Written by Ron Bennett

May of 2021 brought us three important climate-related reports which should be of interest to Colorado climate activists and policymakers. What follows is a brief summary of each report that identifies problems with current policies while recommending a path forward.

International Energy Agency (IEA)

Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector

In what the IEA describes as its flagship report, the authors define a pathway to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Citing the present gap between rhetoric and action, the report urges governments, businesses, and investors to make major changes this year and every year while this goal is still within reach.

The energy sector is the source of around three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions today and holds the key to averting the worst effects of climate change, perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has faced.”

The IEA’s narrow pathway to net-zero emissions is built on seven pillars of decarbonization, including efficiency, electrification, and renewables, among others. Urging immediate and massive deployment of all available clean energy technologies to stay on that path, the report acknowledges the challenges while touting opportunities for economic growth and the potential to create millions of new jobs.

“There is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net zero pathway.”

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)

Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions.

Co-authored by Dr. AR Ravishankara of Colorado State University and a global coalition of climate scientists, the UNEP’s assessment of atmospheric methane is grim, but not without hope. Strong evidence shows that the majority of increases in methane concentrations in the atmosphere since the 2010’s are attributable to venting and fugitive emissions from oil and gas production and distribution. The good news is that ambitious, low-cost methane mitigation measures like leak detection and repair and changing livestock feed have the potential to decrease warming by nearly 0.3° C over the next twenty years.

“The Paris Agreement’s 1.5° C target cannot be achieved at a reasonable cost without reducing methane emissions by 40–45 percent by 2030.” 

The value of gas saved will likely exceed the cost of emissions abatement from gas extraction and distribution, so mitigation should more than pay for itself. Reducing atmospheric methane offers multiple benefits for climate, agriculture, ecosystem, and human health. Abatement cost is less than $600/ton but yields about $4,300/ton in monetized benefits from reduced asthma-related ER visits, respiratory and cardiovascular-related deaths, labor impacts of heat exposure and increased crop yields.

“Lower methane concentrations would rapidly reduce the rate of warming, making methane mitigation one of the best ways of limiting warming in this and subsequent decades. Doing so would also help limit dangerous climate feedback loops, while simultaneously delivering important health and economic benefits from reducing ground-level ozone.”

Energy Innovation & RMI (formally Rocky Mountain Institute)

Colorado Energy Policy Simulator Insights: Current Emissions Trajectory, 1.5°C Scenario

Energy Innovation & RMI’s Energy Policy Simulator is an online tool to quickly simulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions resulting from various policies in multiple sectors of the energy economy. Sadly, the report projects that GHG emissions reductions under current policy in Colorado will fall far short of the reduction targets in our GHG pollution reduction roadmap per HB1261.

Colorado Economy Wide GHG Emissions

Credit: Energy Innovations & RMI

“Colorado’s largest emitting sector is industry at 32 percent of 2019 GHG emissions, driven largely by oil and gas activity. Emissions from oil and gas infrastructure may be underestimated based on recent research that found additional emissions from the industrial sector that are not accounted for in recent GHG inventories.”

However, the report also points us towards ways that we can increase our GHG reduction and make it possible to hit emissions targets while helping our economy:

“Implementing stronger electricity, transportation, buildings, industrial, land, and agricultural sector policies can transition the state to a low-carbon economy, generate more than 20,000 new jobs and $3.5 billion in economic activity per year by 2030, and add nearly 36,000 new jobs and more than $7.5 billion to the economy per year by 2050.”

All three reports are roadmaps to a future we can live with. Cease investments in fossil fuels and instead invest in efficiency and clean energy sources such as solar and wind. Stop the recent, rapid increase in methane emissions by implementing low-cost mitigation measures while halting the expansion of gas infrastructure. Move beyond climate aspirations to climate commitments like those defined in Colorado senate bill 200 which Governor Polis has threatened to veto.

Please tell Governor Polis to support meaningful climate legislation by signing this petition.