March to End Fossil Fuels

Ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, thousands of activists joined the March to End Fossil Fuels on

September 17, 2023.
(Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Youth Coalition Presses Biden to Declare Climate Emergency Ahead of Earth Day

"As the election approaches, young people are mobilizing to demand President Biden take bold action to protect young peoples' futures."

Ahead of Earth Day on April 22, youth organizers across the United States are planning protests in hundreds of communities to demand that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency and take other action to tackle the fossil fuel-driven crisis.

"President Biden promised to be a climate president. Ahead of the 2024 election, young people are mobilizing to hold him accountable to that promise," reads a joint statement put out by the coalition composed of Campus Climate Network, Fridays for Future USA, and the Sunrise Movement.

While they are focused on the president in power, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump—a Big Oil ally whose plans for the planet if he returns to office are to "drill, baby, drill"—offers no hope for the groups' demands.

Biden has won praise for some climate progress during his first term, particularly his recent pause on liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. However, the Democrat has also come under fire for supporting the Willow oil project and Mountain Valley Pipeline, continuing fossil fuel lease sales, and skipping last year's United Nations summit.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration approved the construction of Houston-based Enterprise Product Partners' Sea Port Oil Terminal off the Texas Gulf Coast.

Sunrise called the move "very disappointing," and pointed out on social media that the project is set to "be the largest oil export terminal in the U.S."

"It threatens lives, just so Big Oil can profit big exporting abroad," the movement added. "This is a dangerous mark of Big Oil's power in politics."

Despite marks of progress on climate, the groups lamented that "U.S. oil and gas production has surged to record highs" under the Biden administration.

They also acknowledged previous protests, including one by Sunrise in February that led to arrests at Biden's campaign headquarters.

"As the election approaches, young people are mobilizing to demand President Biden take bold action to protect young peoples' futures," they said. "That begins with declaring a climate emergency that meaningfully addresses fossil fuels, creates millions of good-paying union jobs, and helps us prepare for incessant climate disasters."

Last year—the hottest in human history—Biden claimed that "practically speaking," he had already declared a national climate emergency. The People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition responded that he "should follow through on his rhetoric and immediately declare a national emergency that would unlock new executive powers to speed up the deployment of clean energy and halt fossil fuel expansion."

As the Center for Biological Diversity has laid out, if Biden declared an emergency, under various federal laws he could then halt crude oil exports; stop oil and gas drilling in the outer continental shelf; restrict international trade and private investment in fossil fuels; grow domestic manufacturing for clean energy and transportation to speed the nationwide transition off fossil fuels; and build resilient and distributed renewable energy systems in climate-vulnerable communities.

To renew pressure on the president, Fridays for Future USA is planning a Day of Climate Action—part of a global strike next Friday, April 19. Organizers said that "in New York City alone, thousands of students will walk out of their classes and march from Foley Square in Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Borough Hall."

On Earth Day itself—April 22—Campus Climate Network is organizing actions at over 100 campuses calling on colleges and universities to "become true environmental justice leaders and cut ties with the fossil fuel industry."

Meanwhile, the Sunrise Movement plans to lead dozens of Earth Day teach-ins at congressional offices and other locations to urge members of Congress to demand a formal declaration.

Sunrise is also part of another coalition—with Gen-Z for Change, March for Our Lives, and United We Dream Action—that is pushing the president to embrace a broader youth agenda that addresses not only the climate emergency but also gun violence, immigrants' rights, and the U.S.-backed Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.

"In 2020, young people sent Biden to the White House. In 2024, how many young people turn out for Biden will determine if we stave off a second Trump presidency," the group's political director, Michele Weindling, said last month. "Right now, young people are shouting for what we need from Biden to mobilize our generation this November."

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