Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Colorado: Can You Comply?

CSPR has created a simple calculator to give you the chance to test alternative ways to comply with Colorado’s new greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions targets.

During the 2019 legislative session, several climate and energy-related bills passed that attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state. The sectors impacted range from electricity production to transportation to the construction of new buildings. Under HB19-1261, the state’s air quality regulatory authority has a new mandate to reduce total state greenhouse gas emissions as a percent of 2005 levels by 2025, 2030 and 2050.

  • 26% reduction by 2025
  • 50% reduction by 2030
  • 90% reduction by 2050

Colorado Total GHG Emissions (MMTCO2)2030 Emissions Target

  • The most recent projections estimate that total GhG emissions in 2030 will be 15% higher than 2005 levels.
  • Emissions in 2030 will need to be reduced by 56% from current projections.
  • All underlying emissions data and projections are taken from the Colorado Greenhouse Gas Inventory- 2014 Update Including Projections to 2020 and 2030, released October 2, 2014. Emission Amounts are in Millions of Metric Tons of CO2 Equivalent (MMTCO2e).


Use the below calculator to input your own reductions in different emission sectors, to test how far reductions will need to go, in order to comply with the mandate.

Step 1: Input your desired percent reduction in emissions by sector in the yellow highlighted cells, Column I, to attempt to comply with the 2030 emissions goal.

Step 2: View the results in column II. You can review each sector’s emissions relative to 2005 levels, along with all sectors displayed at the bottom. The cell for all sectors will change from red to green when you reach compliance. There is no specified target requirement for each sector in HB19-1261.

Step 3: For more insight, review the results in the second table that show the actual projected levels of greenhouse gas emission in millions of metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2e) by sector.

To read more about HB19-1261, please see below or download our brief here.

Colorado Emissions Reduction Calculator

Source of Emission Sector I. Enter Your Desired Change II. View Calculator Results
Input Value as a Percent Reduction from 2030 Projection 2030 Projection Relative to 2005 Level *There is no set goal for each sector*
Electric Power 0 0.9338
Transportation 0 1.0765
Residential, Commercial & Industrial Fuel Use 0 1.1624
Natural Gas and Oil Systems 0 2.4143
Agriculture 0 0.9167
Coal Mining & Abandoned Mines 0 0.9429
Industrial Processes 0 2.0933
Waste Management 0 2.105
All Sectors 1.1453
2030 Policy Target for All Sectors Under HB19-1261 0.5
III. For more detail, see the results below to evaluate the amounts of GhG emissions (MMTCO2e) by sector.
Source of Emission Sector 2005 Estimated Level of GhG Emissions CDPHE 2030 Projection 2030 Projected Level of GhG Emissions Based on Calculator Inputs
Electric Power 40 37.35 37.35
Transportation 31 33.37 33.37
Residential, Commercial & Industrial Fuel Use 25 29.06 29.06
Natural Gas and Oil Systems 7 16.9 16.9
Agriculture 9 8.25 8.25
Coal Mining & Abandoned Mines 7 6.6 6.6
Industrial Processes 3 6.28 6.28
Waste Management 2 4.21 4.21
All Sectors 124 140.02 142.02
2030 Policy Target for All Sectors Under HB19-1261 62



The mission of the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR) is to research issues that impact the future of the Colorado economy and individual economic opportunity.

During the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly, the legislature passed numerous bills designed to aggressively reduce the production of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado. Perhaps most notably, HB19-1261 sets greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets for 2025, 2030, and 2050, using the year 2005 as a baseline.

HB19-1261 was introduced by Speaker KC Becker and Representative Dominique Jackson in the House of Representatives and co-sponsored in the Senate by Faith Winter and Angela Williams. The bill states that Colorado “shall strive to increase renewable energy generation and eliminate statewide greenhouse gas pollution by the middle of the twenty-first century.”1

The bill passed on May 1, 2019. Though Governor Polis had previously indicated disagreements with Speaker Becker over whether government mandates were the most appropriate way to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets, the two broadly agree on the need to do so.2 On May 30, Governor Polis signed HB-1261 and several other climate and energy bills. He separately released his administration’s plan to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040.

The primary objective of HB19-1261 is to set new statewide greenhouse gas emission targets, set as a percentage to be reduced from 2005 levels.3

  • 26% reduction by 2025
  • 50% reduction by 2030
  • 90% reduction by 2050

The bill grants new authority to the Governor-appointed commission that oversees Colorado’s air quality regulatory agency to design a regulatory framework to achieve these goals and reach compliance.

  • The Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) in the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) must adopt rules and regulations for statewide greenhouse gas pollution reduction. These rules must track emission sources and strategies on an ongoing basis, with a report due to the General Assembly every odd-numbered year. The report must provide updates on progress made toward goals as well as additional steps that can or should be taken.
  • The AQCC is required to “consult with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the Department of Regulatory Agencies in designing, implementing, and enforcing programs and requirements.”

