In 2020, the city of Las Cruces adopted a Climate Action Plan, pledging a 19% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Now, the Las Cruces City Council is taking steps to guarantee the goal is met.
During a work session, the council listened to a presentation by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project [SWEEP]. The presentation was prompted by a resolution proposed by Councilor Gill Sorg calling on the city of Las Cruces to ensure climate goals are met through proactive planning.
While the resolution itself has yet to be voted on, Sorg spoke about the importance of implementing concrete changes, specifically stressing the need for the city to invest in more electric vehicles.
“I would just like to have this resolution be a part of their decision making when they decide on a vehicle,” Sorg said. “The fact that we have an older fleet, this is a great opportunity to replace those vehicles with something that's more environmentally sound.”
Taking steps to address climate change is of growing importance, according to State Climatologist David DuBois who recently told KRWG that temperatures in New Mexico have continued to rise.
“The last 30 years, we've seen a climb in temperature,” DuBois said. “It's a small climb, but it's sort of that continuous. Every year, we see a shift in warmer temperatures. There are natural cycles that are going on, like El Niño and La Niña where we see up and down trends, but there's this long-term warming that's underlying all of that.”
Focusing on transportation will be a key factor in cutting emissions for the city, as the sector is the biggest polluter—making up 53% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Las Cruces. SWEEP Senior Transportation Associate Matt Frommer outlined some of the steps the city can take to promote electric vehicle use.
“A big question for Las Cruces is what can local governments do to accelerate EV [electric vehicle] adoption?” Frommer said. “First one is city fleet electrification. So, leading by example, walking the walk. Number two is increasing access to EV charging stations by building public charging stations, working with utilities and then adopting EV ready building codes.”
Mayor Ken Miyagishima advocated for a change to new construction building codes, that would require homes to have enough electric capacity for the charging of electric vehicles.
“We probably need to give our home builders at least a year advance notice, [but] perhaps in about a year, we’re going to start requiring that new home constructions are at least wired for that type of electricity, that if they were to have an electric car, they don’t have to have their home rewired or they don’t have to have their home remodified,” Miyagishima said. “That’s also good because as new subdivisions come in, El Paso Electric will need to know what that new load will be because they have to be able to provide that.”
Councilor Gabe Vasquez asked if electric vehicles would still be reliant on fossil fuel when charging.
“There's this dynamic about continuing to rely on electricity that is still being produced by fossil fuels,” Vasquez said. “And so even though we don't have the individual perhaps emitters...those fossil fuels are still being extracted.”
SWEEP Industrial Program Designer Neil Kolwey says New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act will require utilities to generate an increased amount of power from renewable energy sources.
“It does require all the New Mexico utilities to have a plan to go to 50% renewables by 2030,” Kolwey said. “So that's a pretty aggressive goal, and they have to hit that. So, they will be working on phasing out their coal plants.”
Councilor Johana Bencomo emphasized the importance of discussing how to combat climate change, saying the conversation will continue among city councilors.
“I think governments and industry particularly have a very key role to play actually in the way that we're going to see climate change sort of come to be in the next few decades,” Bencomo said. “I think one of the biggest things we can do as a municipal government is really advocate for policies that hold extractive industries accountable.”