Climate Action Plan setting long term emissions goals passes Las Cruces City Council
LAS CRUCES — City councilors passed a plan to tackle the human behaviors largely responsible for climate change at their Monday meeting.
The Las Cruces Climate Action Plan, approved unanimously Oct. 5, lays out greenhouse gas emissions goals for the city and community.
The plan calls on the city to reduce emissions by 19 percent by 2030, and by 73 percent by 2050, from a baseline set in 2018 by Lotus Engineering and Sustainability, LLC. The plan says the city should achieve this by increasing renewable energy usage and alternative, cleaner forms of transportation such as electric cars and buses, as well as by minimizing waste and updating buildings to run more efficiently.
The plan builds off actions on climate change undertaken by the city in the past five years, such as plans to introduce battery-electric buses into the city's fleet, plans to build solar panel facilities, support for the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and affirmation of the science of man-made climate change.
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The city passed a resolution in 2018 which set a goal for the Las Cruces government to run completely on renewable energy by 2050 and at least 25 percent on renewable energy by 2022.
The plan passed Monday will seek to change the whole community's behaviors to reduce emissions.
With council approval of the climate plan, the city's Sustainability Office will begin to create policies with staff from each city department that work toward the goals. City councilors will also work on their respective policy review committees to incorporate green policies in areas such as housing, finance, health and transportation.
The resolution also states the city government will "incorporate up-to-date climate science and projections into relevant City planning and policy decisions such as building codes, road and active transportation design, stormwater management and facility maintenance."
Additionally, the city council will get updates on the plan's progress every two years.
According to Lisa LaRocque, the city's sustainability officer, the effects of climate change in Las Cruces will be seen and felt in the form of more weeks of extreme heat above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, loss of water flow, more flash flooding, dust storms and smoke traveling over from forest fires in neighboring states.
LaRocque said decreasing carbon usage in city buildings, promoting active transportation — such as biking and walking — and increasing adoption of solar power and electric vehicles "will move the needle the most" toward completing the city's goals.
District 5 Councilor Gill Sorg urged a more aggressive set of actions to curb climate change, which included measures such as phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles owned by the city, only purchasing electric vehicles, excluding natural gas revenues from future utility bond backing and converting the city's entire bus fleet to electric buses by 2023.
"The future of our natural gas utility is something we need to look at," District 3 Councilor Gabriel Vasquez said.
Vasquez later added, "While we can do things at the city to curb our own greenhouse gas emissions, the mega polluters are trending in the opposite direction."
He then said the city should consider divesting from oil and gas companies if any money is invested there.
The steep goals laid out in the plan will require community-wide change. LaRocque said the city government is responsible for just 3 percent of the emissions within city limits and only consumes about 10 percent of the electricity.
District 4 Councilor Johana Bencomo stressed the need for a national commitment by the federal government to combat climate change. The Trump Administration announced the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in June 2017.
According to the resolution, the city will set similar or more ambitious emissions reduction goals by 2030 and 2050.