Commentary

New Mexico’s Democrats are choosing short-term profits over our planet

November 18, 2021 4:30 am

(Getty Images)

I came home from the first day of the 2021 New Mexico Climate Summit feeling sick to my stomach and gravely concerned for my future. Rather than meeting the climate crisis with the urgency and seriousness it deserves, I watched our governor and state lawmakers play right into the hands of the same industry that is profiting off of the destruction of our planet. 

As New Mexicans prepare for another devastatingly dry winter, a recent study that examined summer soil moisture levels revealed that New Mexico’s drought has been the driest 20-year period since the late 1500s and the second-driest since 800 CE. We are in the midst of a megadrought that is fueling historic wildfires and crippling our state’s $3.1 billion agriculture industry. New Mexicans from every corner of the state are already feeling the impacts of a warming climate and for years, have been calling on our elected officials to take meaningful climate action. 

The first day of the Climate Summit couldn’t have possibly been more out of touch and tone-deaf to the concerns we’ve been raising with our elected officials. I was both saddened and infuriated as I watched panels of lawmakers and oil executives congratulate themselves on doing the bare minimum, while wealthy lawyers could be overheard on the House floor bragging about their new electric cars. 

Despite New Mexico being one of the fastest-warming parts of the country, our state’s multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel industry still has our elected officials wrapped around its fingers. So now we have false solutions like net-zero-pledges, hydrogen power and carbon credits being proposed at the highest level of state government. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke at the Climate Summit just weeks after thanking wealthy oil executives at the NM Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting, which was protested by local climate activists, including me. Rather than meeting the climate crisis with the urgency and seriousness it deserves, Lujan Grisham announced her plans during her keynote address at the Climate Summit 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. 

Here’s why:

  • “Net-zero” is not the same as “zero emissions.” Net-zero relies on the removal of carbon from our atmosphere through technologies that are not economically sustainable. 
  • 2050 is too little too late. 
  • Hydrogen is not an energy source. It is an energy carrier, which means the energy still has to be produced some other way. Over 95% of hydrogen production in the U.S comes from fossil fuels. 

These bad ideas are just the next chapter in the fossil fuel misinformation campaign, and the latest of many green-washing facades being pushed by the financial beneficiaries of the fossil fuel industry to protect their profits. They are designed to distract us from taking meaningful climate action and keep the money flowing to the same fossil fuel industries that have spent decades destroying our planet for short-term profits. ​​ 

On the second day of the summit,  I finally heard the urgency of the climate crisis finally being voiced on the floor of the House. But it wasn’t our elected officials or industry leaders speaking. It was our community members and tribal leaders, those who have been on the frontlines of these issues for years. They began shining a light on just how our communities are already feeling the impacts of the climate crisis and why actions have been insufficient. They also warned our lawmakers about the dangers of these false solutions being proposed.

Just weeks ago, top oil executives were called to testify before the congressional House Oversight Committee regarding the fossil fuel industry’s role in spreading misinformation and causing confusion and doubt around climate science for decades.

It should be no surprise that these same companies behind those generational lies are now selling us false solutions that continue to line the pockets of their CEOs at the expense of the health and the wellbeing of our planet.

Two years ago, myself and over a dozen youth climate activists from across New Mexico delivered our climate crisis demands directly to the desk of Lujan Grisham. We outlined five goals that our state needs to prioritize in order to ensure a livable planet for future generations of New Mexicans: 

  1. Declare a climate emergency for the state of New Mexico. 
  2. Create a just-transition fund from oil and gas revenues — after all, the fossil fuel industry created this crisis — and divert a large percentage of state revenues from the industry every year to support transition planning efforts in communities throughout New Mexico. The Just Transition Fund can help facilitate investments now to replace fossil fuel revenues.
  3. Protect New Mexico’s air, land and water by passing a fracking moratorium. 
  4. Comprehensive climate legislation to achieve 100% renewables no later than 2030 by centering equity, racial, economic, environmental justice and community solutions. 
  5. Pass community solar legislation. 

We gave the governor 30 days to begin taking action on these demands, and when she failed us, over a dozen climate activists were given criminal citations following a sit-in inside the Governor’s Office. But this was just the beginning of our governor’s betrayal. As of 2021, two years since we first delivered our climate crisis demands to the governor, the only demand she has been brave enough to meet is passing community solar legislation.  

Lujan Grisham may be lauded as a model climate leader after attending the COP26 international climate conference with President Biden earlier this month, but the reality on the ground here in our communities bears some scrutiny. The challenge at hand is clear: the latest 2021 IPCC report published just months ago by the world’s leading scientists stated unequivocally that we’re at a tipping point globally with a clear mandate to cut global emissions by half in eight years. 

While the state’s Democratic leaders are talking about plans to transition our transportation sector and invest in renewable electricity, reducing extraction is not even part of their conversation. 

By choosing to side with the interests of big oil CEOs — and not the interests of the young people who put New Mexico’s Democratic leaders in office — they are once again showing their true colors and corporate loyalty. 

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Jonathan Juarez-Alonzo
Jonathan Juarez-Alonzo

​Jonathan Juarez-Alonzo is a queer, two-spirit Indigenous climate activist and award-winning community organizer in unceded Tiwa Territory (Albuquerque, NM). Coming from the frontline Indigenous communities of Laguna and Isleta Pueblos, Jonathan has always understood the important role that environmental stewardship has in the complex identity of Indigeneity. Throughout his 19 years of life, Jonathan has been involved in countless organizations and social movements throughout the state of New Mexico and across the United States. In October of 2016, Jonathan’s family traveled to Standing Rock to deliver food and supplies to Water Protectors on the front lines against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Throughout 2019, Jonathan organized several school climate strikes across Albuquerque where thousands of students united to call for urgent action from local and state officials. Currently, Jonathan serves as the Chairmxn of the Board of Directors of Pueblo Action Alliance, a grassroots organization working on the frontlines of combating environmental racism and ecological destruction here in New Mexico.

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