New Mexicans are facing the impacts of climate change like never before. Record fires in my home country have forced thousands to evacuate, hundreds of homes are already lost; hundreds of thousands of acres have burned and all of our forests are threatened and closed indefinitely. New Mexican communities that have held together for hundreds of years have faced unprecedented destruction and now face high reconstruction costs and an uncertain future climate. Here and here are some opportunities to get involved to help those most affected by the fires.
These fires are one of the expected results of decades of warming and drying of the region caused by climate change. Climate change is accelerating and we continue to depend on fossil fuels. To support our homes and families as the threats of climate change worsen, we must work together to improve our resilience and transition to clean energy. As we rebuild, we must focus on clean, carbon-free economic development and new investment in family jobs in clean industries.
Incentives and investments in clean energy
We need a diversified economy powered by clean energy. Thousands of households – some who will be rebuilding from scratch – could benefit from incentives to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) and build new and existing homes and buildings more efficient– and fossil fuel free. We can meet this need by expanding our national tax credit for sustainable buildings, increasing rebates for low-income households in particular, introducing an electric vehicle tax credit; and increasing funding for weatherization and electrification for low-income people Energy Efficiency Community Development block grants and other programs.
The state also has billions of dollars in federal funds of the bipartisan Transportation Infrastructure Bill that will be better used to support free, pollution-free electric public transit for communities across the state and the expansion of protected infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians. The state can also lead by example with capital expenditures dedicated to ensuring that all national and local buildings are efficient and powered by on-site renewable energy; and updating procurement requirements to make national and local vehicle fleets fully electric.
State Economic Development Partnership
To ensure that New Mexico not only uses and benefits from clean energy, we should also invest in state partnerships and tax incentives to bring zero-carbon industries to the state. Such a policy should support both those making clean energy transition components (electric cars, batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, etc.) and industries that can utilize New Mexico’s immense renewable energy potential. . New public-private partnerships (PPPS) for zero-carbon economic development zones, targeted zero-carbon LEDA extensions, and state tax credits for zero-carbon industries could all help support growth and leadership in these critical areas.
New Mexico is already home to more than 11,000 full-time jobs in the clean energy economy. These policies and actions will create more jobs and economic opportunities in this sector.
Accelerating the deployment and use of clean energy
Energy efficiency and electrification can help drive economic development and diversification, which is why we should accelerate the transition to 100% clean electricity generation: required in the state by 2045 for most utilities, we should act faster by requiring utilities to reduce their emissions by 90% by 2030 and aim for 100% by 2035. Xcel energy is already aiming for 90% reductions in Colorado by 2030 and PNM and Avandgrid agreed to target 100% cleanliness by 2035 in their proposed merger settlement last year. We can meet – and maybe even beat – these goals.
Not only is eliminating carbon pollution from the electricity sector now profitable, but it is also the keystone of economic development and pollution reduction in other sectors. To benefit from clean electricity in our homes and vehicles in the future, we must accelerate the rate of heat pump adoption in buildings with incentives, weatherization of low-income housing, regular building code updates and a zero carbon goal for all buildings by 2040.
Transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions nationally and the second largest in New Mexico. We can eliminate most transportation emissions by ensuring New Mexicans have access to an increasing number of clean electric cars and trucks through sales requirements: New Mexico recently passed clean car standards through model year 2026and will have the possibility to adopt stricter standards later this fall. Advanced Clean Truck Standards for medium and heavy trucks are also available for state adoption (other states already have it!)- and clean car standards that require continuous improvement until 2035 will be available later this year. Emissions will continue to decline as additional clean electricity is added to the grid. Likewise, existing industries should be encouraged to use electricity instead of fossil fuels where possible – we must ensure access to electricity for all potential users – and reduce energy consumption efficiently through industry benchmarking requirements.
Now. East. The. Weather.
New Mexico has the technology and resources to invest in a more resilient economy and to lead a clean energy economy that can support families in all regions of the state. Clean economic development, energy efficiency, renewable energy and electrification are the keys to eliminating carbon pollution. If we do not act, the consequences are terrible. Together, we can ensure a healthy, clean economy that will sustain New Mexico for generations to come.