Policy - 03/June/2019

How a just transition for US coal workers is becoming reality

New Mexico’s ways of managing a just transition for the climate and workers is being watched closely across the US

Shutting coal mines is vital if the world is to have any chance of slashing greenhouse gas emissions, but it means job losses. New Mexico is the first US state to enshrine into law a bill aimed at fighting climate change and ensuring a just transition for coal workers

US contradiction: While US President Donald Trump is pushing back on climate action, even major coal-producing states are closing down fossil fuel power plants

Just transition: New Mexico is a poor, coal-reliant state with air quality problems. Its climate bill is an effort to deal with all these issues

Clean energy: The new legislation requires 50% of New Mexico’s retail electricity sales to come from renewable energy by 2030, and 100% to be carbon free by 2045 for major investor-owned utilities and by 2050 for smaller cooperatively owned utilities. Of the 100% carbon-free goal, 80% must be from renewable sources such as wind and solar

Retraining workers: The legislation creates three funds of around $40 million for worker retraining and economic development. By 2026 replacement electricity generation projects must hire 25% of their construction workers from apprentice programmes set up under the new law.

Key quote: “The impacts on communities from early retirements of coal plants elsewhere will necessarily be different, but other states should heed New Mexico’s example is tackling the issues directly.”

In the US, states are charging ahead on emissions legislation even as the administration of President Donald Trump — a climate science denier—is moving in the opposite direction. New Mexico recently passed the country’s first climate law that also seeks to alleviate the human cost of transitioning to a new energy economy. ...

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