Boulder's Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Measure our present. Design our future.
It’s our community, our climate. And it’s up to us to shape a vibrant, resilient and sustainable future. Measuring progress on emissions reductions helps us track our progress and identify new opportunities to lessen our contribution to climate change. It also helps us understand which areas of change are under our control, and which areas require collaboration with others. By expanding existing programs, developing new approaches, engaging with community partners and sharing efforts and best practices, the city hopes to catalyze climate action throughout Boulder and beyond.
Since 2005, community emissions have been reduced 16 percent, even while the community saw growth in population, jobs and economic activity. The Boulder community has been able to head off increasing emissions through innovative efficiency action and other voter-supported climate action initiatives. Our goal is to build on this success and foster economic vibrancy while reducing overall emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050 from a 2005 baseline. Read more about our community climate commitment .
Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory (2017)
What are GHGs?
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) absorb radiation from the sun and trap heat in the earth's atmosphere. The more GHGs there are, the more heat is trapped in our atmosphere, leading to global warming and climate change. GHGs measured here include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
About this inventory
Since 2005, Boulder has calculated the community greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory to share our community emissions data. Current inventories now include more GHG sources than earlier inventories, giving a more accurate representation of our contribution to climate change. See the city's dashboard Boulder Measures for the community's GHG inventory results over time.
The 2017 Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory was calculated following the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC), the current recognized standard for GHG emissions reporting. See the GHG Inventory Methodology Reference for more information on the GPC and Boulder's inventory calculations.
In any inventory year, factors such as heating and cooling degree days, economic trends, and significant local developments impact emissions, requiring careful attention to and consideration of these factors in mapping overall emission trajectories to measure progress and inform next steps in policy and action.
More than 70 percent of global carbon emissions come from cities like Boulder. Hundreds of these cities are measuring GHG emissions to track progress and identify new opportunities to lessen negative climate impacts. As part of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Boulder and 17 leading global cities have committed to reducing their emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050.
Boulder's Emissions: Present and Future
98 percent of Boulder's emissions come from burning fossil fuels to produce electricity, provide heat and power our transportation system. To reach our climate goals, we need to change how we produce, manage and use energy by creating energy systems that are clean, affordable and reliable.
Boulder’s climate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent (below 2005 levels) by 2050. As of 2017, Boulder emits 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year. This means that each resident, on average, is responsible for 14 metric tons per year. By 2050, Boulder wants to produce less than 400,000 metric tons of GHGs, or three metric tons per person.
In comparing Boulder to other communities, it’s clear that we have an opportunity to reduce our GHG emissions. Transitioning our community to clean, local and reliable energy is key to achieving our climate goal and building community resilience.
Where do Boulder's GHGs come from?
Nearly all (98 percent) of Boulder’s emissions come from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. Half of Boulder’s total emissions come from electricity generation for uses such as lighting and cooling buildings. Natural gas, which is used primarily to heat buildings, accounts for an additional 20 percent. Gasoline, diesel and jet fuels account for nearly one-third of overall emissions.
Who emits GHGs?
Homes, businesses, factories, schools, and local government buildings account for 70 percent of Boulder’s total community GHG emissions. The commercial and industrial sector (C&I) includes business and industry, and represents the greatest opportunity for reductions. The city has developed several new energy policies and programs for the C&I sector that launched in 2016 and 2017 including rating and reporting, zero waste efforts and net zero energy codes.
Our Electricity Supply-Colorado Xcel Energy
All electric customers in Boulder currently receive their electricity and natural gas from Xcel Energy. The types of energy Xcel incorporates into its electricity resource mix influence the carbon intensity of Boulder’s electricity, and therefore the GHG emissions related to energy use in buildings.
With the increase in renewable energy resources mandated by the Colorado Renewable Portfolio Standard, Xcel’s use of coal and natural gas decreased between 2005 and 2017 while use of renewables increased. This shift impacts Boulder’s net emissions: carbon intensity went down despite electricity use going up. It also underscores the great potential of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gases. Be that as it may, regulated utilities in Colorado are only required to implement the amount of renewables prescribed by state mandates. Research shows that responsible climate action will require a much faster and more robust transformation than current mandates, and include closing more coal plants than is currently planned.
Community investments in Renewable Energy
The Boulder community has made a significant commitment to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Today, Boulder is recognized as a platinum-level Solar Friendly Community. Local, or rooftop, solar energy reduces the amount of electricity consumed from traditional sources, such as coal. Local solar grew by 23 megawatts (MW) between 2005 and 2017.
Emissions vs. Economics
Boulder’s economy improved while GHG emissions fell. This represents a significant achievement for our community.
Taking Climate Action - We Don't Just Measure
Boulder values sustainability, and is currently working on a number of sustainability initiatives—from renewable energy to alternative transportation, zero waste, local food, and economic vitality. Boulder’s biggest success in reducing emissions has been in the areas of waste, on-road travel and residential energy use—all areas targeted by the city’s climate programs and related initiatives between 2005 and 2017.
It’s our climate, our community. Learn more about how you can get involved with Boulder’s energy future.