Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of New York on Sunday as part of the March to End Fossil Fuels, calling for increased action against climate change ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
Media reports including reports by AFP, USA Today and The Hill said:
Taking up multiple city blocks, protesters from some 700 organizations and activist groups carried signs reading “Biden, end fossil fuels,” “Fossil fuels are killing us” and “I did not vote for fires and floods” in a demonstration that came on the heels of a summer marked by multiple climate change-linked disasters.
U.S. President Joe Biden is among the world leaders who are attending the UNGA.
“We are here to demand that the administration declare a climate emergency,” said Analilia Mejia, director of the activist group Center for Popular Democracy.
“We must wake up and take immediate action,” she told AFP.
A UN climate report released this month named 2025 as the deadline for global greenhouse gas emissions to peak — followed by a sharp drop thereafter — if humanity is to cap global warming in line with Paris Agreement targets.
The report said the world is not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 to fight climate change. The world needs to reduce emissions by 43% in the next seven years to reach the goal set under the agreement, the report said.
The 2015 Paris treaty has successfully driven climate action, but “much more is needed now on all fronts,” said the report, which will underpin a crucial climate summit in Dubai at the end of the year.
Achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — another Paris goal — will also require phasing out the burning of all fossil fuels whose emissions cannot be captured or compensated.
Mejia, 46, pointed to recent extreme weather events — from fires in Canada, Hawaii and Greece to flooding in Libya — as demonstrating the seriousness of the “existential crisis” posed by climate change.
Another activist, Nalleli Cobo, 22, told AFP she would like to see political leaders “come to my house” in the western U.S. state of California and “spend the night living next to an oil and gas well.”
Cobo, who has worked with Sweden’s Greta Thunberg on climate campaigns, blames the “toxic air” she has been exposed to at her home for the ovarian cancer she contracted at 19.
“Our lives are on the line,” she said.
Not Forcefully Enough
Biden has made a historic push for green manufacturing, offering billions of dollars for clean energy projects, but some young activists say he has not acted forcefully enough to lead the U.S. off dependence on fossil fuels.
Law Suit Against 5 Oil Majors
California has filed a lawsuit Friday against five global oil majors, alleging the firms caused billions of dollars in damages and misled the public by minimizing the risks from fossil fuels.
Top world scientists warn that the world is likely to experience new record heat in the next five years, and that global temperatures are more likely than not to breach a crucial threshold of an average 1.5 degree C rise.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has organized a Climate Ambition summit for Wednesday, during the UNGA, at which he hopes to accelerate the ongoing work to counter climate change by governments as well as private sector organizations and financial institutions.
Action Or Inaction
“History will remember their action, or inaction,” said Mejia. “And if we are lucky, human beings will be around to remember what (world leaders) did in this summit.”
Hundreds of organizations, climate advocates, actors and political leaders attended the march ahead of New York’s Climate Week, which coincides with a special United Nations summit Wednesday focused on the climate crisis.
Stop Approval For New Fossil Fuel Projects
The collaboration behind the March to End Fossil Fuels said it is calling on Biden to stop all federal approvals for new fossil fuel projects, phase out fossil fuels on public lands and waters, while declaring a climate emergency.
“It is unbelievable that Biden is sitting on the sidelines when he has got more power than anyone on Earth to end deadly fossil fuels,” said Jean Su with the Center for Biological Diversity, who helped organize the march. “Cowering in a corner is not a credible climate plan from the world’s largest oil and gas producer.”
Organizers estimated around 75,000 individuals participated in Sunday’s march, including actors like Ethan Hawke, Kevin Bacon and Susan Sarandon and political leaders including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Youth protest group Fridays for Future said thousands of youth participated in the march, aiming their message directly at Biden.
“We are watching you approve pipelines, and we are watching as you delay declaring a climate emergency,” Noa Greene-Houvras of Fridays for Future NYC said in a statement. “We are watching as the Weather Channel repeats the same terrifying message, that this year, this week, this day, is the hottest ever recorded. We are watching our futures disappear, because how can we be the next president or author or scientist on a dying planet?”
“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” Emma Buretta, 17, of Brooklyn with Fridays for Future, told The Associated Press. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
No Major Attendance In The Climate Meeting
The White House said Biden and leaders of China, the United Kingdom, Russia or France — all major developers and users of fossil fuels — will not be attending the summit, according to the AP.
National Emergency On Climate
Last month, Biden said he has “in practice” declared a national climate emergency, though he has not actually announced such a declaration. A national emergency declaration would allow other powers related to climate change, including potentially using the Defense Production Act to provide loans to bolster climate-energy sources and prevent oil exports.
Climate activists have called for such a declaration to both enable these powers and bring the seriousness of the problem to the forefront.
The White House has pushed back on such criticism, touting Biden’s actions on climate change.
“President Biden has treated climate change as an emergency – the existential threat of our time – since day one,” a White House spokesperson wrote in a statement shared with The Hill. “That is why he signed into law the most ambitious climate bill in history, conserved more land and water in his first year than any President since JFK, rejoined the Paris Agreement, attracted $240 billion in private sector investment in clean energy manufacturing, and used his emergency authorities to invoke the Defense Production Act to supercharge domestic clean energy manufacturing.”
The spokesperson told The Hill Biden “secured commitments from the G20” last week to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, a global deal where countries agree to limit the planet’s warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The White House also called out Republicans’ attempts to repeal portions of the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping piece of legislation long-touted by Biden for addressing the climate crisis.
