“We have to send the message that some of us are going to be living on this planet 30, 40, 50 years from now and we will not take no for an answer.”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez issued a fiery speech to the tens of thousands of climate marchers who took to the streets of New York City on Sunday, telling the crowd that “it means something” when people show up in force because now is the time for elected leaders in the United States and around the world to finally show “urgency” on the issue of soaring global temperatures that are driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
“The way that we create urgency on the issue of climate,” declared Ocasio-Cortez, “is when we have people all across the world in the streets—in the streets!—showing up, demanding change, and demanding a cessation of what is killing us. We have to send the message that some of us are going to be living on this planet 30, 40, 50 years from now and we will not take no for an answer.”
Over 75,000 are estimated to have marched Sunday ahead of the rally that capped off days of organized action in New York and elsewhere in the country and around the world. All of the coordinated activities came ahead of this week’s United Nation’s General Assembly, including a Climate Ambition Summit initiated by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres slated for Wednesday.
Calling the climate crisis “the biggest issue of our time,” the New York Democrat said the organized movement demanding bold change “must be too big and too radical to ignore.”
Ocasio-Cortez touted her 2019 Green New Deal legislation that called for a 10-year time period for rapid decarbonization alongside a shift to renewable energy that also includes a just transition for workers impacted by the shift away from good-paying and reliable jobs in the oil, gas, and coal industries.
“We are demanding a change,” she said, “so that working people get better jobs and lower bills under a renewable energy economy—that is what we are here to make sure we achieve!”
Further, Ocasio-Cortez slammed the U.S. government under the Biden administration for approving a record number of oil and gas drilling leases and told the crowd “that has got to end today” as she applauded the climate movement for starting to “crack the grip” which the fossil fuel industry holds on the nation’s political economy.
“That’s because of you,” she said to those in the crowd. “Don’t let the cynics win. The cynics want us to think that this isn’t worth it. The cynics want us to believe that we can’t win. The cynics want us to believe that organizing doesn’t matter; that our political system doesn’t matter; that our economy doesn’t matter. But we’re here to say that we organize out of hope! We organize out of commitment! We organize out of love! We organize out of the beauty of our future! And we will not give up. We will not let go! We will not let cynicism to prevail!”
The activist group Climate Defiance asked: “Why are we getting handcuffed while people who literally torch the planet get celebrated for their ‘civility’ and their ‘moderation’?”
A day after tens of thousands of climate activists marched through Manhattan’s Upper East Side demanding an end to oil, gas, and coal production, thousands more demonstrators hit the streets of Lower Manhattan Monday, where more than 100 people were arrested while surrounding the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to protest fossil fuel financing.
Protesters chanted slogans like “No oil, no gas, fossil fuels can kiss my ass” and “We need clean air, not another billionaire” as they marched from Zuccotti Park—ground zero of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement—to pre-selected sites in the Financial District. Witnesses said many of the activists attempted to reach the New York Stock Exchange but were blocked by police.
“We’re here to wake up the regulators who are asleep at the wheel as they continue to let Wall Street lead us into ANOTHER financial crash with their fossil fuel financing,” the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition explained on social media.
Local and national media reported New York Police Department (NYPD) officers arrested 114 protesters and charged them with civil disobedience Monday after they blocked entrances to the Fed building. Most of those arrested were expected to be booked and released.
“I’m being arrested for exercising my First Amendment right to protest because Joe Manchin is putting a 300-mile-long pipeline through my home state of West Virginia and President [Joe] Biden allowed him to do it for nothing in return,” explained Climate Defiance organizer Rylee Haught on social media, referring to the right-wing Democratic senator and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
As she was led away by an NYPD officer, a tearful Haught said Biden “sold us out.”
“He promised to end drilling on federal lands, and he’s selling out Appalachia’s future for profit,” she added.
Responding to the “block-long” line of arrestees, Climate Defiance asked: “Why are we getting handcuffed while people who literally torch the planet get celebrated for their ‘civility’ and their ‘moderation’?”
Alicé Nascimento of New York Communities for Change toldWABC that the protests—which are part of Climate Week and are timed to coincide with this week’s United Nations Climate Ambition Summit—are “our last resort.”
“We’re bringing the crisis to their doorstep and this is what it looks like,” said Nascimento.
As they have at similar demonstrations, protesters called on Biden to stop approving new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. Some had a message for the president and his administration.
“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” 17-year-old Brooklynite Emma Buretta of the youth-led protest group Fridays for Future told WABC. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
Just ahead of U.N. climate summit in New York City, analysis calls on governments to halt planned gas and oil projects
United Nations chief António Guterres has called on nations to arrive at September 20’s high-level climate summit in New York City with firm commitments for ending fossil fuel production.
So far, however, the world’s top 20 oil and gas extractors have enough production planned to generate 173 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2050 — more than enough to blow past their Paris Agreement commitments and heat the world well beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above historical temperatures. The greatest polluter among them will be the United States.
