Climate initiatives are moving New Mexico toward its emissions goals, but there is “more work to do,” according to a report released Friday by a state climate change task force.
In an introduction to the 40-page report, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said New Mexico should “cultivate a better, cleaner future” as the state deals with “twin crises” of climate change and COVID-19.
“Our work to address climate change has not stopped because the need to address climate change has not gone away – just the opposite,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “Our record-breaking fire season is just one reminder that tackling climate change must be one of our top priorities.”
Many initiatives in the report are hallmarks of Lujan Grisham’s January 2019 executive order on climate change and the state Energy Transition Act.
Oil and natural gas production and fuel combustion contributed 53% of New Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, according to a state-commissioned study by Colorado State University included in the report.
Transportation is the state’s second-largest emitting sector at 14%, and electricity generation is third at 11%.
New Mexicans produce about 50 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per person per year, while the national average is 18 tons.
Sarah Cottrell Propst, the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department cabinet secretary, said the CSU emissions data will guide future initiatives.
“We wanted to know how many emissions reductions we could expect from the policies we have already undertaken, and how far that gets us towards our ultimate greenhouse gas reduction goals,” Cottrell Propst said.
EMNRD worked with the Regulation and Licensing Department this year to update building codes for energy efficiency. Those codes had not been updated for a decade. In spring 2021, EMNRD will have a “roadmap” for updating the state’s electric grid.
“This is thinking big about how we continue to transform the electric sector, and it backs up the goals and requirements set in the ETA,” Cottrell Propst said.
The department is also helping draft a bill to clarify how prescribed fire can prevent catastrophic wildfires in New Mexico’s forests.
James Kenney, Environment Department cabinet secretary, said state initiatives include adapting to the realities of a changing climate.
“We now look at climate impacts in terms of prioritizing how we lend money,” Kenney said. “That’s a fundamental shift.”
The department considered regional climate impacts when awarding $4.6 million this year from a federal Volkswagen settlement. That money will fund electric vehicle charging stations and buses for cities and schools.
Kenney said NMED will work on vehicle emissions standards beginning in early 2021.
“The climate crisis affects everybody,” Kenney said. “It’s not just a scientific exercise.”
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.