Youth climate activists convene on eve of session

YUCCA host Energy Democracy Convergence

By: - January 17, 2022 5:35 am

Akyra Cordova, a member of YUCCA, spoke after a rally and march demanding the UNM Foundation divest from fossil fuels on Oct. 29, 2021. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

On the eve of the 2022 regular legislative session, a panel of New Mexico youth climate activists will hold a live discussion about organizing for power-shifting solutions, instead of proposals prioritizing the pockets of industry and corporations.

Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA) plans to host an Energy Democracy Convergence today to deliberate the principles, frameworks, opportunities and threats in environmental and climate justice movements.

The group says we are in a critical moment with climate scientists having warned the world we need to act before the planet heats to a point where hundreds of millions of people will face flooding, droughts, poverty and other effects of climate change.

“We need to make sure that these investments and plans benefit our communities,” the group said in a Jan. 12 news release. “Climate policies should be led-by and directed by those impacted.”

The virtual event begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. You can find the stream here.

Climate is the focus of one-quarter of the proposals in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s agenda for the 30-day session.

Environmental and climate justice groups have opposed the administration’s Hydrogen Hub Act because it promotes producing and distributing so-called blue hydrogen, which is developed from natural gas. This is all happening in a state that already struggles policing natural gas operators.

Green hydrogen: The energy used to split off hydrogen molecules comes from renewable sources like wind or solar.

Blue hydrogen: Hydrogen is derived from natural gas in this process. But so is carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is captured and stored underground.

Gray hydrogen: Same process, but no attempt to deal with the C02 byproduct.

The governor’s blue hydrogen proposal was part of an agenda released Friday alongside a new conservation fund called the Land of Enchantment Bond, a statute codifying climate goals, and a proposal to reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation industry called the Clean Fuel Standard Act.

“This agenda supports a thriving New Mexico, one where we choose to proactively invest in families, communities, workers and businesses,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement Friday.

YUCCA counters that the climate legislation proposed in the Roundhouse over the last few years took a “top-down corporate approach” that prioritizes industry and corporate interests.

“We need to make sure to work together to build power and work against forces that aim to co-opt and divide us or marginalize us — and get clear about what we are working FOR,” YUCCA wrote.

YUCCA members spoke about the legislative process and the forces behind it at a panel on Dec. 2 hosted by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Elena Gonzales, a YUCCA member from Socorro, said there is a misleading popular narrative that New Mexico is a leading state in combating climate change.

“We cannot lead the climate movement while we are also leading in oil and gas production,” she said. “Those two things cannot coexist, and we have to recognize that fact to move forward in a just and equitable way.”

More events kicking off the 2022 session:

9 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18 outside the Santa Fe Capitol Roundhouse (next to Tug-of-War sculpture): People’s Budget NM, a coalition of 15 groups, is demanding legislators use $110 million of federal recovery funding for programs that would address the root causes of crime. 

Noon outside the Roundhouse: People’s Housing Project is demanding legislators end the state’s prohibition on rent control.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.