To Prevent More Wildfires, New Mexico Needs Climate Action

These wildfires were a blazing warning sign about our changing climate we must not ignore.

The Hermit's Peak Fire


Will Harris via National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Just last year, record-breaking New Mexico wildfires burned about 800,000 acres of forests and devastated lives and livelihoods, homes and ranches, livestock and safe drinking water, and threw dozens of communities into chaos, from which many have not, and may never, recover.

These wildfires were a blazing warning sign about our changing climate we must not ignore.

That’s why New Mexico’s leaders should seize every opportunity to tackle the state’s climate crisis head-on with strong action that meets the challenges facing us today. The state faces historic climate impacts and also has an historic opportunity to chart a better, cleaner, and more affordable tomorrow. 

Clean energy investments from the federal Inflation Reduction Act are heading to New Mexico and will give us a running start. New Mexico’s leaders can build on that progress by passing legislation that uses those investments to create jobs, mitigate climate change’s destructive impacts, protect the environment for all to enjoy, curb the carbon and methane pollution fueling climate instability, and supercharges the production of clean energy.

All New Mexico’s leaders need is determination, will and commitment to act boldly—this year.

What’s the rush?

First, the longer we delay, the greater the cost and hardship people will endure. As a result of the most prolonged drought in the Southwest in 1200 years, New Mexico’s forests remain tinder dry and ready to ignite again. Heading into this year’s wildfire season, lightning and human error will remain a serious threat. Comprehensive climate bills have failed in New Mexico for the last two years, and no bill has been introduced this year.

In addition, despite welcome rains last year and snowfall this winter, roughly three-fourths of the state today ranges from abnormally dry to moderate and extreme drought conditions, caused by climate change. Currently, more than 1 million people are affected by the drought.

In the months ahead, it also will affect crop production, water supplies, and forage for livestock and could lead to burn bans. More severe impacts could occur if the state stays unusually dry through the summer.

Second, the Inflation Reduction Act is poised to make a real difference in the lives of people across the state. New Mexico is slated to receive billions of dollars that will help lower energy costs for families, cut pollution, improve our health, build resilience so our communities and economy grow and thrive.

The law includes tax credits, rebates, and other powerful incentives to help the state develop more clean power from the wind and sun. It also will make electric cars more affordable for low- and middle-income drivers. It reduces the cost of installing rooftop solar panels, heat pumps, and other energy-efficient household appliances. Grants to help state and local governments adopt modern building energy codes could save the average new homeowner in New Mexico 12% on their utility bills.

The Inflation Reduction Act will bring $15 billion of investment in clean power generation and storage to New Mexico. It also backs climate-smart agriculture practices—helping New Mexico’s 24,700 farms lead on climate solutions and reward their stewardship. Electric cooperatives, serving about 210,000 homes, businesses, and other customers in New Mexico, will be eligible for direct pay clean energy tax credits, according to the White House.

New Mexico already has more than 11,000 full time jobs in the clean energy economy. The investments from the climate law will drive even more employment and economic opportunity in our growing clean energy economy.

Taken together, the benefits from the Inflation Reduction Act will help propel New Mexico toward a safer, cleaner more prosperous future. It won’t get us all the way there, though. 

Leaders in Santa Fe must go further, faster, and bolder.

Leaders should back legislative measures that expand opportunities to deploy renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and low-income weatherization. This legislative support will save New Mexicans on their energy costs, help shift away from fossil fuel use, and safeguard the environment. New Mexico can see real, immediate solutions to the climate crisis by investing in these clean technologies.

New Mexico’s leaders should set clear climate pollution limits to cut emissions 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050 and ensure the state has the tools to establish new rules for polluters that will make it possible to meet these limits. With a budget surplus, the state should invest in safe and zero-emission homes in low-income communities, training and preparing the workforce for a clean energy future, and expanding clean mobility for all New Mexicans.

New Mexico’s leaders owe it to the hundreds families who lost their homes in last year’s wildfires—and to all New Mexicans—to seize the historic opportunity to set the state on a steady path to a resilient economy, bolstered by clean energy that supports families in every part of the state. And they should act without delay. Let’s bring hope for a better life to every resident of our resilient and wonderful state.


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