Just Transition Grand Challenge

Developing inclusive, just solutions to climate change at the speed necessary to prevent catastrophic harms is one of the grand challenges of our time. Policy measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are well known, but policymakers in New Mexico and at the federal level are only beginning to grapple with how to ensure that this transition will be equitable for all people. The Just Transition Grand Challenge seeks to identify and evaluate the opportunities, challenges, and policy options for achieving this inclusive and equitable transition, with a focus on creating economic opportunities for members of disadvantaged communities—particularly Hispanic, Native, and Black communities and fossil fuel worker communities.

This Grand Challenge will bring together a diverse team from the disciplines of political science, population health, business, engineering, and law, as well as external community partners, to develop the foundation for an institute to be housed at UNM that can support the state of New Mexico in this important transition. Our work will build on prior and current research, including research on workforce development by UNM’s Center for Social Policy, research on equitable climate change mitigation policies from the School of Law, and research on sustainable infrastructure opportunities through the Sustainable Water Resources Grand Challenge, and will also make use of the infrastructure of the UNM Anderson School’s new Economic Development Center.

This community-centered project will also be driven by community engagement and policy development led by external partners, including the chair of the state’s Sustainable Economy Advisory Council.

Overview of team's plans and goals

Core Team

Gabriel Pacyniak, Associate Professor, School of Law (PI)
Shannon Sanchez-Youngman, Assistant Professor, College of Population Health (co-PI)
Gabriel R. Sanchez, Professor, Political Science and Executive Director, Center or Social Policy
Robert DelCampo, Rutledge Professor of Management, Anderson School of Management and Executive Director, UNM Innovation Academy

Other team members

Melanie Sayuri Dominguez, Grand Challenge Coordinator
Yoselin Cordova, Just Transition Graduate Fellow
Selene Diaz Martinez, Just Transition Graduate Fellow
Christopher Sanchez, Just Transition Graduate Fellow
David Amaya, Just Transition Undergraduate Intern
Jacqueleen Carrillo, Just Transition Undergraduate Intern

Contact us


Fueling a Fair & Just Energy Future: Learning from Colorado’s Office of Just Transition & the Transition from Fossil Fuel Communities

Thursday, April 11, 2024 at 4 p.m.
UNM Student Union Building, Mirage/Thunderbird (3rd Floor)

Wade Buchanan, Director of the Colorado Office of Just Transition, will discuss the work of one of the first state-level agencies in the country focused on helping communities successfully transition away from economies dependent on fossil fuels.

Colorado created the Office of Just Transition in 2019 to assist workers and communities that will be adversely affected by the loss of jobs and revenues due to the closure of coal mines and coal-fired power plants. Its purpose is to help workers transition to new, high-quality, jobs, to help communities continue to thrive by expanding and attracting diverse businesses, and to replace lost revenues.


2/29/24:  Cross-campus collaboration reveals startling conditions for oil and gas workers - UNM News

2/22/24: The Just Transition Grand Challenge team published a report commissioned by Somos Un Pueblo Unido which aims to provide insights into the oil and gas workforce for stakeholders engaged in the just transition to clean energy in the state of New Mexico. The report describes the attitudes, experiences, and workplace conditions of the oil and gas workforce and their families in the Permian Basin region of Southeast New Mexico, the perceived current and long-term training needs as the state transitions to clean energy, and the current training landscape in the region. Co-Principal Investigator Shannon Sanchez-Youngman and Co-Convener Gabriel Sanchez, along with Just Transition Graduate Fellow Yoselin Cordova and Grand Challenge Coordinator Melanie S. Dominguez, used data collected from focus groups, surveys, and interviews with local educators, workforce boards, and community-based organizations. The report can be found here.

2/21/24: Co-convenors Sanchez and Delcampo hosted Senator Heinrich's staff alongside the lead staff of the Joint Economic Committee that the Senator chairs for a discussion of research focused on economic development, including workforce development in clean energy. The Senator's team is very interested in more of our work and may be in touch with some follow up requests to support federal legislation in this area.

1/15/24: We can unlock federal funds for our communities - Gabriel Pacyniak, in the Santa Fe New Mexican