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Reflections on the first NM Climate Summit

The very first thing that is required to solve a problem is to understand the problem: To learn the scope of the problem, the contributors to the problem, the truth, to the best of your ability. Only then will effective solutions that match the scope and urgency of the problem become apparent.

That is why we at New Energy Economy left the Speakers Climate Summit after the first day quite disturbed by the self-satisfied optimistic tone about climate coming from the presenters. We were wondering if we share the same reality. Not only were the potential solutions presented with great fanfare by the Governor, the Speaker and the corporate greens sharing the podium both insufficient (NetZero by 2050??!!) and suspect (Hydrogen??!! and Carbon credit schemes designed by and for the fossil fuel industry!!), the truth about the climate crisis and New Mexico's responsibility in this crisis seems to elude them.

A panel of legislators, an oil and gas industry executive and others congratulated themselves on the passage of the ETA, crowed about the technological advances that will make the transition easy, and joked about what they should call their next bill. When asked about the barriers we face, not one person on the panel mentioned the entrenched political influence of the oil and gas industry, the active obstruction and greenwashing of PNM, Avangrid and NMOGA, and the lack of imagination necessary to transition to an economy that operates for the people, not corporations. At the very least, why can't they even name the polluters?

“So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.” ― Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

Precisely when we need government protection and action MOST against the most powerful industry in the world, Egolf punts and tells us that he just bought a new electric car.

When the public questioned their tepid goals, legislators held up pragmatism as an excuse, but “pragmatic,” as always, is code for not threatening vested interests. Not one person mentioned the Permian Climate Bomb - the fact that the Permian Basin could produce more oil, gas, and gas liquids in the next 30 years than it has in the past century. Compared to emissions from the two power plants impacted by the vaunted ETA, emissions from the Permian are projected to equal 141 coal plants by 2030!

The Governor and the Legislature of New Mexico have immense power to prevent that outcome, and yet nowhere in any of their plans are downstream emissions accounted for. Emissions from oil and gas exported by New Mexico are vastly more important to the climate crisis than any number of laws making it easier for individual New Mexicans to install car chargers, and yet there was no call for a moratorium on fracking.

When the people were invited to speak on the second day of the summit, they raised critical issues - but their important points didn't seem to be reflected in the commitments from decision-makers. They decried the lack of urgency, they spoke of non-attainment zones, where our state agencies continually rubber stamp more Oil and Gas permits without concern for cumulative impacts on the air and water that frontline communities need for survival. They detailed the need for meaningful engagement with impacted communities, with the immigrant workers and indigenous peoples who are left at the mercy of corporate abuse and boom and bust economic cycles.

As Greta Thunberg keeps trying to remind the world - our house is on fire, and we cannot put out the fire with a spray bottle. The bottom line is that the drilling must stop. The interests and profits of corporations that are stoking that fire cannot be central to our solutions. Instead life itself, the health, wellbeing and sustainability of our families and the ecological systems that we depend on must be centered, and those who want to lead must not be afraid to look squarely at the truth and speak it out loud.

According to the most recent annual report from the Lancet, climate change will become the “defining narrative of human health,” triggering food shortages, deadly disasters and disease outbreaks that would dwarf the toll of the coronavirus. We need a shift away from corporations and toward communities, away from greed and toward care. It is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat now, and that at the precise moment when we need government to reign in the abuses of the O&G industry our government, in collusion with the corporate greens, refuses to even name the polluters, let alone properly regulate endless extraction and destruction.

As we approach the January session New Energy Economy will be learning and sharing with you the specifics of the "climate bills" proposed, particularly the hydrogen and carbon credits under discussion, and continuing to build our coalition for a Public Power solution that can act as a steady economic engine in perpetuity while rapidly transitioning our electricity to 100% renewable energy. Now, more than ever, we are called to speak truth to power and denounce false solutions that cannot save the people and the land we love.


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