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'Do What the Science Demands': Biden White House to Be Given 'Climate Clock' Ahead of Global Summit

"We're not only sending a message that we're running out of time, but that there is still time to act and save our planet!" said climate leader Alexandria Villeseñor.

A climate activist holds a clock, underneath the Climate Clock, after a press conference featuring youth strikers, climate-impacted communities, and climate and environmental justice activists who will travel to Washington, D.C. to deliver a portable clock to officials in the Biden administration on April 19, 2021. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images)

Climate justice advocates with 350.org and the Build Back Fossil Free coalition on Monday announced their intention to deliver a replica of New York City's famous Climate Clock to top White House officials this week, calling for an ambitious carbon emissions target from the Biden administration. 

The organizers will deliver the clock to U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry ahead of President Joe Biden's Earth Day Climate Summit, scheduled for Thursday, that leaders from over 40 countries will attend.

Last year, a group of artists and activists unveiled the Climate Clock, showing the time remaining for policymakers to reduce emissions before the effects of the climate crisis become irreversible. Now,  as campaigners revealed at a press conference Monday, the clock also shows the percentage of the world's energy which comes from renewable sources—currently 12.2%.

The new "lifeline" illustrates that leaders including Kerry and Biden must act quickly and decisively to increase the United States' emissions targets as part of the country's commitment to the Paris climate agreement, organizers said. Scientists, businesses, and advocates alike are calling on Biden to set a target of slashing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. 

"The science is clear: we are in a climate emergency," said Laura Berry, Climate Clock research lead, in a press statement. "With its deadline and new lifeline, the Climate Clock makes explicit the speed and scope of action that political leaders must take in order to limit the worst impacts of climate devastation."

Along with the lifeline, the clock now shows that leaders have six years and 256 days to reduce emissions. 

Earth Uprising International co-founder Alexandria Villaseñor traveled from New York to Washington, D.C. with one of the portable clocks on Monday. 

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"We're not only sending a message that we're running out of time, but that there is still time to act and save our planet!" Villaseñor tweeted.

"We have to increase ambition. New updates are coming out to climate science showing we are perilously close to tipping points. We have to meet the scale of that challenge, and we have to start the descent. We can no longer be on the path of increasing emissions."
—Christiana Figueres, former U.N. climate chief

Along with the clock, advocates plan to deliver a petition to Kerry, signed by more than 22,000 people as of this writing, with demands for the Earth Day Climate Summit.

The petition calls on world leaders to increase their domestic climate targets to stop the planet from warming more than 1.5° Celsius; "cut off the flow of funding to fossil fuels from all institutions"; and invest in sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy, and green jobs. 

"We must do what the science demands," said Thanu Yakupitiyage, U.S. communications director for 350.org. "Biden and world leaders must drastically increase emissions targets to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius. To do that, they must keep fossil fuels in the ground, including by stopping all new fossil fuel projects. This is the only path to meaningful climate action. Our communities are already living through the climate crisis, and we are reaching the point of no return."

By setting a target, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), that would cut the United States' emissions by 50% in the next nine years, Biden would nearly double the country's earlier goal while signaling to other countries that they must set their own ambitious targets.

"Everyone needs to do better NDCs," Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told The Guardian. "We have to increase ambition. New updates are coming out to climate science showing we are perilously close to tipping points. We have to meet the scale of that challenge, and we have to start the descent. We can no longer be on the path of increasing emissions."

Current NDCs would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just 1% by 2030, according to the United Nations.

As activists prepared to deliver the clock and petition to Kerry, climate justice activists in the U.K. announced the Climate Clock will be projected onto Glasgow's landmark Tolbooth Steeple every night, starting on Earth Day until the U.N. Climate Conference (COP26) begins in November in the Scottish city. 

"We'll never run out of time to fight back against climate disruption—but we have less than seven years until we pass a critical threshold to limit the worst impacts of climate devastation and keep global warming below 1.5ºC," said Berry. "From New York to Glasgow, we need real solutions to reach zero emissions as quickly as possible and to build the fossil fuel free, renewable energy future that climate justice demands."

Note: Some information about Alexandria Villaseñor's advocacy work and participation in the event was mistaken in an earlier version of this article. The article has been corrected.

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