Denver Climate Fund to focus on those most affected

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Co-authored by Alana Miller, Climate Advisor

As many cities across the country set goals and plan to tackle the climate crisis, Denver is putting its money where its mouth is. On the first anniversary of the adoption of a revolutionary initiative by Denverites, Voting measure 2A, to raise money for climate action, the City and County of Denver explained how they plan to invest the $ 40 million per year to advance equitable climate action. This roadmap for sustainable and deep investments in climate action begins with a goal to invest half of the funds directly in communities most affected by climate change, including low-income communities, of color and those living with chronic health problems. The plan also puts Denver’s emission reduction targets in line with science, seeking to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.

The plan has many benefits for Denver’s most affected and vulnerable communities: improving the energy efficiency of homes, priority access to training the local workforce in clean energy technologies, improving affordable and reliable transport and resources to adapt to climate change. To be successful, the City will need an ongoing commitment to work with the communities most affected, to shift to a new paradigm, and to be transparent and accountable to achieve greenhouse gas and equity goals. .

Photo credit: Matt Nager for NRDC

The roots of the fund

Ballot 2A and the resulting Climate Protection Fund stem from a stakeholder process in 2020. Representatives from many groups, including Indigenous youth, real estate, Xcel Energy, faith communities and more, assessed Denver’s climate goals, identified gaps, recommended solutions, and identified a mechanism. funding.

After evaluating many financing options, the task force finally came to a consensus on a sales tax increase to dedicate funds to climate work. Although regressive in nature, sales tax in Denver exempts essential products, and 70 percent of sales tax is paid by visitors. In addition, the measure stipulated that at least half of the income collected should be spent “directly in the community with a strong objective in favor of equity, race and social justice”.

When the task force’s recommendations were then released to the public in November 2020, they were passed by an overwhelming majority with nearly 65% ​​of the vote, making Denver the second city in the United States to have a fund funded by taxpayer and focused on climate action.

Planning for the future

As the next step towards implementing this innovative new climate measure, Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resilience (CASR) has released a five-year plan for spending the funds. What is most exciting about this five-year plan is that it recognizes the need to co-create solutions with the communities most affected by pollution and the impacts of climate change. In another example of focusing equity in the plan, the City will undertake a vulnerability assessment in 2022 and work with the most vulnerable communities to ensure that investments and policies benefit those residents who have it most. need.

The plan sets a 2030 target of over 60% reduction by 2030. Both targets bring Denver into line with the Paris Climate Agreement and science targets.

Immediate investments in communities

Funding from the Climate Protection Fund is already disbursed to the community through projects such as:

  • Community Solar: The City is installing 10 community solar gardens, focusing on providing clean energy to low and moderate income households while incorporating workforce development strategies.
  • Environmental Justice Support Fund: A new fund will help communities represent themselves in environmental policy and regulatory processes at national and regional levels.
  • “Promotores Climaticas”: The Fund will help community organizations to carry out climate awareness actions in vulnerable communities to inform future programs.
  • E-Bike Transportation Options: The Fund has established e-bike libraries in underserved communities to expand zero-emission transportation options.
  • Residential electrification: A new program co-led by a local healthcare partner will help low-income families with breathing problems switch to healthy electrical devices.

Take away food

Climate change presents an existential crisis for our cities, especially for our most vulnerable communities already plagued by environmental injustice, lack of investment and harmful policies. The passing of the 2A voting measure to create the Climate Protection Fund by an overwhelming majority of voters in Denver showed tremendous public will with a mandate from the people to act swiftly and fairly. The recent release of a five-year spending plan for the new funding underscores the City of Denver’s commitment to keeping this promise.


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