The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Cassidy DiPaola, 401-441-7196

In Maui, Advocates Demand Climate Accountability From Biden During Visit


Today, as President Biden visits Maui to survey the damage from catastrophic wildfires, climate advocates and community leaders are demanding bold action from Biden, including a national climate emergency declaration, which would unlock executive powers to aggressively combat the crisis.

The Maui fires, which claimed the lives of more than a hundred residents, destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of residents, are the latest in a string of extreme weather disasters fueled by climate change that have impacted communities across the country this summer. Advocates are urging Biden to halt new fossil fuel leasing and exports, ramp up clean energy manufacturing, and direct funding to build climate resilience in vulnerable communities.

"I am glad that President Biden is visiting Maui today, and that he has committed to delivering everything we need to recover from these catastrophic wildfires, including FEMA funding and support – but there’s a lot more he needs to do,” said Kaniela Ing, National Director of the Green New Deal Network and a seventh-generation Kānaka Maoli from Maui. “I hope President Biden will offer small businesses and workers direct relief, like he did during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we can pause tourism while maintaining a strong economy. I hope President Biden will protect displaced residents from the disaster capitalists seeking to profit off their grief by instituting a moratorium on foreclosures and subsidizing mortgage and rent payments for at least a year. I hope President Biden will support Maui’s lawsuit against oil companies to pay for the damages they caused. And I hope President Biden will declare a climate emergency to end all new fossil fuel development so that tragedies like this don’t become a regular occurrence. I look forward to seeing President Biden meet these needs and support us in building a future centered around justice for our ʻāina hānau and the Kamaʻāina who hold it dear.”

Declaring an emergency would align with the 74% of Democrats and 52% of all Americans who believe we are facing a climate emergency, according to 2021 polling. It would also send a strong signal that the administration is taking decisive action in the face of worsening extreme weather.

These deadly fires also renew focus on Maui's ongoing legal battle to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. In 2020, the county sued Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell and others for knowingly causing climate change damages, including increased wildfire risk.The complaint details Big Oil's responsibility for "increased frequency, intensity, and destructive force of wildfires" on Maui due to hotter, drier conditions. It also outlines sea level rise, flooding, extreme heat, and other climate impacts.

Maui is still fighting to get its case to trial after years of fossil fuel company efforts to delay and dismiss the lawsuit, and leading advocates in the fight to hold Big Oil accountable are calling for Biden to use the trip to support this lawsuit.

“It's time for President Biden to make clear to the American people that the oil and gas industry must be held accountable for their lies and pollution that continue to fuel the climate crisis,” said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, an organization that supports climate liability lawsuits.

Fossil Free Media is a nonprofit media lab that supports the movement to end fossil fuels and address the climate emergency.