DENVER - Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday that Colorado has joined the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group committed to following the guidelines of the Paris climate agreement.
At the scenic Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Hickenlooper signed an executive order to join 12 states and Puerto Rico that will work toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, even as the federal government withdraws from the agreement.
Hickenlooper said in a statement that the order represents Colorado's commitment to being a leader on climate issues and preserving the outdoor resources that contribute billions of dollars to its economy.
"The vast majority of our residents, and indeed the country, expect us to help lead the way towards a clean and affordable energy future," Hickenlooper said in the statement.
The order also outlines the climate-change goals of Colorado, which include:
Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 26 percent by 2025.
Lowering carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity producers by 35 percent by 2030.
Cutting the price of electricity by 2 percent by 2020.
In addition to its climate goals, the state plans to work with local governments and utility companies to maximize renewable-energy resources and develop rules for tracking greenhouse-gas emissions through the Department of Public Health and Environment.
The alliance Colorado joins was formed in June after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change.
When withdrawing from the agreement, Trump said he would fight for a better agreement that does not "disadvantage the United States."
The other members of the alliance are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
Steve Hogan, Republican mayor of Aurora, said the governor's announcement represents a step toward Colorado controlling its energy future while Washington, D.C., moves backward from the desire of Coloradans.
"We can no longer rely on what happens or doesn't happen in Washington, D.C.," Hogan said.
But so far, Hogan is the only Republican to publicly support the order.
Hickenlooper said his office has had discussions with the Republican lawmakers about clean energy and clean air but has yet to get widespread support for the goals outlined in his order.
"It's not there yet," he said.
According to the Colorado Energy Coalition, the state is ranked No. 1 for wind energy production, and over the past five years, renewable energy employment has grown by 22.4 percent while fossil-fuels jobs have increased by 5.9 percent.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden reports that of the 25,000 energy generation jobs in Colorado, 15,000 come from wind and solar combined.
Hickenlooper said he hopes the order will tap into the shift in the Colorado energy market and the growth of wind energy jobs, which Forbes listed as the fastest growing field in 2016.
"These are market forces, again this is not government imposing a regime," Hickenlooper said.
The order has been hailed as a step forward by Democrats and some environmental agencies, but Republicans have been quiet so far.
"This is a real leadership moment for Governor Hickenlooper who has positioned Colorado as a leader among all the states, certainly among states in our region, to take steps that ensure that climate change is held to 2 degrees Celsius or less," said Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates.
Gary Wockner, executive director of Save the Colorado River, a Front Range-based environmental group focused on protecting the Colorado River and combating climate change, said the order doesn't go far enough and actually undercuts one signed in 2008 by former Gov. Bill Ritter.
The 2008 order called for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, from 2005 levels, by 2020 and a 80 percent reduction by 2050.
Colorado House of Representatives Majority Leader KC Becker said she is optimistic about what the order means for Colorado.
"(Hickenlooper) sending out the direction to his agencies to work with the energy sector, with the outdoor industry sector, with local governments pro-actively and collaboratively really is a new and exciting step, and I think that there is a lot that they can and will do," Becker said.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, supports Hickenlooper's order.
"This is great news for our economy and environment," Bennet said in a statement.
The offices of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, both Republicans from Colorado, did not respond to calls seeking comment.