Q&A with Jonathan Koehn, Regional Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Boulder

Q&A with Boulder’s Jonathan Koehn on 5th Annual Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Conference plus more

In September, Boulder hosted a meeting of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, bringing together international leaders in local climate action. Boulder’s Regional Sustainability Coordinator, Jonathan Koehn, discussed the event and his city’s role as a climate leader.

How has Boulder become a hub for international climate science?

It’s a combination of the area’s natural beauty, research institutions and a public that really stands behind this important topic. Certainly, the community has long been concerned with preserving nature, which is best exemplified in the beautiful open space that surrounds the city. But the presence of the federal labs like NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the University of Colorado has attracted world-class climate researchers from across the globe.


What is the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, and what was on the agenda for the recent meeting in Boulder?

Boulder recently hosted the 5th annual Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) annual meeting, with representatives from 22 of the world’s leading cities in climate action. Cities attending included Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro, Yokohama, New York City, London, Melbourne, San Francisco, Oslo and many other leading global cities, all of whom have made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by 80% or more by 2050.

It was such a remarkable honor to host some of the leading cities working on climate issues. During the week-long summit, we got a chance to discuss the great ideas, policies and projects other cities are working on. For instance, I learned about Vancouver’s impressive efforts to bring renewable transportation options to their residents and businesses. We also hosted a town hall which is available to watch at www.etown.org/live.

What resources and support can Boulder offer other municipalities in Colorado looking to tackle implications of climate change?

There is a growing recognition that cities and towns are on the front lines when it comes to a changing climate. In Colorado, these changes are affecting our fragile high-altitude ecosystems and hit at the heart of our communities’ local economies, affecting roads and bridges, parks and forests, buildings, farming and agriculture, the ski industry, and public open space. This is a crisis that will affect our food, our national security, our water, our ability to live where we choose, and other basic human needs. Whether and how we address global warming is not a question of science, it's a question of values.


These challenges we face are so much bigger than any one community. While we will continue to share our experiences and lessons, we believe that the most effective actions are those we implement together. With a focus on training and program design, the Colorado Compact is creating vital local opportunities, while the Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA) is focusing on climate policy reform. These two coalitions are leading the way, and thanks to the leadership from all of the involved jurisdictions, we will create and implement new ways to stabilize the climate, while improving the health, safety and economic productivity of our communities. 

I welcome the opportunity to share Boulder’s experiences. Folks are welcome to email me at koehnj@bouldercolorado.gov and I’d love to connect.