Oped by NM Rep. Debbie Sariñana back from the U.N. Climate Conference In Glasgow

December 1, 2021

The reality is our world is on fire and our planet is dying. It is time for action.  That’s why when asked to go to COP26 with Elected Officials Protecting America (EOPA), as their Leadership Council Co-chair, I was elated.  As a newly retired teacher, I had the opportunity to be with people from all over the world to talk about the climate crisis firsthand.  As a member of our Appropriations and the Energy Committees, I left NM with concerns that our climate is getting hotter and drier. Our droughts and fires are more intense. Spring comes earlier, summer is extremely hot and our winters see more rain than snow. I knew that as a state our budgets are limited and that we’d need help turning the tide. We can’t do it all on our own. I was hoping to find answers and solutions at COP26.

NM Rep. Debbie Sariñana at the U.N. Climate Conference In Glasgow

During my first day at COP26, I had the privilege of seeing world financial leaders, including Secretary of Treasury, Janet Yellen, speak on how the world could finance our way to net-zero.  A commitment of over $130 trillion of private capital was announced to help the economy’s transformation to clean energy.  Worldwide renewables are the cheapest form of power in most places, which is 38 percent of the global total. Expected continued investments could drive that number to more than 55 percent by 2030 and 74 percent by 2050, yet we know that’s not fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate disasters. Financial leaders highlighted the need to accelerate the transition—by having governments set ambitious climate change policies, which would help direct clean energy investments. The excitement was palpable. By the end of the day these world leaders made me hopeful that we can reach net-zero in time.

Phasing out the use of fossil fuels was at the forefront inside and outside the COP26 Center. Friendly protestors, guarded by a significant police presence, were concerned about the dangerous effects of fossil fuels and the snail’s pace response from industry to phase them out.

Day 2 at COP26, U.S. Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke on how imperative it is to cut carbon pollution by deploying more clean energy capacity. Specifically, we need to move from coal, and all fossil fuels to clean energy. While the coal industry is on the way out worldwide, we need to move five times faster than we are to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goal. Time is running out. That transition in NM is underway bringing more job opportunities in solar, wind, energy storage and transmission line construction, while we make sure fossil fuel workers are ensured a just transition. We still have a lot to do.

The climate crisis drives conflict and instability. As an Air Force veteran and NM Rep. I spoke at a COP26 EOPA press conference. I don’t want to see anymore deployments that result from wars born from climate change events. Instead, the world needs to wage the war on climate change.  As allied countries became united in WWII and mobilized resources to meet impossible and improbably tasks—we can again. I saw the beginnings of this take root at COP26, as nations came together.

For the health, security and prosperity of New Mexico, America, and Mother Earth we must take urgent action to address the climate crisis. We need Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act. (BBBA) It will cut pollution in half by 2030, establish millions of good paying clean energy jobs, and invest in environmental justice on our road to a clean energy economy.  Passing the BBBA is not just essential for America, it will have ripple effects around the globe. I also urge the President to declare a Climate Emergency Declaration.

I’m heartened having attended COP26.  Let’s pass BBBA and not miss this historic opportunity to meet humanity’s Code Red.