissions. 

From 2007 to 2019, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by roughly 15 percent, while global emissions have increased by more than 20 percent. The International Energy Agency has recognized the U.S. as the largest global reducer of energy-related carbon emissions from 2018 to 2019. 

Our state has reduced per capita energy-related carbon emissions roughly three times more than California and two times more than New York. States without top-down climate policies, including Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Wyoming, have done even better, achieving more than five times the reductions of California and roughly twice that of Colorado.

This is promising news, but you wouldn’t know it reading Gov. Polis’ plan.

The less fortunate pay the price 

The roadmap hidden taxes are a burden that falls heavily on the electricity and transportation sectors, and the evidence from regional climate initiatives suggests this approach doesn’t work. 

In the Northeast, environmental justice groups oppose a similar cap-and-tax transportation initiative, citing concerns on how regressive, opaque and ineffective the plan is. 

Gov. Polis’ advocacy for regressive taxes is not only meaningless when it comes to environmental progress; it also has grave implications for lower-income households. 

Raising energy prices disproportionately hurts those who are already experiencing energy poverty, which is defined as households spending 10 percent or more of their income on energy-related expenses. 

In Colorado, more than 232,000 households were experiencing energy poverty in 2019, spending between 12 and 22 percent of their income on annual energy needs.

A 2020 analysis from MIT shows that top-down decarbonization efforts, like those suggested in the roadmap, will cost the lowest-income American families hundreds of dollars per year on their electricity bills. 

Even before the pandemic, less than one-third of Americans would be willing to spend $10 more on their electricity bills to address climate change. 

Bottom-up, not top-down approaches

Colorado can most certainly take steps toward better protecting our environment. But the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap is not a cost-effective way to do it. 

Instead, we should allow consumer choice to determine the solutions. Our state should focus on removing barriers to innovation and empower people in communities and businesses to be better stewards of the environment. 

Colorado has made great strides in reducing carbon emissions. We don’t need more top-down approaches that hurt taxpayers across our great state. 

Gov. Polis should consider other options before subjecting consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs to more taxes, strict mandates, and burdensome regulations that would undermine the ingenuity needed to achieve these goals.