Las Cruces will adopt a climate action plan focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions 19% by 2030. The city council unanimously approved the resolution during Monday’s meeting and will receive progress reports every two years.
Long-term goals include a total greenhouse gas reduction of at least 73% by 2050 and the incorporation of up-to-date climate science into city planning. City Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque said climate change is already impacting Las Cruces.
“This year, we experienced five weeks of extreme heat. Three plus weeks of that were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit …and an additional nine days were over 105 degrees,” LaRocque said. “By 2050, we project that seven weeks, almost two months of extreme heat, with three weeks of those being with temperatures over 105.”
LaRocque said the Las Cruces climate will begin to resemble that of Phoenix, Arizona and called on councilors to ensure proper infrastructure is in place.
The Las Cruces Climate Action Plan states the transportation sector generates the largest amount of emissions at 53%. Strategies to address this problem include promoting a move to electric vehicles, which has a potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 33% by 2050.
Mayor Ken Miyagishima proposed researching how electric fire engines could be utilized within the community, and Councilwoman Johana Bencomo spoke about the need to make public transportation free for all.
“I think public transportation should be free for everybody…because I really believe that public transit isn't a luxury, it's a necessity,” Bencomo said. “I think there's definitely things we should consider about how we get people out of their cars and into public transit, especially if we'll be investing in electric buses, which I think is a great idea.”
Bencomo also spoke about the need to remember low income families as the city puts an increased focus on sustainability.
“Low income communities of color are the ones that are at the frontlines of climate change. They are experiencing these effects the worst.” Bencomo said. “Whatever we can do to make energy efficiency more and more affordable…to me, that is the number one priority. Of course, you know, there's a fear that as more and more people get off the gas grid, someone still has to pay for that infrastructure, and so then a smaller number of customers, which probably are low income households, end up having to pay more for their utility bills. So yes, I agree that we need to look at our LCU and really think about a plan to phase off natural gas.”
Councilman Gill Sorg told his fellow council members now is the time for decisive action.
“I’m suggesting we get bold,” Sorg said. “I propose that the new utility bonds that we do in the future do not use natural gas as a source for the payback with increased sales, that we leave natural gas out, so that as we get electricity and competitive with natural gas, we will phase out our natural gas. This will takes some time. Another one…transportation is our highest producer of greenhouse gases, and so I think we really need to be aggressive here. We have a good start with the five new electric buses coming next year. I think we ought to commit to five more new electric buses in the following year, 2022, and 100% electric buses by 2023.”
The entire Las Cruces Climate Action Plan can be read here.