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In the News: NM Must Rise to Climate Challenge

MY VIEW JONATHAN JUAREZ-ALONZO | Nov 16, 2021


With the conclusion of the 26th United Nations COP (Conference of the Parties) — and our state’s delegation back at home — should New Mexicans be proud of our state’s role in the global fight to tackle climate change?

We are in the 11th hour of this climate emergency. Ahead of this round of international talks, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its 2021 report that stated unequivocally — we are not just failing to bring down global emissions fast enough — we are failing to bring them down at all. Last year saw an increase in global climate emissions. According to the World Meteorological Organization, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses hit a record last year and rose faster than the 10-year annual average despite temporary slowdowns during the beginning of COVID-19. CO2 levels hit 413.2 ppm. At this rate, the globe will see a temperature increase by the end of the century far in excess of the Paris Agreement target of around 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 Fahrenheit. The mandate from the scientific consensus is that we must cut global emissions in half in eight years. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was praised for her work to cut methane emissions and lauded as a model climate leader at the climate conference. But our governor has failed to account for the fact that under her administration, New Mexico oil and gas production and global emissions have risen. Our state was the second in the country for gas production last year. Even with oil prices plummeting due to the pandemic, New Mexico saw record extraction. According to Oil Change International’s latest report, burning the oil and gas projected to be produced in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico by 2050 will release nearly 40 billion tons of CO2, almost 10 percent of the remaining global carbon budget for staying under 1.5 Celsius.

Can we expect our state Democratic leadership to protect our local communities (already suffering from extensive drought, water shortages, loss of agricultural viability and the imminent threat of wildfire) and the world against this Permian climate bomb? Can we expect earnest investments in transition planning, revenue replacement and sustainable economic development so we can stop fossil fuel development? Can we expect cleanup, corporate accountability and reparations for impacted communities? Last month, we attended the New Mexico Climate Summit — where we were hoping to hear a resounding yes to these questions. We were cautiously optimistic that New Mexico’s leadership might be ready to commit to transitioning away from fossil fuel dependency. I left the first day feeling sick to my stomach and gravely concerned for my future. Rather than meeting the climate crisis with the urgency and seriousness it deserves, Lujan Grisham announced her plans for New Mexico to achieve net-zero-emissions by 2050, develop New Mexico’s hydrogen sector and, lastly, encourage carbon reduction credits — all of which are dangerous false solutions designed to distract us from taking meaningful climate action while keeping the money flowing to the same fossil fuel industries that have spent decades destroying our planet for short-term profits.

This year we have a $1 billion surplus from oil and gas revenues. We are calling on the state to set aside at least a quarter of this revenue for transition planning and investments. The Just Transition Fund can help facilitate investments now to replace fossil fuel revenues. After another nightmare year of record temperatures, catastrophic wildfires, flooding, hurricanes droughts and species loss — we ask ourselves, will New Mexico rise to this climate moment? It looks like we are going to have to push hard to ensure that we do. Jonathan Juarez-Alonzo is an Indigenous, Two-Spirit, climate activist and community organizer in unceded Tiwa territory — Albuquerque — and is the Policy Lead for Youth United For Climate Crisis Action.