Washington, D.C. –Today, over 1,100 organizations representing millions of people in all 50 states including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia released a letter to President Biden urging him to quickly deliver on his campaign promises by declaring a climate emergency and stopping the federal approval of new fossil fuel projects.
“As organizations collectively representing millions of members and supporters, including Indigenous, Black, Brown, and frontline communities, we urge you to use your executive authority to speed the end of the fossil fuel era, protect our communities from the climate emergency, and address the severe harms caused by fossil fuels,” the letter reads.
The letter was organized by Build Back Fossil Free, a growing coalition that is dedicated to pushing Biden to use his executive authority to act on climate and fossil fuels.The signatories on the letter include a broad swath of climate, progressive, social justice, faith, and Indigenous rights organizations – exactly the constituencies that Biden needs to energize ahead of the 2022 midterm elections by keeping his climate commitments.
The letter is another sign of the growing and widespread anger at President Biden’s failure to deliver on his campaign promises around climate and environmental justice. Today organizers gathered at the White House with an art piece depicting a giant pen and executive order, urging President Biden to act on climate “with the stroke of a pen.” Tonight, hundreds of environmental organizations, climate leaders, and grassroot organizers will join a digital rally to collectively pressure President Biden to listen to the demands of BIPOC leaders on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Speakers from fights against pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure around the country will call on President Biden to make good on his promises and take action.
“Let’s be clear– politeness and pragmatism will be the death of us. Enough is enough. We – Indigenous, Black, Brown, frontline communities, and young voters – put you in that office Joe. We did it because you made big promises about protecting us and our future. We’re tired of waiting for you to put people and the planet before fossil fuel corporations. So we’re bringing all of our issues straight to your doorstep until you use that pen of yours to end the era of fossil fuels. No more backtracking on promises, no more showing up for you and yours in the midterms or any other election. Do your job Joe!” said Sha Ongelungel, Media Coordinator, Indigenous Environmental Network.
The action and rally build on a legal foundation outlined in a new Center for Biological Diversity legal paper detailing the president’s explicit emergency powers to phase out fossil fuels, build renewables, create clean jobs and advance environmental justice.
“The president’s existing authority to act on climate is extensive, which is why our legal report devoted more than 50 pages to outlining it,” said Maya Golden-Krasner of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Biden can turn around his disappointing climate record and vastly expand his protections of people and the planet, but he has to use the powers he’s been given. The State of the Union is the perfect moment for Biden to declare a national climate emergency and kickstart the clean-energy revolution we desperately need.”
President Biden’s record on climate change has fallen far short of the “all-government approach” he promised on the campaign trail. In spite of a commitment to stop new fossil fuel leases on public lands, the Biden Administration has approved more new leases than Trump in a similar time window. While Biden rejected Keystone XL, saying fossil fuel projects needed to be climate compatible, he then allowed other major pipelines like Line 3 and the Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward. Now, the Build Back Fossil Free coalition is urging him to rapidly act to address these failures by declaring a climate emergency and using the full powers of his presidency to address the crisis.
“The Biden administration cannot pin the blame for its climate failures on Congressional inaction. Since day one, the White House has had the executive authority to take a series of actions that would move us away from fossil fuels,” said Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh. “The most important action he must take is to put an end to any and all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. The science and the politics of the climate crisis are very clear: We cannot build any new fossil fuel projects and still expect to meet the challenge of protecting a livable planet. It’s up to President Biden to lead the way.”
With his Congressional agenda stalled, the executive actions described in the letter provide Biden a clear way to make serious climate progress and regain the trust of the millions of Americans who are furious at his failure to deliver. Each of the priorities laid out in the letter – banning all new fossil fuel development on federal lands and waters, directing federal agencies to stop approving fossil fuel projects, and declaring a climate emergency – are actions that Biden could accomplish with a simple stroke of the pen.
This lack of action has a direct cost to the predominantly Black, Brown and Indigenous communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate impacts, as well as the millions of other Americans who have been hard hit by climate disasters over the last year. It also has a political cost: according to a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 80% of left-leaning Americans say Biden has done too little on climate.
The signatories include major environmental groups, like the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, and Greenpeace; leading Indigenous organizations like the Indigenous Environmental Network and Sovereign Inupiat For A Living Arctic; youth climate groups like Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, and Future Coalition; social justice organizations like the Action Center on Race and the Economy; progressive groups like Indivisible and Center for Popular Democracy; and faith organizations across the religious spectrum.