City of Aspen on fast track for mandatory climate action regulations

Mandatory composting, energy efficiency buildings and other bold actions part of two-year plan

Aspen City Council on Monday agreed to adopt updated climate action goals and a new waste reduction plan.

The last time the city adopted climate goals was in 2007 and the landscape has changed dramatically since then, Ashley Perl, the city’s climate action manager, told council during its work session Monday.

“We were among a small group of cities establishing goals and they were somewhat based in science but the science wasn’t great at the time,” Perl said. “Now we have incredible forecasting mechanisms and we really understand the impact of global warming and climate change on the Earth and we know exactly what it’s going to take to avoid the worst impact of climate change.”

So rather than the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 established 14 years ago, the city will follow science-based targets established by an organization called ICLEI.

Those targets are reducing greenhouse gas emissions 63% by 2030 and a 100% reduction — zero carbon — by 2050.

ICLEI calculated goals for different key emissions sectors in Aspen, including waste reduction.

The organization suggests the city reduce organics in the landfill 25% by 2025 and 100% by 2050, as well as reduce community municipal solid waste generation per capita 8% by 2025.

Council also will adopt the goals to reduce landfill waste 50% by 2030 from a baseline established in 2015, and 70% total diversion by 2050.

The city’s climate action team presented a high-level, two-year plan that builds on council’s direction earlier this year via resolution, “to take meaningful action and provide leadership in reducing the Aspen community’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by the amount which is scientifically proven to limit global temperature change.”

The next two years will include actions that lead to immediate greenhouse gas emission and municipal solid waste reductions, as well as long-term planning efforts.

The climate action team’s focus includes waste reduction, building energy use, electric vehicles, policy, and long-range planning.

The following is a synopsis of what the team’s work will be in the next two years:

Waste reduction: Staff will bring a compost ordinance to council for consideration in the first quarter of 2022. Options for reducing construction and demolition waste will be presented to council in the third quarter of 2022.

Building energy uses: Building IQ is a broad impact ordinance with two phases, the first of which will require commercial and multi-family buildings to benchmark energy and water use, and the second will require the buildings to work towards achieving a performance standard. Staff will bring the first phase of the building IQ ordinance, which will require benchmarking, in front of council in the first quarter of 2022.

Fleet electrification: The city’s fleet currently includes three electric vehicles, two of which need replacement. Staff will work with directors within city departments to create a fleet electrification strategy in advance of next year’s budget cycle.

Policy: The state legislative session begins on Jan. 12, 2022, and will run through May. Staff relies on networks and partner organizations to track what’s happening at the state and federal levels. When proposed legislation actions support the climate and waste goals of the city, staff will bring those opportunities before council.

Long range planning: Staff will work on a community sustainability and climate plan that incorporates actions for all sectors, including transportation, waste reduction, renewable energy and buildings.

The plan will be available in draft form at the end of 2022 and will be finalized and adopted by the end of the goal cycle, providing a launching pad for additional climate and waste reduction work once council’s goal has ended, according to a memo to council from Perl and her team.

“We focus our energy on where we know we can have an impact,” Perl told council on Monday. “That’s what you get when you hear from us is we look at not just the data but what we control.”

Mayor Torre, along with his fellow council members, signed off on the two-year plan and new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the latter of which will be officially adopted in December.

“I’m excited for the goal setting, I’m excited about the planning for this,” Torre said. “It can’t come soon enough for me.”

Councilman John Doyle echoed those sentiments and told Perl he feels that the climate action team is the most important department in the city.

“I’m really, really stoked,” he said. “Without some forethought about what’s going on with our environment, we might not have a city government in the future and I know that sounds drastic … but according to science-based targets … we have between eight and 11 years to turn this around.”