Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration on Thursday released its first New Mexico Climate Strategy report in collaboration with the Environment Department and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The report outlines the progress the state has made in the last year on climate issues with game changers such as the Energy Transition Act, along with an impressive list of goals for 2020.
It also acknowledges that there's still a long way to go.
"It is not hyperbole to suggest the stakes are higher than perhaps ever before in human history," Lujan Grisham writes in the introduction to the report. "New Mexico, as underscored by this initial report and our clear recognition of the work still to be done, will step up."
According to the report, New Mexico produces only about 1% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, but 70% more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the national average thanks to the frenzied success of oil and gas pumping in the Permian Basin.
Transportation is the second greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. To tackle this source, the report is full of strategies for planning infrastructure and the layout of cities more efficiently, and moving the state towards electric cars.
In 2019, New Mexico joined eight other western states in the Regional Electric Vehicle Plan for the West, coordinating the effort to "create electric vehicle highway corridors" with charging stations at regular intervals.
Many of the suggested statewide changes will be adopted and modeled by government first, the report says. As residents of the state capital, Santa Feans are likely to see some changes before other cities do.
For example, Santa Fe is likely to see several more electric vehicle charging stations and a few dozen electric government cars in the next year, as well as solarization of more government buildings. The state will also work with the city on stricter enforcement of water conservation ordinances such as summer watering restrictions.
In 2019, New Mexico set the foundations for moving toward carbon neutrality and other important climate initiatives, and if all goes according to the plan, 2020 will be the year that each individual department hammers out the details.
The number of things the state plans to do in the next year is impressive.
Here's what to look for in 2020:
- The Environment Department will ask the state to adopt the “California clean car standards.” By these standards, new cars sold in New Mexico after 2023 will have to meet the highest low emissions or zero emissions standards.
- New Mexico will add 29 new electric vehicles to its fleet and will spend $1.5 million to build new electric vehicle charging stations in Santa Fe County, while studying where to locate more charging stations across the state.
- New methane emissions regulations will be presented to lawmakers.
- Updates to statewide infrastructure codes will include best practices for reducing transportation related emissions and adopt new efficiency standards for all government construction projects.
- Development of a Natural and Working Lands Climate Plan to study how land produces and absorb carbon and establish land use practices that help keep carbon in the ground, including sustainable grazing, using prescribed burns to lower risks of wildfire, and reforestation projects.
- Evaluation of market-based, “cap-and-trade” scenarios that would put a limit on how much CO2 any company is allowed produce, while also allowing some companies that naturally produce less CO2 to sell their carbon “credits” to companies in industries where it is harder to cap emissions.
- Re-writing of the process for bidding on government contracts to prioritize proposals that consider energy conservation.
- Creation of new worker protection regulations to stop outdoor laborers from experiencing serious heat-related fatality or illness as temperatures rise and heat waves become ever more common
- Assessment state roads and highways’ vulnerability to climate related extreme weather events such as floods and extreme weather variations
- Addition of a “climate change vulnerability model” to the state forest action plan
- Part one of a two-part comprehensive study of the state’s ground and surface water resources