The City of Boulder welcomes your feedback. Use our Inquire Boulder customer service tool to tell us what’s on your mind.

  • CAP Home
  • Reduce Use
  • Waste Not
  • Build Better
  • Ramp Up Renewables
  • Travel Wise
  • Grow Green
  • LEAD

Climate Action Home Page

Climate Action Home Page

Boulder's Climate Action Plan (CAP)

Preserving the health and sustainability of our climate has been valued by our community for many years. Boulder launched its first formal climate action efforts pdf in 2002. Since that time, the city has been at the forefront of innovation in working to reduce climate impacts: adopting the country's first carbon tax, developing a national model for delivering energy efficiency services, enacting the country’s most stringent energy code for new buildings, and much more. 

Boulder's Climate Action Plan , often referred to as the CAP, is a set of aggressive, city-funded programs and services designed to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. As a result of CAP-funded programs, Boulder avoided more than 50,000 metric tons of emissions between 2007 and 2015, keeping our community emissions fairly constant despite growth in population, jobs and economic activity. 

Our goal now is to build on this success and foster economic vibrancy while reducing overall emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. Reaching this goal means ramping up our climate efforts and in particular, our actions to promote energy efficiency and conserve natural resources.

Learn more about Boulder's energy use and GHG emissions through Boulder's GHG inventory.

Climate action plan (CAP) tax

Currently, Boulder's climate initiatives are supported by the Climate Action Plan (CAP) tax.  The tax funds a set of aggressive, city-funded programs and services designed to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. 

The current tax expires in March 2018. If voters approve continuation of the CAP tax in 2015, the tax would extend for five years and the current rates and collection mechanism would remain the same.  

Key Climate Action Focus Areas

Energy efficiency

Boulder Building Performance Ordinance

In support of community energy goals, the city is now developing commercial and industrial rating and reporting and energy efficiency requirements, known as Boulder's Building Performance Ordinance.  These requirements would move beyond current voluntary programs to require actions that would reduce energy use and improve the quality of the commercial and industrial building stock, which currently represents Boulder’s highest energy users and heaviest GHG emitters. 


EnergySmart offers energy efficiency assessments, advising services and rebates for residents and businesses to help them improve the energy performance of their homes and buildings. Since EnergySmart began in 2010, m ore than 7,500 city of Boulder housing units have participated in the program and more  than $1.4 million in rebates have been paid and over $10.5 million in private investments have been made. M ore than 2,300 city businesses have participated in EnergySmart and more than $2 million in rebates have been issued as well as more than $7.5 million in private investments made through the program.


The SmartRegs ordinances  require that all rental housing units in Boulder meet basic energy efficiency standards by December 21, 2018. As of July 2015, m ore than 7,600 rental units (out of about 20,000) are now compliant with SmartRegs.  The SmartRegs program recently surpassed a “stretch goal” by reaching 3,000 compliant rental units in a one-year contract period between Feb. 2014 and March 2015

Pilot programs and program tracking and evaluation

Pilot programs

Boulder Energy Challenge is a grant program kaunched in 2014 that has provided $300,000 funding for innovative solutions from the community to reduce emissions.

Community Power Partnership is a pilot program launched in 2014 designed to help residents and businesses better understand their electricity use at a whole-building and circuit levels.

Program tracking and evaluation
  • Tracking community greenhouse gas emissions using a new international standard used by other global cities. Latest GHG inventory completed for 2012
  • Development of a sustainability data tracking, management and reporting system
  • Development of a roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in collaboration with community partners and experts

Renewable energy and Boulder Energy Future

Boulder Energy Future Project (not funded by CAP)

Through Boulder Energy Future, the city is pursuing owning and operating a local electric utility, a process also known as municipalization.  For the city, it’s an opportunity to move away from getting electricity from a for-profit investor-owned utility with a carbon-intensive coal-powered energy supply. A local electric utility could run on cleaner energy, be more affordable and reliable, support innovation, promote resilience, and serve customers in a manner consistent with community values and priorities.

Solar Power

Since 2007, Boulder residents, businesses and institutions have installed more than 15 megawatts of solar on more than 1,900 rooftops. Due in part to these investments, Boulder became recognized as a platinum-level Solar Friendly Community in 2014, with one of the highest per-capita solar installations in the country. In August 2015, the City of Boulder, in collaboration with Mapdwell, an M.I.T. clean-tech spinoff, launched an online solar tool to support community members in understanding their solar potential.Boulder Solar Tool is designed to  assist residents, businesses and property owners in understanding their unique rooftop solar potential.


Transportation Master Plan (TMP)

In 2014, Boulder updated its Transportation Management Plan to align with the city’s emissions reduction goal of 80 percent by 2050. The plan centers around five focus areas: complete streets, regional travel, transportation management demand, funding, and integrating with sustainability initiatives. Boulder is recognized as a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community with more than 160 miles of bike paths and lanes and 79 pedestrian and bike underpasses. Boulder’s mode share rates (bike, bus, walk) for traveling to and from work continue to be much higher than both national and regional averages. Since 2005, vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by residents have decreased and VMT by non-residents have remained relatively stable in spite of growth in population, jobs and revenue.

Zero waste

Boulder is working to become a zero waste community that reuses, recycles and composts at least 85 percent of its waste stream by the year 2025. Boulder is home to a number of zero waste facilities created through community investment, including a recycling center, center for hard to recycle materials, hazardous materials management facility, resource center for salvaged building materials, and creative reuse center for art and office supplies.  

Disposable Bag Fee

Boulder has a  Disposable Bag Fee--a 10-cent fee for disposable plastic and paper checkout bags at all grocery stores. Since January 2013, the fee has reduced bag use in Boulder by 68 percent. 

Universal Zero Waste Ordinance

In June of 2015, Boulder adopted the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance, which seeks to expand recycling and composting to all Boulder residents, employees and visitors by requiring all homeowners, businesses and property owners in Boulder to recycle and compost. The ordinance builds upon previous zero waste initiatives that established curbside single-stream recycling and compost pick-up for all homes in Boulder. 

Boulder's new Climate Commitment

Boulder's new Climate Commitment builds on our Climate Action Plan and lays out a comprehensive strategy to reduce community GHG emissions at least 80 percent by the year 2050.  We know that long-term success will require better feedback loops, honest assessment, persistence and collective action.

Energy remains the primary near-term focus of climate action due to the importance of reducing the burning of fossil fuels. At the same time, the city and community continue to explore ways to address the impact that resource use has on emissions, and how ecosystem management can enhance the emission-minimizing services provided by natural systems.


For questions about CAP programs or the CAP tax, please contact the Climate + Sustainability Division at or 303-441-3434.

City Council Documents



Meeting Type


7/30/2015 Climate Commitment Goal



Meeting Type


11/12/2014 Climate-Energy
2/20/2014 City County Climate Action Attitudes



Meeting Type


7/30/2013 Boulder's Climate Commitment and Efficiency Programs



Meeting Type


7/24/2012 CAP Tax Survey
5/22/2012 Energy Future and Climate Action Work in Progress



Meeting Type


4/8/2008 CAP, Transportation and Renewable Energy Strategies
View Full Site