North Front Range Accelerator

Colorado is at the frontlines of climate change impacts, experiencing growing wildfire and heat hazards. C2ES launched the first Climate Resilient Communities Accelerator in the North Front Range of Colorado, a region spanning Fort Collins and Denver, to support communities and businesses operating in the region to prepare for these impacts.

About the Accelerator

Through the Climate Resilient Communities Accelerator, public, private, and community stakeholders are outlining a path forward for coordinated efforts in the region. The Accelerator builds on and complements existing climate resilience programs and is designed to scale across multiple U.S. regions to elevate policy gaps and opportunities to federal lawmakers. 

In the first year of the North Front Range Accelerator, C2ES worked with the Climate Adaptation Partnership at Colorado State University to host two convenings in 2023: a Climate Resilient Economies Roundtable in October and a Resources Connector Forum in November. These convenings aimed to connect communities and businesses to each other and help expand the pool of potential partners, including economic development groups, community-based organizations, NGOs, and state and federal agencies. The discussions were designed to augment local resilience efforts by uncovering strategies that can reduce the impacts of more than one climate hazard and will require action from a broad range of actors to succeed. 

C2ES developed a Summary Report to capture the 2023 Accelerator convenings and process, including stakeholder engagement, current and projected wildfire and heat impacts, the shared regional vision for a prosperous future, key action areas for resilience, and opportunities to accelerate progress in the action areas. 

Building on the first year’s success in identifying a path forward and key action areas, the second year focuses on activating stakeholders around several key action areas and amplifying local priorities to federal policymakers. The C2ES Climate Resilient Communities Accelerator was launched with generous support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

Climate Resilient Communities Accelerator Process

2024 Key Action Areas

Building on the first year’s success in identifying a path forward and some key action areas, the second year focuses on activating stakeholders around a set of solutions selected by participants: microgrids and resilience hubs.

Microgrids are small-scale power grids that can operate independently or in conjunction with an area’s main electrical grid, and resilience hubs are trusted gathering spaces enhanced to provide safety for community members. Accelerator participants discussed how existing community centers and spaces could increase everyday resilience, as well as before, during, and after emergencies—like wildfires and extreme heat—and defined steps to advance these solutions in the region. This next year of the Accelerator aims to inform, connect, and empower stakeholders with discussions that lead to the next steps for key action areas and a regional implementation toolkit.

Key Publications

Unlocking Community Resilience: Innovative Strategies to Access Climate Adaptation Funding

Many communities struggle to tap into existing resources and make investments towards boosting resilience to climate risks. However, local and state governments, along with various organizations, are spearheading innovative methods to tackle core challenges and enhance community access to adaptation funding. This brief explores on-the-ground strategies to access climate adaptation funding from across Colorado.

In a recent blog post, C2ES Senior Manager for Resilience Programs Libby Zemaitis reflects on these three innovative and practical strategies to overcome funding challenges and accelerate local resilience investments.

Read the Brief

Accelerating Resilience: Wildfire and Heat Strategies for Colorado’s North Front Range

This summary report captures discussions from 2023 Accelerator convenings, and details the stakeholder engagement process, current and projected wildfire and heat impacts, the shared regional vision for a prosperous future, and seven key action areas for resilience.

In a related blog post, C2ES Senior Manager for Resilience Programs Libby Zemaitis draws insights from the Accelerator’s first year in the North Front Range, and highlights stakeholder efforts to connect local leaders with resources from federal agencies and businesses, and outline a path forward for accelerating regional resilience efforts.

Read Report

Stakeholders Coordinating on Resilience

Accelerator participants represent a range of leading organizations, many developing innovative solutions on climate mitigation, environmental sustainability, and social equity, and others deeply engaged in wildfire response. 

The range of participating communities included Boulder and Larimer counties, City and County of Denver, cities of Fort Collins, Longmont, Westminster, and Wheat Ridge, and towns of Erie and Superior.

Several local companies—Xcel Energy, Vaisala, and AT&T—share their risk mitigation activities and highlight where they could work with communities to advance resilience.

Representatives from community-based organizations and federal and state agencies highlight a diverse set of resources and strategies to support community resilience.

Why the North Front Range?

Colorado is facing increasing climate impacts from extreme weather events like wildfires and heat waves. The state experiences more than 2,400 wildfires each year and recent climate projections show increasing risk alongside warmer and drier air. Both increased wildfires and extreme heat events lead to poor air quality and negative health impacts in the North Front Range. 

In 2020, the state suffered its three largest fires, and in 2021, the Marshall Fire destroyed over 1,100 homes and businesses, caused 2 deaths, and led to more than $2 billion in damages in the Front Range, which is at particular risk of wildfire due to high housing density in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). 

C2ES chose the North Front Range based on community interest, significant climate hazards, high social vulnerability, and opportunities to learn from and contribute to existing climate resilience efforts in the region.