Colorado will fight global warming by adopting clean-car standards, updating farming techniques to trap more carbon dioxide and cutting emissions from electric utilities 20 percent by 2020.

Gov. Bill Ritter’s climate action plan announced Monday includes goals comparable to those of states such as New Jersey and California with the aim of reducing greenhouse- gas emissions 80 percent below current levels by midcentury.

Standing below a solar-powered scoreboard at Coors Field, Ritter called global warming this generation’s “greatest environmental challenge.”

“It threatens our economy, our way of life, and I really believe it threatens our future,” Ritter said.

The most controversial part of Ritter’s plan is a call for Colorado to join 16 other states in adopting tougher emissions standards for vehicles.

The governor’s office will direct the state Air Quality Control Commission to set rules for tailpipe emissions, which would take effect as soon as 2011, said Heidi VanGenderen, Colorado’s first climate- change director.

The rules would force automobile makers to sell cleaner- burning cars in Colorado and apply only to new vehicles.

Environmental advocates – thrilled with most of the climate action plan – were disappointed the governor did not announce that Colorado would follow California and adopt the country’s most stringent auto-emission standards.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association criticized Ritter for “ceding authority” to the air-quality commission and trying to “California-ize” Colorado.

“Rather than force the public into cars that are far too small or those that do not have enough power to climb Colorado’s mountainous terrain, it would be much more effective to incentivize Coloradans to move into newer, cleaner cars,” said Tim Jackson, association president.

The governor’s plan – developed in months of meetings with climate scientists, technology experts and ski-industry leaders – is unique in the nation because it includes farmers, Ritter said.

It calls for new farming practices to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide seeping into the air, including less frequent tilling and using vegetative cover to trap the gas in the soil.

The plan also prescribes better storage of livestock manure to reduce methane emissions.

Colorado farmers already have pledged to use the modern techniques on 175,000 acres, said Kent Peppler, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

“We can get in front of this global warming, and Colorado agriculture will be a leader in the effort,” Peppler said.

Most of the plan will be accomplished through executive order, though parts may require legislation. The governor also asked citizens to take steps to reduce “their personal carbon footprint.”

Ritter wants people to bike or use public transportation, replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, use low-flow showerheads and turn down the thermostat in the winter.

State government will lead by example, cutting waste 75 percent by 2020, Ritter said.

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