New Mexico leaders gathered at the first New Mexico Climate Summit at the state Capitol in Santa Fe on Monday and Tuesday, hosted by House Speaker Brian Egolf, where congressional representatives and constituents discussed the need for critical economic investments and ambitious policy goals to propel the state’s transition toward clean energy. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said New Mexico is leading the way in undertaking climate-friendly initiatives, outlining her work with the Energy Transition Act and the state’s executive order on climate change and energy waste prevention.

“We don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to climate action,” said Sarah Cottrell Propst, Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources.



Recognizing the urgency of the issue, Lujan Grisham called for the codification of the state’s 2050 net-zero emission goal. She said the transition to a net-zero emission economy necessitates a diversification of the state’s energy portfolio to include wind, solar and geothermal energy, lessening the dependence on fossil fuels across all industries in New Mexico.

“I think we should codify that work (toward net-zero emissions) in the next legislative session,” Lujan Grisham said. “This is work to be indicative of what we are going to do to preserve these efforts for future generations.”

Having a sustainable and diverse economy is possible through investments in technology, restructuring agencies to support climate action and interagency collaboration, according to Cottrell Propst.

New Mexico is the third-largest oil producing state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation, said that within the state, the oil and gas industry is a sizable employer. Because of this, constituent Joselinne Cobos said the energy transition must support existing workers in the oil industry. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cobos’ father lost his job when demand for the resource rapidly declined. 

“It’s time for bold investment to build industries that are not entirely predicated on oil and gas,” said Ahtza Chavez, the executive director of the Native American Voters Alliance Education Project.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said he is working toward clear climate solutions in efforts adjacent with President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, including advocating in the Senate for clean energy investments, electrification of transportation and housing infrastructure.

“I’m planning for how our state can replace the revenues currently generated by fossil fuel production,” Heinrich said.

Though the oil and gas industry has instilled a sense of impermeability in communities that rely on the industry for jobs, there are favorable solutions to decarbonizing the economy, according to speaker Andrew Baumann, senior vice president and researcher at Global Strategy Group.

Baumann said public approval of transitioning to clean energy has improved in recent years, with 69% of American voters identifying climate change as a problem and most U.S. adults saying that prioritizing clean energy development should be a priority for the U.S. energy sector.

While leaders in New Mexico are beginning to set long-term climate goals in motion, Lujan Grisham said prioritizing equity is a critical component to start conversations on the transition to a clean energy economy.

“We don’t welcome the displacement of income and security, and renewable energy and resources should be accessible to all,” Chavez said.

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury said prolonged drought in New Mexico and extreme heat temperatures are clear products of the climate crisis, which demands bold intervention. 

Rebecca Hobart is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @rjhobart