When Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced during the New Mexico Climate Summit in late October she would champion a law to achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, she received accolades from the environmental community.
“Net zero” refers to a movement to reduce and offset through environmentally friendly policies and practices the greenhouse gases that would otherwise reach the earth’s atmosphere. Lujan Grisham’s stated objective builds on an already ambitious goal set in 2019 by the Legislature and her administration to transition New Mexico by 2045 from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy to power its electricity grid.
Getting to net zero by 2050 has become a global rallying cry to halt warming to 1.5° degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in order to arrest catastrophic impacts of a changing climate. Impacts are increasingly evident now: high-severity drought and wildfires, increasing hurricanes, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.
On paper, the path toward Net Zero sounds simple: drastically curtail current greenhouse gas emitting activities while increasing clean energy and activities that capture greenhouse gases before they enter the atmosphere.
But it’s not simple. Achieving Net Zero encompasses altering all sectors of the economy.And the battle over which path to take toward it can prove vexing.Lujan Grisham has found herself at odds with a who’s who of environmental and community groups over her signature piece of legislation in 2022, a proposed Hydrogen Hub Act, which would provide state incentives like tax credits to support creation of a hydrogen fuel industry.
The governor’s view is that building a hydrogen fuel industry can be a win/win if done right. “For an energy state, it’s more jobs,” she said on a September podcast about hydrogen, and it “gives us a clean energy platform.”
Hydrogen, when burned, doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.