Climate Action Collaborative: Making Eagle County a more sustainable place to live and play
Walking Mountains Science Center
Climate Change is important in Eagle County. How important? Important enough that in 2018 more than 30 local governments, utilities, businesses and community organizations banded together to form the Climate Action Collaborative for the Eagle County Community.
The Climate Action Collaborative, led by Walking Mountains Science Center, is tasked with achieving the goals set forth in the Eagle County Climate Action Plan, which was adopted in 2017.
The goals set forth in the Climate Action Plan to decrease local emissions 25% by 2025 and 80% by 2050 were aggressive then, just like they are now.
The good news is that we have done great work since 2017. We are well on our way to achieving and perhaps surpassing our initial local 25% reduction goal.
The bad news? The global surface temperature has already warmed 1 degree Celsius. While further warming is inevitable, we still have the power to reduce the magnitude of its impacts. In 2018, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that remaining beneath the 1.5-degree Celsius mark will require a significant reduction in fossil fuel use, but, also will avoid the widespread and permanent catastrophe that will result if we overshoot 1.5 degree Celsius.
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It is because of this, and all the great strides we’ve made to date, that we have updated our Eagle County Climate Action Plan to prioritize more immediate actions and aggressive goals to ensure (amongst other things) that powder days in 2050 are just as fun (and hopefully just as frequent) as they are today. Our new goal calls for a 50% reduction by 2030. Here is a snapshot for how we will get there.
New strategies, areas of focus and working groups:
Initially, the Collaborative was formed with a framework to address emission reduction strategies within the buildings, waste, energy supply and transportation sectors. In our new Version 2.0, we’ve also added mechanisms to enhance our efforts for education and outreach, water conservation, resiliency, land management and carbon sequestration.
Priority actions for the energy sector
- Develop a 100% renewable energy supply (for electricity) by 2030.
- Analyze/develop renewable energy resources through waste-to-energy, methane capture, and anaerobic digestion.
- Consider heat waste utilization and renewable energy technology to power district scale snowmelt systems.
- Improve natural gas efficiency by reducing methane leakage.
Priority actions for the buildings sector
- Each year, implement beneficial electrification in 5% of our existing residential and commercial buildings. Beneficial electrification is the practice of electrifying energy and end uses otherwise powered by fossil fuels like natural gas, propane, fuel oil, or gasoline, in order to reduce emissions and achieve other positive impacts.
- For new and remodeled buildings, adopt “above building code” standards and incentives and implement net-zero or all-electric construction requirements by 2030.
- Implement a benchmarking ordinance in Eagle County for all commercial buildings 10,000 square feet or larger to improve efficiency. After maximizing efficiency, the next step will be to replace inefficient fuels with cleaner alternatives. The bigger the building, the more fuel it requires and therefore, the more emissions it produces.
Priority actions for the transportation sector
- A 2% increase in electric vehicles registered in Eagle County each year as a percentage of all registered vehicles in Eagle County.
- Reduce single-occupancy vehicle commute trips two days per week per person by encouraging local businesses to provide smart-commuting incentives or establish policies to support multi-modal commuting, flexible work agreements and remote work.
- Strive for 50% of the workforce living within five miles of their employment center via mixed-use communities, affordable housing near job centers, and intercommunity multi-modal transportation options.
Priority actions for the waste sector
- Divert 80% of organics currently landfilled by 2030 (composting).
- Divert 100% of all recoverable construction and demolition (C&D) waste from the landfill by 2030.
- Divert 100% of yard waste from landfill by 2030 through implementation of county-wide collection sites.
- Divert 100% of cardboard from the landfill.
Priority actions for carbon sequestration
Carbon sequestration is a new addition to the Climate Action Plan. Trees and grasslands are Eagle County’s largest carbon capture resources. Additionally, soil is a valuable carbon sink. Thoughtful use of open space, agricultural practices, and organic materials can help to keep carbon in the ground and our soils fertile.
- Pilot projects on open space that use soil amendments to increase carbon sequestration.
- Incorporate soil-health education to improve carbon sequestration and engage the community in stewardship.
- Promote regenerative agriculture to enhance soil-health and carbon sequestration.
- Determine a natural climate solutions plan to protect and enhance existing carbon stocks in Eagle County.
- Implement a Good Traveler carbon offset program for Eagle County Airport.
Tying together resilience and Climate Action
Resilience and climate action are intrinsically linked. Both are required as we begin to navigate towards a carbon-free future. The health of our residents and visitors, continued economic growth, critical infrastructure and our natural resources are all already being affected by climate change.
In 2020 alone, Colorado experienced three record-breaking fires and sustained a “severe” drought status throughout the year. Therefore, based on recent occurrences and projections for our future, it’s critical that our community achieves the goals set forth in the CAP while also preparing for the climate related risks looming ahead.
Priority actions for water resiliency
- Adopt and enforce requirements that improve water quality and quantity.
- Encourage the adoption of innovative indoor and outdoor water efficiency programs and strategies.
- Plan, fund, and implement wildlife habitat restoration projects, especially in riparian zones.
- Support water planning efforts that consider potential population growth.
Priority actions for wildfire resiliency
- Build community equity, trust, and civic management.
- Ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all community residents, visitors, and workers during and after a disaster.
- Support frontline communities in preparing for and recovering from extreme weather events.
To learn more about Eagle County climate action initiatives, or review resources that will empower you to help us meet our local goals, please visit ClimateActionCollaborative.org. Our updated Climate Action Plan for the Eagle County Community will be released in March 2021. Together, we can #BeBetterTogether and we will achieve our goals.
Paul Abling is the marketing and communications director for Walking Mountains Science Center.