For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (951) 961-7972, ksiegel@biologicaldiversity.org
Ryan Schleeter, Greenpeace USA, (415) 342-2386, rschleet@greenpeace.org
Thanu Yakupitiyage, 350.org, (413) 687-5160, thanu@350.org

500 Groups Call for Next President to Declare National Climate Emergency

10 Executive Actions in First 10 Days Could Jump-start Fossil Fuel Phaseout, Transition to Just Green Economy.

WASHINGTON - More than 500 conservation, environmental justice, youth, health, faith and labor groups today called on the next U.S. president to declare a national climate emergency. The plan urges the next administration to take 10 executive actions in its first 10 days in office to confront the climate crisis.

The groups’ action plan calls for the use of existing executive powers to take bold and foundational steps on climate, including an immediate halt to new fossil fuel leases, infrastructure and exports. None of the actions require congressional support, so they can be taken by a new president regardless of political circumstances.

The 10 actions include significant investment in public renewable-energy generation, use of the Clean Air Act to slash greenhouse pollution, and prosecution of fossil fuel polluters. The groups are calling for the next president to ensure a just transition that protects workers and communities disproportionately harmed by the climate catastrophe and affected by the shift to a post-carbon pollution economy.

“Our house is on fire, but the government is failing to treat this like the emergency it is,” said Jane Fonda, a climate activist with Fire Drill Fridays who supports the plan. “We are in the heart of the climate emergency now, and it is literally game over for our children and the planet if the next president does not act with the force and foresight of a first-responder-in-chief.”

“Swift action to confront the climate emergency has to start the moment the next president enters the Oval Office,” said attorney Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute and a lead author of a paper explaining the legal authority for each of the actions. “After years of denial and destructive policies, the new administration must lead a transformational effort to break free of dirty fossil fuels and create a fair clean-energy future.”

Today’s plan builds on the unprecedented global climate movement led by youth and supported by adults.

“The U.S. should lead in the progression toward climate justice and serve as a ground zero in decreasing economic inequality,” said Isra Hirsi, the 16-year-old co-founder and partnerships director at U.S. Youth Climate Strike. “The president should not be hesitant in pursuing complete economic, infrastructural and environmental sustainability. The U.S. Youth Climate Strike and fellow youth climate strikers demand that the 2020 U.S. president declare a climate emergency immediately upon taking office and generate sufficient urgency in policy making. We urge executive action to accurately reflect the needs of those most harshly affected by climate change, including people of color and low-income communities.”

The plan focuses on unlocking existing executive authority to start a wholesale transition to a regenerative and equitable economy.

“On day one, we expect the next president of the United States to lead with the urgency required to mitigate the climate crisis. These ten executive actions are the essential building blocks for the rapid and transformational change we need in order to address the catastrophic impacts already being experienced by present generations and worsening each year that world leaders play politics with peoples’ lives,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America director of 350.org. “There can be no more compromise on how to address the climate crisis; we must phase out coal, oil, and gas immediately, make polluters pay for the necessary care and repair to our climate, and invest in a just transition that creates millions of jobs and prioritizes frontline communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color. Our demands are clear, and we expect the next president to step up to address the crisis of our time.”

“The first 100 days in office will be a critical test for our next president. This 10-point plan contains desperately needed actions that can be taken regardless of the situation in Congress, and taking it seriously reflects a real commitment to addressing the climate emergency that is already killing communities on a daily basis,” said Collin Rees, senior campaigner at Oil Change U.S. “Ending handouts to Big Oil, Gas, and Coal, winding down fossil fuel extraction, investing in a truly just transition for workers and communities, and paving the way for a 100% renewable energy economy are no-brainers. The future of the planet is on the line, and we need a president willing to stand up to big polluters and do what needs to be done.”