In the creation and adoption of new rules, AQCC is required to consider the following factors:

  1. Benefits of compliance, including health, environmental, and air quality
  2. Costs of compliance
  3. Economic and job impacts and opportunities
  4. Time necessary for compliance
  5. The relative contribution of each source or source category to statewide greenhouse gas pollution based on current data updated at reasonable intervals as determined by the commission

Other Climate Change Related Bills Passed during 2019 Legislative Session

Along with HB19-1261, several other significant bills were passed relating to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Previous Actions Taken to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Prior to the passage of HB19-1261, various executive orders and reports issued by the state of Colorado under previous administrations and legislative sessions had established greenhouse gas reduction targets. These actions include:

  • Executive Order D 004-08, issued by Governor Bill Ritter in 2008, which originally established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 2005 levels by 2020 and mandated the publication of a Colorado Greenhouse Gas Inventory every five years.7 The 2014 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory estimated that emissions would be at approximately 109% of 2005 levels by 2020.
  • Colorado Executive Order D 2017-015, issued by Governor John Hickenlooper in 2017, which called for collaboration between state agencies and municipalities in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost energy efficiency.8 It also established the following emission reduction goals:
    • 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025
    • 25% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector by 2025, as compared to 2005 levels
    • 35% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector by 2030, as compared to 2012 levels
    • Achieve electricity savings of 2% of total electricity sales per year by 2020 through cost-effective energy efficiency
  • The Colorado Climate Plan, first developed in 2007 and most recently updated in 2018, which “was developed collaboratively by … state agencies and [other] stakeholders … [and] includes strategies and recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the economy.”9

HB19-1261 differs from previous climate change-related actions in that it gives greater legal authority to the AQCC that is not established by executive orders. The commission now has authority from the legislature to promulgate rules that fall within its authority under CRS Title 25 Article 7 to help achieve compliance with new reduction targets.

Gauging the Impact of Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets in HB19-1261

While the 2019 edition of the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report is not yet available, we can see from the 2014 update that achieving the goals of HB19-1261 would present a substantial reduction from latest emissions projections.

Greenhouse gas emissions, measured by million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e), were estimated to have increased by approximately 7% from 2005 to 2010. Million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or MMTCO2e is a measurement unit used by the Environmental Protection Agenda (EPA) to “represent an amount of a [greenhouse gas] whose atmospheric impact has been standardized to that of one unit mass of carbon dioxide (CO2), based on the global warming potential (GWP) of the gas.”10

In the 2030 projection, greenhouse gas emissions were estimated to increase approximately another 8%, for a total of 15% higher than 2005 levels. This means that to meet the 2030 target under HB19-1261, total emissions would need to fall 65% from the last projection, as seen in the table below.

Calculating the Percentage of Emissions Reductions in Future Years

The authority of AQCC is primarily in regulating stationary sources of emissions, which excludes transportation. Various other legislative and executive actions intended to reduce emissions from transportation have been taken. The exact scope of the changes that could be implemented is beyond the content of this brief, though still important to consider when discussing the potential impacts.

The Common Sense Policy Roundtable website (www.commonsensepolicyroundtable.org) features a calculator in which the user inputs assumptions for the percentage of emission reductions for each emission sector to see what it would take to hit the new 2030 goal. The 2030 projection is expected to be updated by the state with the next release of the emissions inventory before the end of the year. When that occurs, the calculator will be adjusted accordingly.

To give some perspective on how significant the reductions must be, HB19-1261 also states a goal to reduce emissions from production of Electric power by 80%. With all other emission sectors outputs held constant, this would only reduce emissions to approximately 90% of 2005 levels, falling well short of the 50% reduction target.

In fact, if emissions from electric power and transportation, the two largest sources of emissions, were to be reduced to zero by 2030, the state of Colorado would still only be at approximately 58% of emissions relative to 2005 levels.

Reducing emissions in all sectors by 50% would have an identical 42% reduction, still falling short of the 2030 target outlined in HB19-1261.

While reducing emissions from natural gas and oil systems as well as coal mining are frequently mentioned in the context of political implications and solutions to reduce emissions, CSPR finds that completely eliminating emissions from both of these sectors, in addition to reducing Electric Power emissions by 80%, would only reduce emissions levels by 2030 to 71% of 2005 levels.

CSPR believes in the importance of well-informed policy development and an educated electorate. The purpose of this brief is to encourage discussion and create awareness of potential future policies that could impact the economic opportunities and prosperity for all Coloradans.

1 https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019A/bills/2019a_1261_enr.pdf
2 https://www.coloradoindependent.com/2019/03/20/colorado-paris-climate-greenhouse-gas-mandates/
3 https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019A/bills/2019a_1261_enr.pdf
4 https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019A/bills/fn/2019a_sb077_r1.pdf
5 https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1231
6 https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019A/bills/fn/2019a_hb1260_00.pdf
7 http://rockymountainclimate.org/images/2008ColoradoExecOrderGHGs.pdf
8 https://web.archive.org/web/20180927154044/https:/www.colorado.gov/governor/sites/default/files/executiveorders/climate_eo.pdf
9 http://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2018A/bills/fn/2018a_hb1274_00.pdf
10 https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-12/documents/ghgcalculatorhelp.pdf

Download a pdf of the brief >>