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Biden climate speech

U.S. President Joe Biden announces new climate actions at the closed Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts on July 20, 2022. (Photo: Joseph Prezioso/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Disappointed by Climate Speech, Activists Say People Are Dying 'While Biden Dithers'

"The world's burning up from California to Croatia, and right now Biden's fighting fire with the trickle from a garden hose."

Jessica Corbett

Climate campaigners expressed frustration Wednesday after U.S. President Joe Biden announced new climate actions but refused to declare a national emergency, despite mounting public and political pressure.

"This week's apocalyptic heatwaves make it clear that these steps are overdue and way too small."

"Biden's failure to declare a state of emergency today is an insult to the millions of working people and frontline communities living the devastating reality of global heating, environmental racism, and climate breakdown," said People's Action climate justice organizer Ben Ishibashi.

The administration, he argued, "must do more than rattle off talking points about things the federal government is already doing or offer Band-Aid-level measures."

Speaking at a shuttered coal plant in Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon, Biden said that "I come here today with a message: As president, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger. And that's what climate change is about. It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger."

Biden outlined his actions to protect communities from extreme heat and dangerous climate impacts, lower cooling costs, and expand offshore wind.

"We welcome Biden's executive actions to boost wind energy production and help low-income families keep cool, but this week's apocalyptic heatwaves make it clear that these steps are overdue and way too small," said Ishibashi, calling for "bold, decisive action" that prioritizes people over corporate profits.

The organizer's criticism and demand for more were echoed by other activists—including the Center for Biological Diversity's Jean Su, who said that "the world's burning up from California to Croatia, and right now Biden's fighting fire with the trickle from a garden hose."

"Declaring a climate emergency will unleash the full force of Biden's executive powers to combat climate chaos and signal the climate leadership we so desperately need," explained Su, whose group released a report on the topic earlier this year.

"With congressional action closed off, bold action from Biden is the only hope for truly lifesaving action to curb the deadly fossil fuels scorching the planet," she warned. "Limited action on renewables without curbing fossil fuels is like tuning up the engine while the car barrels off a cliff."

JL Andrepont, senior policy campaigner and policy analyst at 350.org, similarly highlighted that "every day the president waits to stop all new fossil fuel extraction projects in the U.S. is another day lost, and will cause temperatures to rise even higher, costing even more lives."

"We are in a crisis of tipping points, and frontline and BIPOC communities are losing their lives and livelihoods while Biden dithers," Andrepont added. "The planet and every living creature on it doesn't have a moment to waste. The time for action is now. He needs to start keeping to his commitments to fight the climate crisis, and to fight for real climate justice."

Even Biden, during his speech, recognized that "Congress is not acting as it should" and "this is an emergency."

While welcoming his "absolutely necessary" new actions that "will make real impacts in people's lives," Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash also emphasized that "Biden said that climate change is an emergency, but we are sick of watching this administration fail to treat it as such."

"Declaring a climate emergency is a no-brainer," she said. "At a time when our rights are being ripped away, wildfires displace and kill people all over the world, and faith in government is wavering, young people are asking—what will it take for Democrats to fight for us?"

According to Prakash, "This moment is critical for the Biden presidency—he can either take action and deliver for millions of people, or he will forever be known as the president who condemned my generation to an unlivable world."


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