Fort Collins City Council declares climate emergency

Samantha Ye

Fort Collins has declared a climate emergency. 

City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night that acknowledges the global climate emergency and reaffirms the City’s commitment to climate action. The final resolution also recognizes the need to include indigenous voices, improve community education efforts about climate and do formal five-year reviews of the City’s sustainability goals. 


“It’s a defining issue of our time,” Councilmember Ross Cunniff said. 

The idea of a “Climate Emergency Resolution” was originally brought to Council in July by community groups — Fort Collins Sustainability Group and the local Extinction Rebellion — who wanted to see a formal statement made.

At the time, both Mayor Wade Troxell and Councilmember Ken Summers questioned the impact of the groups’ proposed resolution. But they both said they liked the resolution City staff came up with in terms of taking action. 

“This particular resolution doesn’t … shy away from the concern, but it also addresses, I think, the real actions Fort Collins is taking to make a difference,” Troxell said. 

City Council acknowledged the “climate emergency” in this portion of the resolution:
“…the City Council recognizes the global climate emergency threatens Fort Collins, the State of Colorado, the United States of America, all other nations and indeed, the entire world.”

Two dozen residents came to the Tuesday meeting and asked Council to amend the staff document with additional plans. Most speakers came from the original advocacy groups. 

According to the FCSG, the proposed changes were for the City to:

  • Initiate action against the global climate crisis at a state, national and international level
  • Include the group’s proposed language acknowledging “indigenous people’s possession of traditional ecological knowledge and rights to their ancestral homelands”
  • Re-evaluate the City’s carbon-neutrality goals at five-year intervals so it best aligns with current science
  • Ensure Fort Collins residents are educated about the climate emergency

The five-year evaluation and education component were the pieces incorporated into the final resolution at the request of Cunniff. 

Council stuck with the staff-drafted section about the historical displacement of native tribes and for including tribal voices in the co-creation of City carbon-neutrality plans.

Council was especially supportive of adding an educational component to the resolution. That element means educating residents about the climate crisis itself, what the City is doing about it and what helpful actions individuals can take.

Residents asked Council to increase public education efforts so people will not treat climate change as the “new normal” but an urgent and devastating issue. 


“We need to make huge changes, but first, the public needs to be educated on the urgency of our need to make these changes,” said Elizabeth Hudetz, a member of FCSG.

I think it’s easy to make grand statements about things that aren’t here, but at the end of the day, we have to do things that we can do.” -Wade Troxell, Fort Collins City Mayor

City staff said they are working with community partners to create a plan for informing the public more about climate change and how they and the City fit into its mitigation.

“I don’t think it’s prudent to have a resolution saying that we’re going to commit to getting people in a froth and panic,” Summers said about the importance of letting people know how they can personally address the climate crisis.

The resolution highlights the City’s 2015 climate action goals and progress. Fort Collins intends to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

Thanks to partnerships with energy providers, the City is on track to meet its 2020 milestone (20% below 2005 level carbon emissions), according to City staff. 

The five-year evaluation section of the resolution works as a “recalibration” of those goals to match the always progressing findings of climate science. City Manager Darin Atteberry compared the recalibration to what the City does with its Master Plans, meaning a much more comprehensive review and adjustments to the goals. 

“For me, it always comes back to how do we operationalize it for Fort Collins,” Troxell said. “I think it’s easy to make grand statements about things that aren’t here, but at the end of the day, we have to do things that we can do.”

Samantha Ye can be reached at or on Twitter @samxye4.