Colorado can be proud when it comes to protecting our environment and leading the way in the fight against the climate crisis. This is a state that has set aggressive emissions targets for 2050, introduced leading methane legislation nationwide, and recently passed major laws, including one of the nation’s largest investments in electric vehicle infrastructure.
But despite all this progress, the state is still not on the right track to achieve its own climate targets.
This is why the ongoing negotiations in Washington, DC over a landmark infrastructure package for Colorado are so important. They offer a rare but timely opportunity to accelerate our transition to a more sustainable economy.
Climate policy was at the heart of President Biden’s original infrastructure proposal. His presentation to the legislature included large investments in electric vehicles, clean energy and public transport, as well as new employment programs and funding to strengthen our transport and energy systems against the effects of climate change. These measures are well suited for an infrastructure package: by combining climate with infrastructure, we not only repair systems that keep our cities and towns running, but also make our communities and economies more resilient and more competitive for the long haul.
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Unfortunately, the bipartisan infrastructure deal, which has gained momentum in the US Senate and approved by the President, fails to meet these ambitions. While the deal includes some laudable investments in clean energy and transport, it does not go far enough to meet our climatic and economic needs. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for every generation to face the crisis that is already ravaging the West, and if neglected it would have dire consequences for any state – even those who have already taken forward-looking measures. It is critical that federal legislators continue to push for aggressive climate policy through infrastructure negotiations, if not by refining the bipartisan plan then by incorporating it into other short-term laws.
While Colorado has taken a bold approach to the climate, face-to-face confrontation requires a national response that only federal politics can achieve. A climate-centric infrastructure bill will enable states like Colorado to capitalize on further investment and innovation, and accelerate the private sector’s transition to clean energy and electric transportation. A federal package would also help push adoption of this technology across the country.
And then there are the jobs. If Colorado were to adopt even stronger climate policies, the state’s economy would create 36,000 jobs and an additional $ 7.5 billion annually by 2050, according to recent research by the non-partisan think tanks Energy Innovation and RMI. No wonder that the economy and financial markets are increasingly advocating a sustainability policy: It promises the private sector a wealth of ideas, long-term stability and enormous employment growth.
We must face the climate crisis for public health and environmental reasons. But the massive economic benefits are still too often overlooked. As Chief Executive of First Affirmative Financial Network since 1988, I have long believed that the ideals of a clean energy future and economic growth are in step, and our 30 years of client asset management experience reflects that philosophy when we in and invest advocate sustainability across the economy to manage risk and increase returns for our investors.
While many leading companies are already making bold commitments to reduce their own carbon footprint, they alone cannot get us to our climate goals. Robust policies will help organizations of all sizes make the transition. And while states like ours are among the most ambitious in the United States, those efforts will have a far greater impact when backed by effective federal policies like climate-smart infrastructure programs.
We call on Sen. Bennett, Sen. Hickenlooper, and the Colorado Congressional Delegation to build on the work of our state government to ensure that climate policy remains at the center of state infrastructure negotiations, and to build a strong and clean economy that benefits today and tomorrow will generations of Colorado.
George R. Gay is the Chief Executive Officer of First Affirmative Finance, LLC in Colorado Springs.
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