Fort Collins working to reduce carbon emissions 20% before 2021

Paislee Fernau

As carbon emissions continue to be an uphill battle across the country, Fort Collins is trying to stay on track to keep emissions down. 

The Fort Collins Climate Action team plans to have the Fort Collins community meet the 2020 goal of having carbon emissions down by 20% from 2005. Now with the new investment of Platte River Power Authority’s new wind project, the projections seem on track to help reduce carbon emissions to meet future goals, said Lindsay Ex, the City of Fort Collins climate program manager.

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Ex said the City is optimistic about meeting and possibly exceeding the 2020 emissions goal. 

“We are very excited about the Platte River investment in the wind project; that alone could have a very significant impact on our goals,” Ex said. “The project is going to significantly reduce our carbon emissions to the point where we could be closer to 30% by 2021 when it’s fully online.” 

The City is currently working toward achieving the 80% reduction goal, Ex said. Their main focus is updating their plans to make sure they’re on track for the 2030 goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% from 2005 and being completely carbon neutral by 2050. 

“What are the most equitable strategies to help us reach those 2030 goals we set as a community?” Ex said. “How do we get there in a way that benefits everyone in Fort Collins?”

As a community, there are many ways to help reduce the carbon footprint in Fort Collins, Ex said. She said renters can make efforts to drive less, and homeowners can change light bulbs to energy efficient ones, use programmable thermostats and turn the heat off when they’re not home. 

According to the City of Fort Collins website, there currently is a new Earth Day challenge put on by the City to encourage the residents of Fort Collins to lose 5,000 pounds of carbon by April 22. 

“This gives everyone an opportunity to do their part,” Ex said. “CSU students can make teams and win prizes.” 

The newest change the City has implemented, to be announced later this week, is the Our Climate Future program that will be focused on meeting the 2050 goal, Ex said. 

With the latest confirmed projections from 2018, overall emissions are down 14% per capita from 2005, with electricity, solid waste and water-related energy all decreasing. However, ground travel and natural gas levels are still rising in Fort Collins. The increase in SUV purchases by Americans is currently taking up 70% of the market, according to The New York Times

According to the Climate Action Plan, in total, Fort Collins emits 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in community greenhouse gases. But, with a growing economy and population, the community has been able to continually decrease emissions every year. 

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The amount of population growth, however, combined with weather and increasing consumer preference for SUVs is a major part of why some carbon emissions have increased in Fort Collins, according to City of Fort Collins files.

The Climate Action Plan also released 2018 statistics on how the community has reduced the amount of carbon used. Specifically, Fort Collins citizens are three times more likely to walk or bike to work/school compared to the national average. Collectively, over 33,000 tons of organic waste were saved, which is enough to fill about 3,000 garbage trucks. Enough water was conserved to fill 3.3 million bathtubs, and the amount of electricity saved would take 4,200 homes off the grid. 

Reaching carbon neutrality, which means having no carbon footprint on the planet, has become a long-term goal that the City hopes to achieve by 2050 with the help of the community and residents of Fort Collins.

“The City is likely to meet the 2020 goal of 20% and could even be closer to 30% by 2021,” Ex said. “We won’t know until 2021 if we’ve hit our goal because we do inventory the following year to see the overall projections. We are currently looking at the statistics from 2019.” 

The City’s projections thus far look as if the 2020 goal will be met, and the City is on track for future ones as well. With the involvement of the community and new projects launching soon, the Climate Action team seems hopeful for future progress. 

According to a Collegian article, the City also has partnered with Colorado State University to help reach the carbon neutrality goal to reduce emissions altogether. This combined with the Our Climate Future program will help reduce the use of transportation, waste systems and energy, which all make an impact on everyday lives. 

“We are optimistic in our projections,” Ex said. “It looks like we will hit the 2020 goal in 2020, and regardless, we are well on track for 2021.”

Paislee Fernau can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PaisleeFernau22.