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“The climate crisis cannot be limited to one of fossil fuel emissions and infrastructure,” explained Anthony Rogers-Wright, policy coordinator for Climate Justice Alliance. “Frontline communities, already being hit first and worst by this crisis, have always understood that the climate crisis is a crisis of justice, and its root causes are white supremacy, patriarchy, and colonization. The next President cannot stand by, wait for Congress to act and preside over a perpetual interregnum — we have no more time for that. This set of executive actions puts the fossil fuel, and other iniquitous industries that treat our communities like sacrifice zones on notice, while offering a suite of actions the next president can promulgate on day one to address systemic and institutionalized injustices. At the same time, we’re also putting the next Congress on notice to get serious about dismantling this crisis, or the people will circumvent you with all available means.”

“Millions of Americans are rising up to demand our government tackle the climate emergency and hold fossil fuel corporations accountable,” said Charlie Jiang, climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA. “But oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil and Shell continue to block progress while drilling recklessly toward climate disaster. Our next president can and must lead from day one to protect workers and communities, speed the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, and say ‘no more’ to the fossil fuel executives standing in the way of a Green New Deal.”

“The climate crisis is already here, and Americans will no longer accept weak efforts or excuses for inaction,” said Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth. “The next president must be ready to take meaningful action on day one to address this emergency and prioritize people over profits. That means leaving fossil fuels behind, ensuring justice for frontline communities, and making polluters pay for the harm they cause.”

“The United States government has long acted to advance the interests of corporations over people, and under Trump the government has lowered the bar even further. The U.S. continues to act at the behest of big polluters like the fossil fuel industry by ignoring science, blocking climate policy, and putting big polluter profit over the needs and demands of people,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, climate campaign director of Corporate Accountability. “The next administration must start a new chapter in U.S. history, kick polluters out of climate policymaking, make them pay for the damage they’ve knowingly caused, and take every action possible to advance urgently needed, internationally just climate action.”

“The next president will enter office with the U.S. far behind on climate policy, with oil and gas extraction recklessly expanding, and atmospheric methane pollution spiking. But it will also be a time of unprecedented momentum to take bold and necessary climate action thanks to people driven movements fighting for change everywhere,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director at Earthworks. “Executive action alone is not enough to make a just transition away from fossil fuels, but it is essential to bolster the progress from climate leadership happening now in state capitals and communities across the country.”

“The climate crisis can’t be solved by one country alone. The next administration must drastically ramp up climate action in the U.S., and it must also drastically increase our support for climate action in poorer countries,” said Niranjali Amerasinghe, executive director of ActionAid USA. “The climate emergency is global, and the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world have the fewest resources to cope with its impacts.

This set of executive actions would put the U.S. on the right track toward doing its fair share of climate action. We do need Congress to act in order to provide the level of financial and technological support that developing countries truly need — but with these executive actions, the next president has a huge set of tools in their toolbox to jumpstart proactive, justice-based solutions.”

“If the next administration is to drive down climate pollution to a safe level it will require strong executive actions right out of the gate,” said Patrick McCully, climate and energy program director for Rainforest Action Network. “These actions must be ambitious, science-based, quick to scale, driven by the values of equity and justice, and the administration must be unconcerned by the inevitable squealing from the fossil fuel industry and its financial and political backers.”

“The science is very clear: In order to stand a chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate chaos, our society must transition off fossil fuels almost entirely in the coming decade. This will require our next president to kickstart the urgent transition on day one,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The rapid transition to a clean, renewable energy future should start with a ban on fracking and all new fossil fuel infrastructure — period.”

“Climate change is an existential threat not only to Americans, but to people and communities across the globe. Our next President can’t waste any time — tackling the climate crisis needs to be a Day One priority,” said Richard Wiles, executive director at the Center for Climate Integrity. “That can’t happen without addressing the roots of the climate crisis and those responsible: Big Oil. The fossil fuel industry knew their products caused climate change and spent the last 30 years lying about it. Any real solution must first hold the industry accountable for its decades of deception and the long-term consequences that resulted.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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