Organizers of the March to End Fossil Fuels have thrown their support behind the summit, stating they met with U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Selwin Hart last week ahead of the climate-driven summit.
Gen Zers Turn Up The Heat On President Biden
Xiye Bastida’s fate was sealed when she stood knee-deep in flood waters in San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico.
Just 13 years old at the time, she saw her neighbors trying to get water out of their homes and storefronts. She saw crops being flooded. She witnessed contamination in the water that spilled over from the Lerma River.
“This paralyzed me for a long time,” Bastida said.
It turned her into an environmental activist, like her parents.
Bastida, now a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, marched through the streets of New York City along with some 75,000 other activists on Sunday to demand the end of fossil fuels. She was also a part of the Climate Ambition Summit youth delegation convened by UN secretary general, António Guterres.
Bastida said leaders have not kept their promises on climate change. She points to Biden’s campaign promise that he would ban fossil fuel extraction on federal land.
“When he was campaigning, he said he would ban fossil fuel extraction of federal land. Next thing he does is sell oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico”, said Bastida, an ambassador of the nonprofit Climate Clock.
“It is just incredibly frustrating because the politicians that are deciding our futures, they are not going to be around in 30 years when I am in my 50s,” she said. “When I have kids, they’re going to see a different world than the politicians are shaping now with their decisions.”
To Bastida, Biden’s absence in the climate meeting was one more indication that he is out of step with many young Americans when it comes to climate change. Many Gen Zers, those born after 1996, said they feel they are being asked to grab the reins and demand that leaders take action, when it should be the other way around.
Leaders need to recognize all the tools they have at their disposal right now to make real change instead of waiting for younger Americans to grow up and do it themselves, said Jilly Edgar, 24, who works at the Climate Museum in New York City and joined the march on Sunday.
She added: “By then, it will be too late.”
‘Climate-proofing’ the world
At the UNGA, Biden and other world leaders spoke of the urgency of addressing climate change.
Guterres, in his opening remarks, bluntly warned that actions to deal with climate change have fallen “abysmally short.” He called on countries to stop the expansion of coal, oil and gas production, saying “the fossil fuel age has failed.”
“We cannot afford the same old broken record of scapegoating and waiting for others to move first,” Guterres said.
Mother Of All Crises
Colombian President Gustavo Petro called climate change “the mother of all crises” and complained that mankind has “dedicated itself to war,” which he said has distracted attention and resources to deal with climate change.
American Climate Corps
On Wednesday, Biden delivered on one major demand of climate activists with the announcement of the nation’s first-ever American Climate Corps, which will seek to train and provide career paths to young people who want to take on the climate crisis.
The initiative, which seeks to enlist 20,000 people in year one, will train Americans on the conservation and restoration of lands and waters, deploying clean energy, bolstering community resilience to climate change, and advancing environmental justice, among other areas.
The concept for the civilian climate corps is based on former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, which put millions of Americans to work on public works projects during the Great Depression.
A year after taking office, he set a new national goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and pledged to make the U.S. power sector 100% carbon-pollution-free by 2035. Biden also has signed an executive order setting a target for zero-emissions vehicles to account for half of all automobiles sold in the U.S. by 2030 – a thorny issue with striking laborers such as United Auto Workers.
Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law last year, put in place a comprehensive set of clean energy initiatives. These include tax credits to help Americans buy electric vehicles, energy-efficient heat pumps and rooftop solar panels.
Environmental groups hailed the law as the most significant piece of climate legislation in U.S. history.
Still, the fact that the Civilian Climate Corps, which was pushed by many environmental groups, was not in the original Inflation Reduction Act was a huge disappointment, said Edgar of the Climate Museum.
Biden angered environmentalists, including young climate activists, in March when his administration cleared the way for a scaled-down version of the Willow project, the largest new oil and gas developments on federal land in Alaska in 20 years. Conservation groups have sued to block the project.
Biden made some amends with his critics two weeks ago when he canceled the seven remaining oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His administration proposed stronger protections for more than 20,000 square miles of land in the reserve in the western Arctic.
Biden Issued 6,430 Oil And Gas Permits
Federal data show the Biden administration approved 6,430 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first two years, outpacing the Trump administration’s 6,172 drilling-permit approvals in its first two years, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
That shows the wide gulf between what people of her generation are demanding and what Biden is doing, Edgar said.
“It is really important to keep putting pressure on him because he entered office with a big commitment that he has since broken,” she said.
Biden’s ‘Wishy-washy’ Policy On Climate Action
For 24-year-old Ayisha Siddiqa, a research scholar at New York University Law School studying the intersection of human rights and climate change, Biden’s policies are “wishy-washy.”
While Biden has showcased himself as a climate president and has had progressive policies related to climate, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, the actions of the administration do not often represent what they are saying, Siddiqa said.
“Biden’s been playing a game of ‘let’s see how many people it makes angry and how much potential damage I can cause. And then last minute when I realize it is the wrong decision, I am going to take it back’,” said Siddiqa, who serves as a youth advisor to the Secretary General of the UN.
Young U.S. Voters
Young U.S. voters list climate as a top issue across party lines. Nearly 60% of those ages 18 to 29 believe climate change should be a priority, even at the risk of slowing economic growth, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
March Gives Boost Of Energy
Saskia Randall, 26, who participated in the march with the Climate Museum team where she works, said it was important to show up for these protests. They demonstrate the force and the desire that young people have to end fossil fuels.
Attending these marches gives an extra boost of energy, Randall said.
“And serves as a reminder,” she went on, “there are so many people who care about the climate crisis and really want serious action taken and serious climate policy.”