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Polis pressed to act faster on climate change

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Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) A coalition of more than 60 environmental and community groups are calling on Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and other elected officials to act faster to avert the worst impacts of a warming planet.

Patricia Nelson, finance director for Safe and Healthy Colorado, lives in Weld County, which produces more than half of the state's oil and gas. She said instead of ramping up production, Polis should direct the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to stop issuing fracking permits.

"We also need to implement some kind of just transition program to retrain workers, because people in communities like mine, we don't have any other choice," Nelson asserted. "There aren't any other jobs for us."

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Jared Polis - elected Governor of Colorado in November 2018.

The coalition delivered a petition urging the Polis administration to declare a climate emergency and to develop a more comprehensive plan to phase out fossil-fuel production no later than 2030.

Climate scientists warn pollution from fossil fuels must peak and begin to drop within three years in order to keep global temperatures from reaching dangerous levels. The governor's office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Kevin Cross, convener of the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, said the governor's current greenhouse-reduction road map doesn't move fast enough, and largely lets the oil and gas industry off the hook. He pointed out many politicians have been afraid to push for a faster transition to cleaner energy, but making incremental progress is no longer an option.

"We really didn't act as a society back in the 1990s, 1980s, when it would have been a relatively easy problem to address," Cross recounted. "Now the emergency is upon us, and we need to act quickly."

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More than eight in 10 Coloradans consider climate change a serious problem, and 98% say wildfires threatening homes are serious as well, according to a recent poll.

Nelson argued the single biggest barrier to action on climate is the fossil-fuel industry, but she is cautiously optimistic if enough Coloradans make their voices heard, lawmakers will find the political will to act.

"Given that there is so much influence by the industry -- because of the lobbying that happens, because of the large donations -- we still have a lot of work to do," Nelson acknowledged. "We're going to have to continue to put pressure on these politicians that were meant to serve the people, not corporations."