Tens of thousands poured into the streets of New York City, on September 17, for the largest climate mobilisation in the United States in years, with organisers and marchers telling President Joe Biden to stop approving planet-wrecking fossil fuel projects and start doing everything in his power to accelerate the nation's renewable energy transition.
Campaigners expressed outrage that Biden has refused to declare a national climate emergency and is planning to skip United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres' Climate Ambition Summit on September 20.
"It's unbelievable that Biden is sitting on the sidelines when he's got more power than anyone on Earth to end deadly fossil fuels," said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Cowering in a corner is not a credible climate plan from the world's largest oil and gas producer. It's time for Biden to declare a climate emergency and phase out the fossil fuels killing people and wildlife around the world."
Sunday's march, which organisers say more than 75,000 people attended, comes at the tail-end of a scorching summer characterised by fossil fuel-driven extreme weather catastrophes across the globe.
Despite such disasters, the Biden administration has continued to approve major fossil fuel initiatives such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia and the Willow drilling project in Alaska. Scientists have made clear that fossil fuel expansion is incompatible with critical emissions targets.
"We are so clearly in a fucking climate emergency. Why won't Biden declare it?" asked NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus.
A climate emergency declaration would unlock a number of key presidential authorities, enabling Biden to halt US crude oil exports, cut off oil and gas drilling in federal waters, and block investments in overseas fossil fuel projects, among other actions.
Progressive US lawmakers joined marchers in the New York City streets on Sunday. Democratic party house representative for New York, Jamaal Bowman, delivered a fiery speech demanding a climate "revolution" and denouncing oil and gas subsidies, which surged to a record $7 trillion worldwide last year.
Bowman also noted that Congress continues to "give almost a trillion dollars a year to our military-industrial complex, which is the number one contributor to carbon emissions in the world".
Bowman was one of 31 US lawmakers who signed a recent letter urging Biden to "phase out oil and gas production on federal lands and waters by 2030".
The mass demonstration in New York City followed hundreds of protests across the globe over the past several days in the run-up to the Climate Ambition Summit, which is aimed at pushing world leaders to develop sufficiently bold plans to phase out fossil fuels as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to hit new records year after year.
Protests are set to continue throughout the coming week ahead of the UN General Assembly and the Climate Ambition Summit.
"For decades scientists have warned us about the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels — and the extreme weather events of this year show us how deadly serious the climate crisis is, here and now," said Matt Leonard, director of the Oil and Gas Action Network. "This week, thousands of people are taking action in New York to pressure President Biden and Wall Street to end the era of fossil fuels — not one more pipeline approval, not one more drilling permit, not one more dollar to Exxon or Chevron."
Romain Ioualalen, global diplomacy manager at Oil Change International, added that "the global call to put an end to the fossil fuel era must be heard by world leaders meeting in New York for the Climate Ambition Summit next week".
"We've had enough false promises, greenwashing, and half-measures," said Ioualalen. "Countries must deliver by coming to the Summit with clear plans to immediately end oil and gas expansion and policies for a fast and fair phase out of all fossil fuels."
Youth advocates who have been vocal in urging Biden to take sweeping climate action showed up in large numbers on Sunday, holding signs that read "I Didn't Vote for Fires & Floods" and "End Fossil Fuels".
"Thousands of youth marched today to send a clear message to President Biden: we are watching," said Noa Greene-Houvras of Fridays for Future NYC. "We are watching you approve pipelines, and we are watching as you delay declaring a climate emergency. We are watching as the Weather Channel repeats the same terrifying message, that this year, this week, this day, is the hottest ever recorded."
"We are watching our futures disappear, because how can we be the next president or author or scientist on a dying planet?" Greene-Houvras added. "We are watching communities suffer, poisoned by fossil fuel companies that know exactly what they are doing. We are waiting for your leadership, and the leadership of the US on the global stage, to change this, to start acting like this is the emergency you say it is. We, the youth, are watching and waiting and we will not back down on our future, our health, or our communities."
[Reprinted from Common Dreams.]