Petition for Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency surges

Petition for Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency surges
Image via Gage Skidmore.

As fires and floods wreak havoc across the United States—from California to Kentucky—activists armed with a 16-foot inflatable globe and nearly half a million petition signatures gathered outside the White House on Tuesday to yet again demand that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency.

Greenpeace USA explained that "the action, which symbolized that a livable planet is in Biden’s hands, kicked off a day of climate emergency rallies in 19 cities across the country."

Ashley Thomson, a senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA, pointed out that "last week more than 85 million people in the U.S. were under heat-related advisories and 41 states are in a drought."

"The climate emergency is happening," she said. "President Biden needs to act like it now if he wants to preserve a livable future."

Biden in recent weeks has faced mounting pressure from climate activists and congressional Democrats to issue an emergency declaration, which supporters of the move stress would unlock key powers for his administration to take on the fossil fuel-driven global crisis.

"Yesterday, Ikiya Collective shut down the Department of Interior demanding Biden declare a climate emergency and put Native lands back in Native hands by ending an era of approving fossil fuel projects that target our communities," said one of the group's members, Jennifer K. Falcon.

"Today, we joined Greenpeace outside the White House with the same message," Falcon added. "Black, Indigenous, and communities of the global majority are not your sacrifice zones."

While speaking about climate action at a shuttered coal plant last month, Biden admitted that "this is an emergency," but he declined to issue the long-demanded declaration.

Despite some progress in Congress since then—Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reached a deal on a budget reconciliation package, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022—activists have emphasized that Biden must still declare a climate emergency.

In an email to supporters Tuesday, Greenpeace USA's John Noel highlighted that—as other campaigners have noted—Schumer and Manchin's bill "contains billions of dollars for climate action at the same time it gives a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry."

"In the end, we have two lessons. First: people pressure works! The positive parts of this bill would not have happened without grassroots activism," Noel wrote. "But the second lesson is less rosy: the continued influence of the fossil fuel industry is still compromising climate action."

Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity said Tuesday that "as Congress negotiates climate measures, President Biden must champion a package free of fossil fuel handouts and declare a climate emergency to deliver the robust, all-of-government response we need."

"By using his full arsenal of emergency and ordinary executive powers, Biden can take sweeping action to protect our climate and curb fossil fuels where Congress is failing to do so," said Su, who co-authored a related report earlier this year.

Along with the center and Greenpeace, petitions were launched by Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE), Better Path Coalition, Climate Hawks Vote, Climate Smart Missoula, Dayenu, Food & Water Watch, Green New Deal Network, Honor the Earth, Mothers Out Front, MoveOn, People vs. Fossil Fuels, Sunrise Movement, Third Act National, Turtle Island Restoration Network, and multiple chapters of

"The planet's climate is obviously in a state of emergency," said Third Act founder Bill McKibben. "We must all do all we can—and for the president, that means declaring an emergency, both to bear witness to the truth, and to expand his power to do what he, above all others, can."

As a Greenpeace statement outlined, specific actions the groups are calling for Biden to take include:

  • Working with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters to protect them from any further pollution, contamination, or destruction at the hands of Big Oil;
  • Halting the export of crude oil by reinstating the export ban; and
  • Expanding on the June 6 order under the Defense Production Act to spur electric transportation development and create millions of good-paying union jobs.

"I am surrounded by the devastating effects of inaction: wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and record-breaking heatwaves," noted Gemma Gutierrez, an ACE youth advisory board member. "Millions displaced, children poisoned by their own backyards, and living in certain zip codes cutting life expectancy in half."

"As a teenager calling for climate justice, I do so with the moral authority of someone whose future is on the line," the 18-year-old said. "We urgently need President Biden to declare a national climate emergency!"

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