ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With accusations of too much PR and not enough action, an Albuquerque city councilor is calling out the mayor’s administration about its environmental policies, specifically the fight against climate change. At the May 1 city council meeting, Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn asked administrators one pointed question after another regarding sustainability; and she didn’t like the answers she was getting.
“I was surprised, on Earth Day, to see that the mayor had re-signed the climate accord. We signed it four years ago. What progress has been made in our greenhouse gases in the city since that signing?” she asked.
Mayor Tim Keller has been seen at many press conferences over the years, touting his commitment to sustainability and renewable energy, and introducing the arrival of electric vehicles and solar projects.
Last fall, the city submitted its first climate action plan. At Monday’s city council meeting, the general services director, John Craig, stepped in to answer questions for the city’s sustainability officer, who was out of town.
He told councilors the city is focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from city-owned buildings. “Over 55% greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings and energy used to power these buildings, so we’ve got to try and focus on what we’re doing in regards to making our buildings more energy efficient,” Craig explained.
But Councilor Fiebelkorn pointed to the fact that there is no building electrification policy in place. “I just went to a new building that’s being built by the city of Albuquerque. It still is using fossil fuels. A building electrification plan would be a plan to make sure that all new buildings are electric, and we would be starting to retrofit our existing buildings to be electric only. That’s not in place,” Councilor Fiebelkorn said, referring to the new building at Los Altos Park.
She continued, “From what I can tell, we have a policy that we’re going to try to get to 100% renewable energy for the electricity that is being used in city-owned buildings right now. We have no policy to try to get rid of fossil fuel use in city buildings. We have no policy to electrify transportation.”
According to the city, ten electric vehicles have been purchased, and five electric buses were bought a year ago. The city councilor seemed frustrated at the slow pace of the changes and that many of her questions went unanswered. She said the city cannot continue to re-sign climate accords and say it’s doing things when it’s not. “I’d like our city to do a better job. If we’re going to be out there signing and re-signing accords and claiming that we’re doing well, we actually have to do well.”
In an email, the mayor’s office disputed Fiebelkorn’s claims, saying the city government is now running 88% on renewable energy and is on track to reach the 100% goal by 2025.
City-owned buildings and vehicles are just a drop in the bucket. Councilor Fiebelkorn also asked why the Keller administration hasn’t come up with building codes and policies for everyone in the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The representative from the mayor’s office told the council they have been holding meetings about that.