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WASHINGTON, March 17, 2022— The Congressional Progressive Caucus called on President Biden today to declare a climate emergency, ban federal fossil fuel leasing and extraction, and build distributed renewable energy systems under the Defense Production Act.
The lawmakers also urged Biden to issue executive orders to advance environmental justice and make clean air and water accessible for all.
“There’s no question that we’re in a climate emergency. The caucus is absolutely right that President Biden should declare it so we can build the energy security that only renewable energy can bring,” said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program. “Biden can act quickly, without Congress and without Joe Manchin, to stop oil and gas drilling on public lands and unlock his emergency powers to end the era of deadly fossil fuels. He must answer the caucus’s call and turbocharge the renewable energy transition with the Defense Production Act.”
Since Biden’s inauguration, declaring a climate emergency and ending fossil fuel expansion have been the top demands from climate, Indigenous, social justice and progressive groups, including the Build Back Fossil Free Coalition. The growing coalition of more than 1,000 groups is dedicated to pushing Biden to use his executive authority to act on climate and fossil fuels.
“President Biden has demonstrated his lack of commitment to the very communities who elected him to office. He has stalled on climate action, abandoning Black, Indigenous, communities of the global majority and other frontline communities who don’t have time to negotiate with neoliberals, capitalists and white supremacists because their very existences are at stake,” said Ashley McCray, Green New Deal network organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “This is why we stand alongside the CPC to demand Biden use his executive powers to declare a climate emergency and ban drilling on federal lands and waters. Our collective futures depend on bold climate action now.”
In October the coalition organized a week-long mobilization at the White House where thousands of Indigenous, frontline and allied activists put their bodies on the line to demand Biden declare a climate emergency and stop permitting fossil fuel projects.
“Biden is failing to support Tribal sovereignty each day he allows the Dakota Access pipeline to flow,” said Waniya Locke of Standing Rock Grassroots. “This CPC announcement is another reminder for Biden to stand with the people, declare a climate emergency, uphold Indigenous rights and protect the water.”
In February the Build Back Fossil Free Coalition sent a letter to Biden, signed by more than 1,100 organizations, urging him to quickly deliver on his campaign promises by declaring a climate emergency and stopping the federal approval of new fossil fuel projects. Ahead of the State of the Union, organizers gathered at the White House with an art piece depicting a giant pen and executive order, urging Biden to act on climate “with the stroke of a pen.”
“The climate crisis is rooted in lack of oversight of extraction that is happening in frontline communities,” said Cesar Aguirre, senior community organizer for Central California Environmental Justice Network. “It is time for Biden to go beyond performative politics and show communities of color that we will be represented. He needs to declare a climate emergency and stop fossil fuel destruction, including extraction on federal fossil fuel leases that pollute in communities like ours.”
“Those living in the Arctic are on the cutting edge of the climate crisis,” said Siqiniq Maupin, executive director of Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic. “The CPC agrees with us, thousands of organizations agree with us, now is the time to declare a climate emergency and stop the expansion of fossil fuels. The Biden Administration needs to follow this grassroots-led movement and the science backing us and stop approving fossil fuel projects like the Willow Master development plan.”
Last week, groups in the coalition sent another letter to Biden urging him to use the Defense Production Act to jumpstart the deployment of renewable energy and energy-efficiency solutions in the United States and abroad as a response to the crisis in Ukraine. The groups applauded the administration’s decision to halt oil imports from Russia and urged the president to help transition the world off the fossil fuels that are leading to global instability. The letter followed the Center’s legal report outlining the president’s broad emergency powers that can be used for substantial climate progress.
“Biden must take bold action by declaring a climate emergency and investing in real clean energy and actually sever the dependence of the fossil fuel economy,” said Julia Bernal, executive director for Pueblo Action Alliance. “Indigenous, frontline, youth and grassroot led movements have been demanding that the federal fossil fuel leasing program be reformed to ensure that communities have equity access to clean energy grids and participation in planning processes. It’s important for this administration to adopt the principles environmental justice movements have thoroughly implemented as they center frontline communities and equity to further meaningful climate solutions.”
“As communities across this country are facing the realities of a rigged economy, a public health crisis, racial injustice and climate change, Congress and the Biden administration must use every tool at their disposal to deliver comprehensive, transformative and immediate change,” said Ann Clancy, associate director of climate policy for Indivisible. “The announcement of the CPC executive action slate is a bold and exciting phase of progressive power that demonstrates progressives understand there is no time to waste. Declaring a national climate emergency and working to end our reliance on fossil fuels are two critical steps in addressing the climate crisis our communities are facing and Indivisible is thrilled to see these priorities included in a slate that works to address climate change, invest in good paying union jobs and prioritize a just and equitable society.”
Today’s announcement by the Congressional Progressive Caucus is an important step toward breaking the U.S. dependence on fossil fuels that are unpredictable, volatile and driving the climate crisis and environmental injustice across the globe, advocates say.
“There’s an urgent need to phase out all fossil fuels and this is the most ambitious proposal from decisionmakers yet,” said Su.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org