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Protest outside White House

Members of the Build Back Fossil Free coalition gathered outside the White House demanding that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency on February 24, 2022. (Photo: People vs. Fossil Fuels/Twitter)

Ahead of SOTU, 1,000+ Groups Demand Biden 'Build Back Fossil Free'

"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."

Jessica Corbett

"Fully deliver on your climate and environmental justice promises by using your executive authority to keep fossil fuels in the ground and build a resilient and affordable renewable energy system."

"The Biden administration cannot pin the blame for its climate failures on congressional inaction."

That was the message the Build Back Fossil Free coalition sent U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday with a letter as well as a protest outside the White House ahead of his State of the Union address next week.

"As 1,140 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 states.

"You showed what serious climate leadership could look like in your first week in office when you canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and paused oil and gas leasing on federal lands," the letter continues. "The urgency of the moment requires you to return to that original ambition."

In their demand for "bolder action," the groups highlight that Biden's first year in office "was marked by historic climate disasters, another alarming surge in domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and increasingly dire warnings from the leading scientists around the world."

Given the worsening climate emergency—and the failure by Democrat-controlled Congress to pass a package that would deliver on some of the president's climate promises—the coalition is calling on him to:

  • Follow through on your promise to ban all new oil and gas leasing, drilling, and fracking on federal lands and waters.
  • Direct federal agencies to stop approving fossil fuel projects, including pipelines, import and export terminals, storage facilities, refineries, and petrochemical plants. Direct the Department of Energy to halt gas exports to the full extent authorized by law.
  • Declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act, unlocking special powers to reinstate the crude oil export ban, redirect disaster relief funds toward distributed renewable energy construction in frontline communities, and marshal companies to fast-track renewable transportation and clean power generation, creating millions of high-quality union jobs.

"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 Jim Walsh, policy director at coalition member Food & Water Watch, in a statement.

"The most important action he must take is to put an end to any and all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects," Walsh asserted. "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."

The letter comes a day after the Center for Biological Diversity, another coalition member, published a new report detailing what actions Biden could take after declaring a climate emergency.

"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," Maya Golden-Krasner of the center's Climate Law Institute said Thursday. "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," she said.

Sha Ongelungel of the Indigenous Environmental Network, another group in the coalition, emphasized the severe consequences of inadequate climate action.

"Let's be clear—politeness and pragmatism will be the death of us," she said. "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," Ongelungel added. "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!"

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