State Officials Hold Climate Workshop in Durango – The Durango Herald

Community members share concerns and identify needs for action

Jonathan Tyrrell of the Keystone Policy Center leads a breakout session on energy and transportation during the state’s climate change workshop Thursday at the Durango Community Recreation Center. State officials convened the workshop to hear from Durango and surrounding communities about their climate change concerns and priorities. (Aedan Hannon/Durango Herald)

As Colorado has sought to strengthen its response to climate change, the state has turned to local communities to hear their concerns and solutions.

State officials met with local government officials, Durango area organizations and the public Thursday for a climate change workshop at the Durango Community Recreation Center. The workshop provided a forum for community members to detail the effects of climate change on their lives, share ideas for local and regional action, and identify needed state support.

With the workshop, one of many across Colorado, the state aims to refine its climate policies and programs to better meet the needs of Colorado communities.

“We know what the key policy drivers are and some of the possible strategies, but how those are implemented in a more nuanced way, you can’t do that without hearing from the communities,” said Lauren McDonell, outreach planner at the climate change in the Department of Colorado. Public Health and Environment and one of the workshop facilitators, in an interview.

Facilitators from the Keystone Policy Center led the meeting in which officials from a range of state agencies, including the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation and Bureau of Energy, listened to and engaged community members and representatives from La Plata County, the City of Durango, San Juan Basin Public Health, and local organizations like the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency.

In one activity, workshop participants were asked to write down how they have been affected by climate change, by posting sticky notes on poster paper. Many sticky notes identified wildfires, drought and anxiety about a climate-altered future, concerns that were shared in the breakout sessions.

State officials held a climate change workshop Thursday at the Durango Community Recreation Center as they solicited statewide contributions after the state released its roadmap for reduction of greenhouse gas pollution in January 2021. (Aedan Hannon/Durango Herald)

“The only time I thought about leaving that area was during the 416 fire because of the smoke,” said Gail Harriss. “…I’m totally stressed thinking about when the next fire is going to break out.”

For most of the meeting, the approximately 45 people who attended the workshop split into two sub-groups. In one they discussed the intersection of agriculture, water and public health, and in the other transport and energy.

Participants in the agriculture and water session called for additional forums and greater collaboration with farmers and pastoralists to address water conservation.

Brian Devine, director of environmental health for San Juan Basin Public Health, said it’s time for communities in southwestern Colorado to recognize a future with less water and take steps to mitigate the impacts. .

Others weighed the wise use of water. Marty Pool, sustainability program manager for the city of Durango, called for a hierarchy of water use “where we recognize the nuance” between different uses of water.

Conversations about energy use and electrical infrastructure in the energy and climate session morphed into analyzes of affordable housing and the role that climate-friendly building codes and practices could play in fight against climate change and housing.

In both cases, participants identified ways in which the state could help Durango and other communities in the region respond to climate change. County Commissioner Marsha Porter-Norton called for more communication from the state about how it plans to address water issues. Laurie Dickson, executive director of 4CORE, a local energy efficiency nonprofit, said the state needs to help communities and utilities streamline rate structures for electric vehicle fast-charging infrastructure.

Variable charging station designs and fast-charging rates are a barrier to the expansion of electric vehicles, Dickson said.

Scott Baker requested more outreach from the Department of Agriculture to inform landowners of the agency’s incentive programs.

Throughout the workshop, those involved shared their appreciation of the forum and spoke of the need for sustained engagement between the state and local communities on climate change. They called for additional workshops, which state officials said they planned to provide.

La Plata County Commissioners Matt Salka and Marsha Porter-Norton speak to attendees of the state’s climate change workshop Thursday at the Durango Community Recreation Center. Attendees expressed concerns about wildfires and drought and called for greater collaboration to address climate change locally and throughout Colorado. (Aedan Hannon/Durango Herald)

“Opportunities to share like this help alleviate some of the stress we all feel,” Baker said.

Thursday’s workshop was the last of seven held in the state. CDPHE and other state agencies also held in-person workshops in Aurora, Greeley, Pueblo, Trinidad, Lamar and Delta as they meet with communities for the first time since the state introduced its scorecard. road for reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

In January 2021, the state released the roadmap that provides a framework for meeting its greenhouse gas emissions goals. A 2019 climate change bill passed by the Colorado legislature set greenhouse gas reduction targets of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

As Colorado increasingly implements policies and regulations to address climate change, including steps to phase out coal-fired power plants and expand the adoption of electric vehicles, the workshops aim to help state agencies to guide their efforts.

“There’s a lot going on in the state in terms of funding and climate programs and policies, and different things going through the Legislature,” McDonell said. “We know that every community is unique and that we cannot anticipate the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in all parts of the state. We’re in listening mode, just wanting to hear (from) people what their top concerns are, what their priorities are, (and) what they want to make sure to be on our radars.

Each session was different as Colorado’s diverse communities highlighted their concerns and the action they want to see from the state. However, affordable housing and its intersection with climate change came up in every workshop, McDonell said.

For state agencies, the workshops provided an opportunity to hear how rural communities in Colorado are responding to climate change and how policies and programs made on the Front Range affect other parts of the state.

“We heard about rural Colorado in a way that I don’t think many of us do very often,” McDonell said. “It’s been incredibly eye-opening and inspiring because so many people really care about this issue from different angles and also care about the impacts of some of the policies and programs that we are implementing.”

The state will host two virtual workshops later this month. Input from all workshops will be compiled into a Keystone Policy Center report, which will then be distributed to state agencies working to implement the greenhouse gas roadmap, as well as to the office of the governor and local governments.

The report will then inform regulations, funding programs and other decisions state agencies will make as they seek to address climate change, McDonell said.

“We get exactly what I hoped we would get out of it,” she said.

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