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Reducing New Mexico’s Carbon Emissions = Economic Sense

Vicki Pozzebon, Executive Director, Santa Fe Alliance

A Guest Post by Vicki Pozzebon

When President Obama was elected, the spotlight turned to Washington D.C., where he promised to enact national climate change legislation. Now that Congress has passed on a climate bill, attention is shifting back to New Mexico, where steps are being taken to regulate global warming pollution.

In 2005, New Mexico established a statewide goal to reduce global warming emissions. (State of New Mexico, Office of the Governor. Executive Order 05-033.)

But the goal wasn’t enough; it didn’t require fossil fuel industries to transition to clean energy, and the fossil fuel polluters continued to emit large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Because global warming is an urgent crisis it demands immediate action to prevent climate catastrophe. The consequences of inaction are far too great, and the time remaining to reduce risks is running out.

People want solutions and don’t want to see our governments stuck in partisan gridlock. People don’t want to see our governments owned by fossil fuel interests. In response, New Energy Economy filed a Petition with the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) to set a cap on global warming emissions by levels consistent with the best climate science (EIB 08-19(R).

The Santa Fe Alliance, representing nearly 450 locally owned businesses and nonprofit organizations has supported this petition because we see that the long term economic impact from environmental abuse is counterproductive; we believe that evidence of climate change validates the need to act protectively and proactively.

The Oil and Gas Industry’s Response

What is PNM’s and NM Oil and Gas Association’s response? In their testimony, PNM and NM Oil and Gas Association have consistently opposed the cap on emission. PNM stated that “a state cap on greenhouse gasses would be costly for businesses and utility customers and that the emissions debate should be settled by the federal government.”

An overwhelming majority of mainstream climate scientists are predicting that temperatures across New Mexico have risen steeply over the past three decades, with the northernmost part of the state having warmed the most: 1.6°F since 1980. Without significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, New Mexico is projected to warm an additional 2°F by 2040 and 4°F by the end of the century.

There are health costs and environmental costs to inaction. The Program on Climate Economics of the Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) estimate the minimum annual cost to each New Mexican household to be $3,430 by 2020 and $5,410 by 2040. With no changes in policies these costs could rise as high as $12,000 per household per year in 2080. The corresponding minimum total costs for New Mexico would be $3.2 billion in 2020, $6.3 billion in 2040 and $18.4 billion in 2080. (From “An Overview of Potential Economic Costs to New Mexico of a Business-As-Usual Approach to Climate Change,” February 2009, www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/…/021609_ClimateEconomicsImpactsReport.pdf ). As the leader of a community organization dedicated to developing a local living economy that creates greater community wealth for all, I can safely say those are numbers we cannot ignore.

Why should we listen to the advice and cries from the same industries that have caused the pollution?

What Do Investors Say?

There is another perspective:  Investors. Investors from Ceres (pronounced “series”), a national network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups worth $13 trillion have this to say: “The world can no longer afford business as usual. We must begin to reward activities that assure our future, and discourage practices that degrade our environment and society. Opportunity grows from these challenges. The breakdowns we are now seeing from an economy focused on short-term gains and growth at all costs are opening doors to revamp government, business and investment practices.” The very first measures they deem as “critical” are: “Short- and long-term emission reduction targets” and “policies that put an effective price on carbon such that businesses and investors reassess investment value and redirect their investments.” (From www.ceres.org/Document.Doc?id=520).

New Energy Economy’s regulation to cap carbon before the EIB is not a panacea. But it will put us on a path. It is commonly known that energy efficiency implementation has not achieved its technical or economically feasible potential in New Mexico, and many believe that industry could meet the targets set by the Petition if industry enacted serious energy efficiency and conservation measures.

New Mexico’s Role

Additionally, New Mexico has abundant renewable energy resources and has an extraordinary opportunity to benefit by creating a new direction for energy in America. New Mexico also can help our country become energy independent by becoming a leading exporter of clean renewable energy and new energy technologies. People believe in and are hungry to participate in building a clean energy economy.

Currently over 80 cents of every dollar we spend with PNM is leaving our state. Imagine the revenue we could capture if we increased local production of renewable energy. That money could flow into our education and health care coffers for statewide services. Imagine a New Mexico that creates its own wealth through its own energy.

Recovering and restoring local food and energy production requires a conscious transformation and set of ecological and economic leaps for our communities. In recognizing the links between health, food, fuel scarcity and poverty, energy, and green jobs, we can address the global challenge of climate change and peak oil and the economic and health challenges afflicting New Mexico.

I urge you to support the carbon cap as an effective economic and policy stimulus.

Vicki Pozzebon is the Executive Director of the Santa Fe Alliance, a non profit organization working toward building a local living economy through community, local ownership and advocacy. Visit www.santafealliance.com for more information.



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