UNM Grand Challenges Just Transition to Green Energy team convenes community symposium

November 10, 2023 - Megan Borders

The University of New Mexico’s Level Two Grand Challenge team Just Transition to Green Energy convened UNM law school professors and New Mexico politicians Nov. 3 to provide a forum to discuss challenges and policies for moving toward a low-carbon economy. The UNM Just Transition Grand Challenge, UNM School of Law and the Natural Resources Journal co-sponsored the event.  

The goal of the symposium was to bring together front-line community members from across the state who are directly affected by the change toward clean energy solutions. This is the first of many steps that will help create paths to clean energy transition and providing equitable opportunities for communities and families across New Mexico, including fossil fuel workers, low-income communities and communities of color.  

The event featured three panel discussions with opening comments from New Mexico House Speaker Javier Martinez. Martinez referenced “the need for urgent action” to address the climate crisis but noted “that the transition will only be successful if the opportunities during the transition are equitable across all communities and family members who depend on the front-line jobs.”  

The first panel included community representatives who shared stories about how frontline employees have been affected by this change so far, including the need to move from their homes and away from their families or insufficient access to state and federal funding streams for retraining opportunities in clean energy jobs. The second panel discussed next steps to implement equitable and sustainable economic development policies in New Mexico. The third panel shared the current state and direction of future legislative policies to help overcome the structural barriers to a just transition in New Mexico and ideas on how to maximize federal funding opportunities.  

The researchers composing the Just Transition to Green Energy team are Robert DelCampo, Rutledge professor of management at the Anderson School of Management; Gabriel Pacynia, associate professor from the School of Law; Shannon Sanchez-Youngman, assistant professor from the College of Population Health; and Gabriel Sanchez, professor of political science.  

“Discussion and community input are really important from an economic development perspective, particularly in terms of job opportunities for our graduates and economic growth potential,” said DelCampo. “This symposium is a first step toward ensuring that all points of view and all skillsets can be included in the path toward a new energy economy in the state.” 

The team of researchers aims to create economic opportunities and equitable pollution reduction for disadvantaged communities in the transition to clean energy and climate resilience. Their primary emphasis is on serving community organizations and government entities as an informational resource. 

UNM’s Grand Challenges initiative currently consists of three Level Two teams cross-discipline and departmental researchers tasked with studying and implementing solutions to some of New Mexico’s most significant challenges. The three teams are addressing child health, a just transition to green energy, and sustainable space research.