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Capitalist Solutions WON’T Solve Climate Change: Carbon Pricing is a FALSE solution and not for NM

By: Julia Bernal (Sandia Pueblo), Co-director

Image of Sky Protectors and Chief Ninawa, President of the Huni Kui People’s Federation of the Brazilian Amazon

New Mexico is my home and has been the home of my ancestors since time immemorial. And even with an Indigenous population 15 times the national state average, we are still fighting against the exploitation of our cultural resources. Having Indigenous voices constantly ignored has been a consistent reality. And yet, there is an international outcry of Indigenous Peoples for their ancestral and traditional knowledge. We’re finally being recognized in achieving climate balance but are now in climate crisis. If people had listened to us in the first place, maybe we wouldn’t be in the state we are now.  

Image of NM oil and gas pools in the San Juan (NW) and Permian (SE) Basin

New Mexico is one of the top states for oil and gas production and our state income and revenue heavily relies on its royalties. Yet, New Mexico has been on the lower end of the list in terms of education and household income, but New Mexico is one of the richest states in the US bringing over a billion dollars in state revenue. 48% of the state’s revenue comes from oil and gas royalties, affirming the dependency on oil and gas.  

Recently, the Governor of NM announced the initiative to make New Mexico public universities and colleges free. This isn’t a pure initiative to give motivated students a more equitable chance at an education, but a way to defend oil and gas. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has been challenged by youth climate activists as to what she was going to do to mediate climate change but has been nowhere to be found.

“We, the rising generation of New Mexico, created a demand letter to our governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, which consist of our four demands. By which we are proposing a declaration of a climate emergency, and holding the oil and gas corporation accountable for their destruction on native reservations by creating funds to create a just transition. We are not waiting any longer for change to help mother earth,” Yang, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA). 

The State of New Mexico is a part of the US Climate Alliance, which is another body that has brought governors from 25 different states who all align with the Paris Climate Agreement and promote market-based solutions to mediate climate change, at all costs. NM has been moving to pass policy that will cut their carbon and GHG emissions by 45% under their 2005 goal by 2030. This is a great goal but at what cost? January 2019 Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released an Executive Order on Addressing Climate Change and Energy Waste Prevention. This EO which orders the “Adoption of a comprehensive market-based programs that sets emission limits to reduce carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse pollution across New Mexico.” 

So, what is Carbon Pricing? 

Carbon Pricing are false solutions to mediate climate change and don’t even address climate justice. Carbon pricing also called carbon markets, carbon trading, carbon offsets, carbon credits, emissions trading, and cap and trade. Carbon pricing terms are “green-washing” just transition solutions.    

Carbon credits or carbon trading are programs for big polluters of oil and gas like Shell and Chevron to buy “carbon-credits” to offset their emissions. They are like coupons for carbon and GHG emissions. Big polluters can buy carbon credits for pennies and get tax incentives from the IRS to “offset” their carbon. They essentially are buying their way out of cutting carbon emissions. This allows for big polluters to pollute even more. In order for there to be a carbon market, carbon still needs to emitted into the atmosphere; this a global capitalist scam.

So why is this bad for New Mexico? Gov. Lujan-Grisham’s 2019 NM climate strategy leads to false solutions to “cut” emissions like carbon and other greenhouse gases through “market-based solutions.” This means the potential of passing policies that implement carbon trading and carbon taxes for the big polluters but a possibility for a consumer’s carbon tax as well. A carbon tax wouldn’t scare off oil and gas production because they’d be able to enter carbon trading programs and just buy carbon credits to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Meaning, they wouldn’t be really cutting emissions at all. 

Recently, we have seen a nonprofit organization, Climate Xchange, take an interest in NM to promote carbon pricing. This organization gets its leads from the US Climate Alliance and in hopes of being contracted by policy makers to give policy recommendations. Climate Xchange has already written recommendations for New Mexico which introduces carbon pricing initiatives and programs for the state; they had recently organized a “stakeholders” meeting in Santa Fe which was a predominantly white audience with six Indigenous People in the room. No frontline communities were invited, neither was Pueblo Action Alliance on their invitation list either but registered for the meeting anyway. 

Poster image of NO REDD campaign
Image from NewForest Website – Mescalero Apache Land Management Project

Indigenous people in the Amazon, Africa, Meso-America, Southeast Asia and California are AGAINST carbon markets and carbon trader projects like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and REDD+  which are carbon offset schemes that help big polluters to keep polluting in the global south while the north global profits off the carbon stocks. Forest Carbon Partners are the carbon credit spearheaders to start programs and projects to “lease forests” for carbon credits. 

And yet, we are already seeing land management projects on indigenous lands here in New Mexico. “The Mescalero Apache Tribe does the Forest Carbon Partners – Mescalero Apache Tribe Improved Forest Management Project on 200,000 acres in New Mexico (Indigenous Environmental Network).” This project sell permits (carbon credits) to polluters in California. And now there are some recent talks of Jicarilla Apache entering similar land management projects. Indigenous people and their lands are the carbon market’s target. Indigenous people are seen as exportable and leasing our land for carbon trading programs make the most sense. Tribes that are already in international carbon offset programs are making nothing compared to the trillion-dollar industry that is global oil and gas production. Carbon credits basically sells our clean air to polluters to keep up their dirty oil and gas productions in other parts of the world.

Pueblo Action Alliance stands firm against false solutions like carbon pricing. Capitalist based solutions to mediate climate change, which does not address climate justice, will not save the planet. We recognize that Indigenous People and their lands are the ultimate target because we have been seen as explotiable. If carbon markets are implemented in New Mexico, Indigenous People and frontline communities will be the ones to feel the impact of their ineffectiveness. A carbon tax isn’t the solution to cut carbon emissions. The only way to cut carbon emissions is to keep it in the ground and move towards renewable energies. Also, to move away from capitalist economies and social behaviors. There is always money to be made, and putting a price on carbon is a made up market with a huge cost.

We’re seeing continuous turmoil in the global south as our indigenous relatives who are resisting the government systems that support the free trade act/agreements and other capitalist exploitation and extractive colonialism. Carbon Pricing is only a small piece of the violent systematic symptom of colonial capitalism. Capitalist based solutions will NOT save our earth mother. The only way to cut carbon emissions is to keep it in the ground and end imperial capitalism. Indigenous people maintained balanced before global colonization; we are the solutions for climate change.

Download our Carbon Pricing Infographic

For more in depth look at the Carbon Pricing Report sponsored by Indigenous Environmental Network and Climate Justice Alliance.  Also, visit the Sky Protector and NO REDD websites to follow more international solidarity efforts.

This article is an excerpt from the new IEN and CJA popular education project coming out at the end of October called, Carbon Pricing Volume 2: Building Resistance through Popular Education.

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