The FCSG Story

Updated on August 16, 2015

The Fort Collins Sustainability Group (FCSG) grew out of a meeting held in the spring of 2005, shortly after the Kyoto Protocol went into effect, among several people interested in getting the city to commit to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Over the following months, others who viewed such a commitment as a way to strengthen the local economy in the wake of high technology sector job losses joined the new organization.

Members of the FCSG soon learned that the Fort Collins City Council had passed a resolution in 1999 committing the city to reducing its GHG emissions significantly by 2010. However, we also learned that the city would fall far short of its goal unless additional actions were taken.

In response, the FCSG initiated a resolution to establish a “Climate Task Force” to develop a set of measures that could be taken to meet the goal established in 1999, which would also help strengthen the local economy. This resolution was passed by City Council in March 2007. The FCSG then actively participated in and supported the efforts of the Climate Task Force, which completed its proposed package of measures for City Council’s consideration in the spring of 2008.

Following the recommendations of both the FCSG and the Climate Task Force, City Council expressed its intent in May of 2008 to meet the original 2010 goal by 2012. Council also signaled its intent to continue reducing community-wide GHG emissions by establishing new goals for 2020 and 2050. In December of 2008, City Council passed a resolution to adopt the Climate Action Plan (CAP) that emerged from the Climate Task Force’s work, and to begin the process of implementation.

In January of 2009, the FCSG lobbied successfully for an electric energy policy efficiency and conservation goal that exceeds the Climate Task Force recommendation by 50%. Due in part to that effort, Fort Collins Utilities committed to reducing electric energy consumption in its service territory by 1.5% per year through 2020. The FCSG also provided input to City Council during the 2009 biennial budget process. In the end, the biennial budget provided funding for most measures in the Climate Action Plan, despite a somewhat difficult overall economic picture for the City.

The FCSG undertook two additional initiatives of note in 2009. The first was a pair of “Creative Climate Solutions Retreats” in the spring, which brought together community members (plus one employee of the City of Boulder) to develop breakthrough strategies on how Fort Collins might achieve 80% GHG emissions reductions by 2030, rather than by 2050 as established in the 2008 Climate Action Plan (click for details). The second was to bring together ten local organizations for a fall conference to form the “Northern Colorado E3 Sustainability Alliance,” or NCE3SA.

In 2010 and 2011, the FCSG dedicated itself to advocating for the implementation of a tiered residential electric rate by Fort Collins Utilities to encourage conservation and discourage waste. With support from the NCE3SA, we achieved success in December of 2011 when City Council adopted a three-tiered seasonal residential electric rate to take effect in February of 2012.

In 2012, the FCSG facilitated the unification of the NCE3SA with Transition Fort Collins (TFC), which is part of the Colorado Transition Network and the world-wide Transition Movement. We believe that TFC, with its mission of helping build community resilience and self-reliance in response to peak oil, climate change, and economic crisis, is a promising vehicle for addressing all aspects of sustainability. The unified organization uses the Transition Fort Collins name.

During the second half of 2012 and throughout 2013, the FCSG, TFC, and a new organization, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, worked to limit the impact of oil and gas exploration, including fracking, on our city. We stressed the deleterious effects methane emissions from fracked wells have on the atmosphere and the climate. These efforts culminated in the passage of a citizens’ initiative to place a five year moratorium on fracking within Fort Collins city limits and on city-owned land in November of 2013.

In 2012 and 2013, the FCSG also focused on getting a cardboard recycling ordinance approved by City Council. At that time, cardboard represented about 10% of the municipal waste stream. In landfills, carbon decomposes into methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. The ordinance, which was approved in March of 2013, prohibits the disposal of cardboard in the landfill, thereby both helping Fort Collins reduce its GHG emissions and achieve its goal of diverting at least 50% of its solid waste away from landfills.

Beginning in the summer of 2013 and continuing through the spring of 2015, the City of Fort Collins engaged in a thorough re-examination of the Climate Action Plan and associated GHG emissions reduction goals it adopted in 2008. The FCSG was closely involved in this process, starting with a presentation by our Science Advisor, Scott Denning, to City Council in August of 2013. Scott subsequently developed a “CO2 and Climate Calculator” to help people explore the level of GHG emissions cuts needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. That calculator, and a video explaining how to use it, is available at FCSG also participated in a Citizens Advisory Committee to help develop strategies that would enable the City to achieve some of the most ambitious climate goals in the world. In March of 2015, City Council adopted a new Climate Action Plan that reaffirmed the 2020 goal of 20% emission reductions compared to 2005, and set new goals of 80% emissions reductions by 2030, and climate neutrality by 2050. The 2030 goal is the same as that analyzed in FCSG’s 2009 “Creative Climate Solutions Retreats.”

Every year, the City of Fort Collins publishes a Climate Action Plan Status Report to track Climate Action Plan results. According to those reports, community-wide GHG emissions dropped between 2007 and 2011 by 14.7% compared to the 2005 baseline. Since then, however, emissions have been rising, and in 2014 they were only 2.6% less than that baseline. However, it should be noted that since 2005, the population of Fort Collins has grown 18.7%, and sales and use taxes (a measure of economic activity) have grown 41%.

Clearly, population and economic growth are on the verge of overwhelming the gains made in the early years of the 2008 Climate Action Plan. Going forward, the FCSG will work hard to support implementation of the policies outlined in the 2015 Climate Action Plan. We are cautiously optimistic that the ambitious goals included in that plan will be met in the coming years.