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Denver’s Local Stocktake Amplifies Community Voices for Global Impact

On November 2nd, 2023, the City of Denver hosted a local stocktake, bringing a mini-COP to the community to align with the Paris Agreement. The local stocktake goal is to ensure Denver’s voices are heard in the global Paris Agreement process and at COP28 — the 28th session of the United Nations’ annual “Conference of the Parties” climate conference.

“The Denver Stocktake mobilized community leaders to evaluate the impact of Denver’s climate leadership on a national and international level. We’re proud of Denver’s leadership on climate solutions, and we are excited to do far more in the years ahead.”

Mayor Mike Johnston of Denver, Colorado

With support from ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability USA, we dived into three questions:

  1. WHERE ARE WE in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement?
  2. WHERE DO WE WANT TO GO to increase ambition?
  3. HOW DO WE GET THERE in a way that promotes climate justice?

In separate sessions, Denver’s community-driven Sustainability Advisory Council and the City of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) staff collaboratively explored strategies to propel local climate action, aligning the city and the community with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Angie Fyfe, Executive Director of ICLEI USA, introduces the local stocktake and outlines the key questions participants addressed.

Where Are We? 

In the first discussion, participants delved into Denver’s climate action as a beacon for supporting the U.S. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Cities, serving as policy incubators, were acknowledged for bridging the gap between ambitious climate goals and tangible on-the-ground impacts. 

Despite this progress, conversations shifted towards the necessity for the U.S. NDC to adopt a fair share approach. Recognizing that “fair” doesn’t equate to “equal,” participants urged a reevaluation of meat consumption and endorsed impactful strategies like reducing water-intensive industries and adopting agrivoltaics. 

The discussions advocated for a holistic consideration of Scope 3 emissions, emphasizing consumption-based metrics and acknowledging the U.S.’s responsibility for global environmental impacts. Ultimately, the strength of the U.S. NDC hinges on transforming abstract targets into measurable initiatives, fostering city-federal collaboration, and setting a global example in economic development, consumption patterns, and environmental stewardship.

 “We recycle cans and throw away buildings.”

Ryan Call, Campaigns Coordinator at Eco-Cycle
Denver residents discussed the current status of the City of Denver’s climate and sustainability initiatives.

Where Do We Want to Go?

In discussions on Denver’s climate action, there was a collective emphasis on a more prominent role from the Mayor’s office, highlighting the intersectionality of climate change and homelessness. They also emphasized the city’s key climate priorities, addressing challenges like heat waves, wildfires, air quality, and drought. 

A critical link was identified between city home building investments and the need for robust renter protections. The dialogue stressed integrating justice and equity perspectives into steering committees and city initiatives, acknowledging the need to safeguard existing communities against the potential downsides of environmental improvements.

Education emerged as a cornerstone, with participants advocating for early and comprehensive sustainability education, underscoring its pivotal role in fostering empowerment and achieving long-term sustainability goals. Overall, the conversations highlighted the multifaceted nature of Denver’s climate challenges and the necessity for holistic, inclusive strategies to address them effectively.

“Let’s shift the narrative by focusing on the impact occurring at a family or household level,”

A Denver community member during the local stocktake
Participants discussed their aspirations for the City’s future in alignment with the Paris Agreement.

How Do We Want to Get There? 

In discussions on Denver’s climate action, the emphasis was on crucial elements for impactful change, highlighting the centrality of justice in the Climate Fund and the need to focus on justice for genuine progress. The dialogue extended to E-bike rebates, prioritizing equitable and community-focused implementation. There was a call for a comprehensive consideration of the broader impact of climate solutions on community issues and residents’ lives.

Environmental justice concerns prompted calls for metrics beyond income and advocated for community partnerships involving trusted individuals. Discussions underscored the role of states and cities in the absence of federal leadership, with commitments from the last COP requiring closer scrutiny for fulfillment.

The exploration of cumulative impacts on climate and health disparities highlighted how  justice issues are interconnected. Community members recognized pollution’s disproportionate effects on under-resourced areas, and there were calls for a grassroots approach, community involvement, and trust-building for meaningful change. Proactive, innovative strategies and a commitment to climate equity emerged as key themes in Denver’s pursuit of sustainable solutions.

“What is the highest impact? What are the most just and equitable actions? Let’s assess what is working and what we could do better.”

Liz Babcock, Executive Director of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency
Community members actively discussed “How Do We Get There?”—exploring strategies for the City to achieve climate goals equitably.

Key Takeaways from Denver’s Local Stocktake 

In summary, the collaborative efforts of Denver’s Sustainability Advisory Council and staff from Denver’s climate office resulted in three core takeaways:

  1. Integrate climate justice at all times
  2. Elevate community voices
  3. Increase public education and outreach for climate and sustainability initiatives

These key principles underscore the collective vision for a more equitable, inclusive, and informed approach to Denver’s climate action efforts. 

Check out photos from Denver’s Local Stocktake here!