Tag Archives: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute

City of Boulder Fails to Reach Carbon Reduction Goal but Continues to Strategize

Boulder lights as seen from Flagstaff Mountain. (Photo/Chris Carruth).

By Marisa McNatt

Almost 10 years have passed since Boulder City Council set a goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Based on last year’s figures, the city fell short of meeting the goal by about 25 percent, or 298,331 metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 58,500 passenger vehicles.

“The question for us is: What does that mean? Does that mean as a community we’ve failed, or as a community we need to make better inroads?” asks Kara Mertz, manager of the city of Boulder’s Local Environmental Action Division.

Not only has Boulder failed to reach the 2012 goal, citywide emissions were up slightly in 2010 compared to 2009. The primary reason for Boulder’s failure to reach the 2012 goal and slight increase in emissions is that there was initially no plan for how to get there, Mertz explains.

The city established its emissions reduction goal in 2002, based on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — an international agreement for industrialized countries to reduce emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. chose not to sign the protocol and, in response, municipalities across the country, including Boulder, chose to create their own emissions reduction target goals.

It wasn’t until 2007 that City Council implemented a formal plan and strategies — called the Climate Action Plan, or the CAP — for reducing local emissions. However, since the CAP strategies were novel upon implementation, there was no way of knowing if the approaches would actually result in significant greenhouse gas reductions, Mertz says.

“What we find is when we are creating services and goals it’s a lot harder to get to that goal that was essentially pulled out of the sky,” says Mertz. “We can’t really take 100,000 cars off the road every day.”

Since energy use in buildings accounts for the largest portion of Boulder’s greenhouse gas emissions — almost 80 percent — approaches that significantly reduce emissions from the commercial and residential sectors are particularly important. Other sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the city include landfill gas and vehicle fuel, which comprise 2.5 and 21.3 percent of the city’s total emissions respectively.

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The List: Science and Environmental Happenings in and Around Boulder

Best-selling author Michael Pollan speaks at Denver's Paramount Theater Wednesday Feb. 29 at 7:30 p.m. (Photo/Ken Light).

by Marisa McNatt

Opportunities for wind energy in the U.S., and the interface of disasters, climate change and decision making will be featured at CU-Boulder events this week. In Denver, learn more about what’s on your plate from best-selling author Michael Pollan. 

“A Conversation with Michael Pollan,” hosted by Paramount Theater in Denver, Colo. February 29. 
What? A conversation with best-selling author and food activist Michael Pollan on how America eats. Pollan is credited with helping to launch the organic and local food movement through his works, including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.” The event is sponsored by Ekar Farm and Grow Local.
Where? Paramount Theater, Denver, Colo. Directions
Time? 7:30 p.m.
Cost? Ticket Prices: $35.50 – $75.00

“U.S. Wind Energy Challenges and Opportunities,” hosted by The University of Colorado Law School, the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), and the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship.” March 1.
What? Senior Vice President Robert Gramlich of the American Wind Energy Association — the national trade association of approximately 2,500 entities involved in all aspects of wind energy production, based in Washington D.C. — is the speaker. Gramlich leads the association’s initiatives concerning state and federal legislation, regulatory policy and industry information and analysis. From published articles on wind integration, to carbon taxes, to market power regulation, Gramlich’s research and involvement with winder energy is extensive.
Where? CU-Boulder, Wittemyer Courtroom. Map
Time? 5:30 p.m. — 6:30 p.m.
Cost? Free

“The Science and Politics of Disasters and Climate Change,” hosted by CU-Boulder’s Geography Department. March 2.
What? Roger Pielke Jr., professor in the Environmental Studies Program at CU-Boulder and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES), is the colloquium’s speaker. Pielke’s research focuses on the intersection of science, technology and decision-making, including the various opinions among scientists who study hurricanes, and how the historical emissions of greenhouse gas emissions affects these major storm systems.
Where? CU-Boulder, IBS Building, room 155. Map
Time? 3:30 p.m., reception following
Cost? Free