Many groups and organizations in New Mexico are taking action and proposing legislation to address the climate crisis at the state level because of inaction at the federal level.
However, the uncoordinated, piecemeal nature of these efforts limits progress and precludes the development of a comprehensive climate change policy and action plan commensurate with the scale and urgency of the crisis. Resources are being wasted; momentum slowed; the big picture and common interest obscured; and the public is left confused and disheartened by competition and conflict among the various voices, each advocating for its separate and partial agenda in relative isolation.
We believe that no individual or group in isolation, however expert, can develop a policy and plan capable of meeting such a complex challenge as successfully as a body of representatives of all stakeholder constituencies working together under favorable conditions.
In our view, the process most likely to produce a comprehensive, maximally effective, fair and politically viable climate change policy and action plan for New Mexico will be one that tries to understand and integrate the many different perspectives, experiences and ideas regarding climate change to be found among New Mexicans. Such a process would reflect rather than gloss over the various and sometimes conflicting needs, interests, understandings and opportunities present in New Mexico’s diverse society and changing economy.
We propose creating a New Mexico Climate Action Council. Different from a coalition of lobbyists cobbled together to win a political fight, the council, through its work of dialogue and informed deliberation, would develop the framework of the needed policy and action plan.
Successful completion of the council’s work would depend on creating a space in which respectful communication becomes possible. This, in turn, will require: skilled facilitation to help navigate the inevitable conflicts that may arise due to different perspectives and needs; and leveling the playing field to counteract the power differential that exists in any group.
Models of how to leverage “the wisdom of the crowd” that have been used to realize the collaborative development of policies by diverse, even opposing, constituencies include “citizens’ assemblies” (citizensassemblies.org) and “deliberative democracy” (cdd.stanford.edu), which provided the framework for the recent “America in One Room” experiment (nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/02/upshot/these-526-voters-represent-america.html).
New Mexico can learn from these and other models, but will almost certainly want to develop its own “all-in,” collaborative policy-development process.
We call on the governor and members of the proposed New Mexico Climate Change Task Force to lead the effort to realize this most promising approach to meeting the challenge of the climate crisis.
Dr. Gregg Manoff and Dr. Justina Trott are concerned citizens who have lived and worked in New Mexico for more than 40 years. They live in Santa Fe.