Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appeared on the international stage Thursday during a virtual summit President Joe Biden convened to discuss strategies to combat climate change.
Lujan Grisham, the only U.S. governor invited to speak at Biden’s two-day Leaders Summit on Climate, was part of an all-female panel, which the moderator, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan, said was a “testament to how women around the world are raising the mantle of climate leadership, developing sustainable solutions and using their expertise to create a healthier or equitable global society.”
In introducing Lujan Grisham, Regan said New Mexico’s governor is “widely recognized” as a consensus builder.
“You’ve done important work bridging divides and working with industry, environmental groups and communities to address methane especially,” he said.
Regan asked the governor what the federal government could learn from states as it considers addressing methane emissions at the federal level.
“That is the secret,” Lujan Grisham responded. “We’re all going to have to combat these issues together and leverage each other’s expertise.”
Lujan Grisham said she “took a page out of that effort” when she was first elected governor.
“One of my first actions was to execute an executive order that established a framework for three critical components,” she said. “One, we joined the Paris Agreement, and we set our greenhouse gas emissions reductions based on that agreement’s targets, so we were very clear about what we wanted to accomplish.”
The governor said her administration also created a climate task force with various points of view, from consumers and utility companies to environmental groups and scientists — “every economic stakeholder you could think of to make sure that we could really move on those targets.”
Lujan Grisham said New Mexico now has “the leading methane rules in the country,” which includes eliminating venting and flaring by the oil and gas industry and recapturing 98 percent of methane emissions by 2026.
“We’re on our way to set the very same targets for ozone rules,” she said.
On its website, the U.S. State Department wrote the summit, held on Earth Day, aims to address the climate crisis, “including emissions reductions, finance, innovation and job creation, and resilience and adaptation.”
Other panelists who appeared with Lujan Grisham include Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.
“The world is now facing two major crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency,” Koike said. “To address these challenges, we must share what knowledge we have and combine our strength, notably the actions taken by nonstate actors who are on the front lines of this battle, are extremely important.”
Lujan Grisham said New Mexico wants to show innovation, as it is a leading oil and gas producer in the country.
“We can set incredibly ambitious standards,” she said. “We can require accountability and leadership and making sure that we are addressing climate change in a comprehensive fashion by making sure it’s not just government versus the industry.”
In addition to embracing the goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, New Mexico also joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group of governors that represents more than half the U.S. population, the
“We collectively are responsible for 40 percent of emissions” in the nation, she said, referring to the states whose governors are members of the alliance.
“The U.S., in the context of this panel, has the worst record in greenhouse gas emissions … so we’ve got a long way to go,” she added.
Larry Behrens, spokesman for the Western states chapter of Power the Future, a nonprofit fossil fuel advocacy group, wrote in an email that Lujan Grisham “conveniently left out” that New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act is “hurting jobs and causing electric rates to go up.” The landmark energy law is designed to move the state’s electric utilities from coal to renewables and zero-carbon resources by 2045.
“What we’ve witnessed from her administration is a leader who will push a radical green agenda no matter the warnings or how many families it hurts,” he wrote.