Fire: Responses and Resistance

By Julia Bernal, Co-Director, Pueblo Action Alliance

New Mexico is my home and has been the home of my ancestors since time immemorial. And even with an Indigenous population 15 times the national state average, we are still fighting against the exploitation of our cultural resources. Having Indigenous voices constantly ignored has been a consistent reality. And yet, there is an international outcry of Indigenous Peoples for their ancestral and traditional knowledge. We’re finally being recognized in achieving climate balance but are now in climate crisis. If people had listened to us in the first place, maybe we wouldn’t be in the state we are now. 

New Mexico is one of the top states for oil and gas production and our state income and revenue heavily relies on its royalties. New Mexico has been on the lower end of the list in terms of education and household income, but New Mexico is one of the richest states in the US bringing in billions of dollars. Forty-eight percent of the state’s revenue comes from oil and gas royalties, affirming the dependency on oil and gas. 

Recently, the Governor of NM announced the initiative to make New Mexico public universities and colleges free. This isn’t a pure initiative to give motivated students a more equitable chance at an education, but a way to defend oil and gas. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has been challenged by youth climate activists as to what she was going to do to mediate climate change but has been nowhere to be found. “We, the rising generation of New Mexico, created a demand letter to our governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, which consists of our four demands. By which we are proposing a declaration of a climate emergency and holding the oil and gas corporation accountable for their destruction on native reservations by creating funds to create a just transition. We are not waiting any longer for change to help mother earth,” Yang, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA).

The State of New Mexico is a part of the US Climate Alliance, which is another body that has brought governors from 25 different states who all align with the Paris Climate Agreement and promote market-based solutions to mediate climate change, at all costs. NM has been moving to pass policy that will cut their carbon and GHG emissions by 45% under their 2005 goal by 2030. This is a great goal but at what cost? In January, 2019 Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released an Executive Order on Addressing Climate Change and Energy Waste Prevention. This EO, which orders the “Adoption of a comprehensive market-based program that sets emission limits to reduce carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse pollution across New Mexico.”

So why is this bad? Her 2019 NM climate strategy leads to false solutions to “cut” emissions like carbon and other greenhouse gases through “market-based solutions.” This means the potential of passing policies that implement carbon trading and carbon taxes for the big polluters but a possibility for a consumers’ carbon tax as well. A carbon tax wouldn’t scare off oil and gas production because they’d be able to enter carbon trading programs and just buy carbon credits to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Meaning, they wouldn’t be really cutting emissions at all.

Recently, we have seen a non-profit organization, Climate Xchange, take an interest in NM to promote carbon pricing. This organization gets its leads from the US Climate Alliance in hopes of being contracted by policy makers to give policy recommendations. Climate Xchange has already written recommendations for New Mexico which introduce carbon pricing initiatives and programs for the state. They recently organized a “stakeholders” meeting in Santa Fe which was a predominantly white audience with six Indigenous People in the room. No frontline communities were invited. Pueblo Action Alliance wasn’t on their invitation list either, but registered for the meeting anyway.

“Pueblo Action Alliance stands firm against false solutions like carbon pricing. Capitalist based solutions to mediate climate change, which do not address climate justice, will not save the planet.”

Pueblo Action Alliance stands firm against false solutions like carbon pricing. Capitalist based solutions to mediate climate change, which do not address climate justice, will not save the planet. We recognize that Indigenous People and their lands are the ultimate target because we have been seen as exploitable. If carbon markets are implemented in New Mexico, Indigenous People and frontline communities will be the ones to feel the impact of their ineffectiveness. A carbon tax isn’t the solution to cut carbon emissions. The only way to cut carbon emissions is to keep it in the ground and move towards renewable energies. Also, to move away from capitalist economies and social behaviors. There is always money to be made, and putting a price on carbon is a made-up market with a huge cost.

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