Udall, Heinrich urge action on climate crisis

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich were busy this week advocating for legislative action on what Democrats in Congress refer to as a “global climate crisis.”

Udall testified on the Senate floor Wednesday, urging Congress not to place climate action bills in a “legislative graveyard.”

“This administration has slashed and burned every protection, program, and agreement aimed at combatting climate change that it can find – from the Clean Power Plan, to methane control regulations, to the Paris Agreement,” Udall said.”Climate change threatens the land, lives, and livelihoods of homeowners, small businesses, farmers, ranchers, fishers, and so many others all across the nation. And the Majority Leader’s refusal to take up climate action is about as bad as Congressional malfeasance gets.”

Udall showed a photo of a 2003 fire near Taos Pueblo, and said New Mexicans are on “pins and needles every fire season.”

The 2014 National Climate Assessment reported that current and projected climate change effects place indigenous communities at increased risk.

“Many Native people’s way of life is intimately tied to the land and water,” said Udall, who is the Senate Indian Affairs Committee vice chair. “These natural resources – that they have depended on for hundreds or even thousands of years – are being disrupted in ways that upend their communities. Their subsistence, their cultural practices, their sacred sites are all threatened.”

New Mexico’s senior senator referenced the state’s Energy Transition Act that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed in March. The law put New Mexico on the path to 100% carbon free energy by 2045. It also created a Climate Change Task Force of state agencies. Udall ended his testimony by calling for a bipartisan climate debate that would help create real national solutions.

Also on Wednesday, Heinrich participated in the first hearing of the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. The hearing was titled “A Blueprint for Success: U.S. Climate Action at the Local Level” and featured five U.S. mayors discussing their cities’ efforts to reduce carbon pollution.

The committee was formed earlier this year by Senate Democrats in response to what they say is a refusal by Senate Republicans to acknowledge climate change.

“It’s long past time for Congress to finally implement real solutions and support local governments who are already taking great steps to eliminate carbon pollution, mitigate the devastating effects of the climate crisis, and create a managed transition to an economy run 100 percent on clean energy,” Heinrich said. “The mayors we heard from today, and local and state leaders in New Mexico, are demonstrating that we don’t need to wait for policies that won’t come from this White House to confront the climate crisis. Local communities that are leading on climate action are not only reducing carbon emissions. They are also seeing major energy cost savings and creating good paying jobs. We need to build on this success all across the nation.”

The committee heard from mayors of Atlanta, Honolulu, St. Paul, Pittsburgh and Portland. Committee chair Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, praised the leaders’ efforts to partner with local businesses, universities and foundations on creative solutions to reduce carbon emissions in their cities.

“(Climate change) is not somebody else’s conversation, but it’s important to all of our communities,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

“In order to be successful on achieving climate action goals, it has to come from the community,” Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “Sometimes you really have the let the community take the lead.”

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