Those are some of the findings in a new report from the group Oil Change International, which has found that these 20 countries — dubbed the “planet wreckers” — are going to be responsible for almost 90 percent of the expected carbon emissions from planned oil and gas projects between 2023 and 2050.
“A handful of the world’s richest nations are gambling our global future by failing to act and ignoring the scientific calls and evidence that we need to rapidly phase out fossil fuels,” said Kelly Trout, co-director of research at Oil Change International, who co-authored the report with colleague Romain Ioualalen.
“Most countries are unfortunately still moving in the wrong direction,” she said.
Oil and gas projects already planned by these nations will generate climate-heating CO2 emissions equivalent to 1,082 new coal plants, according to the report.
Based on their current plans, just five countries — the U.S. Canada, Norway, Australia, and the UK — will account for 51 percent of all new oil and gas projects through 2050, Trout found in her research.
“Among all of the countries that we call out in the report, these are the five that have the greatest economic means and capacity to actually be phasing out their oil and gas production the fastest,” Trout said.
The U.S. is both the largest historical carbon emitter and the world’s top oil and gas producer. Dubbed “planet wrecker in chief” in the report, it is on course to drive the most carbon pollution from planned oil and gas expansion by far. New oil and gas extraction in the U.S. will account for more than one-third of all planned projects over the next 25 years, creating 72.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions through 2050.
Canada, which is on track for 18.6 billion tons of cumulative carbon pollution through 2050, came in second.
Russia, the world’s second largest gas extractor and third largest oil producer, ranked third with 17.3 billion tons of CO2 expected from new production through 2050. Iran ranked fourth with 9.7 billion tons, and China rounded out the top five at 8.9 billion tons of expected carbon pollution.
Trout was not surprised by the outsized role of the U.S. “It’s a reflection of the reality that the oil and gas industry’s expansion has been unchecked for many years now in the United States,” she said. “President Biden has put very few limits on the oil and gas industry, and has even enabled the sort of expansion that we’re warning about in this report.”
Since the beginning of 2023, the Biden administration has approved construction of multiple liquid natural gas export facilities.
Among the moves that have further outraged environmentalists, in March, the administration approved the Willow Project, a major ConocoPhilips oil drilling venture in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a federal wilderness on Alaska’s North Shore. Estimates put up to 600 million barrels of oil in the area where the project will be located.
In June, as part of the debt ceiling deal negotiated between congressional Republicans and the White House, federal agencies fast-tracked Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will carry fracked gas about 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.
In an August interview on the Weather Channel, Biden said he had “practically” declared a climate emergency, a statement that angered climate activists seeking more concrete action.
Against this backdrop, tens of thousands are expected to take to the streets of New York on September 17 for a “March to End Fossil Fuels,” some with the explicit demand that President Biden stop U.S. expansion of oil and gas development. Mid-September actions and protests are also being planned in cities and towns worldwide.
“Thousands of folks will be marching, not just in New York City but across the world to just say our future is on the line,” Trout said, “and a livable future for us all is completely incompatible with the expansion and continuation of the fossil fuel industry.”
“When we the people use our collective power we can win,” said one campaigner.
“September 15-17, 2023. Everywhere.”
Those are the dates and location of the international mobilization against fossil fuels set to take place this coming weekend, and the last word is hardly an exaggeration as organizers with the Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels report that more than 400 actions, marches, rallies, and other events have already been registered around the world.
More than 780 organizations have endorsed the day of action—up from 500 less than a week ago—and millions of participants are expected to rally from Cape Town, South Africa to Manila, Philippines and Lahore, Pakistan, as well as in dozens of cities and towns across the United States, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in history.
More than 10,000 people are expected to march in New York to demand that U.S. President Joe Biden end federal approvals for new fossil fuel projects like the Willow drilling project in Alaska and phase out oil and gas drilling in federal lands and waters; declare a climate emergency to unlock resources to accelerate the transition to renewable energy; and provide a just transition that creates millions of green jobs while supporting people who have worked in the fossil fuel industry.
“President Biden is in an unparalleled position to lead the world toward cleaner, less polluting energy options and eliminate the dependence on dangerous fossil fuels,” said organizers of the New York march. “If he takes action, he will protect our health, boost our economy, and tackle the climate crisis head-on.”
On Monday, scientists including Lucky Tran of the March for Science and biologist Sandra Steingraber announced that 300 climate experts had signed their letter to Biden reminding him that “a broad scientific consensus exists” that fossil fuel extraction must be drawn down immediately to keep global heating below 1.5°C.
The scientists plan to release the letter with all signatures ahead of Sunday’s march.
The global mobilization—and the Climate Ambition Summit, where leaders of countries that emit the most heat-trapping gases will be expected to present updated plans to reduce their emissions and phase out fossil fuels—comes after a summer in the Northern Hemisphere in which numerous temperature records were broken.
As Common Dreams reported last week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “climate breakdown has begun” when U.S. scientists found the summer was the hottest on record. Scientists have said that extreme weather events such as wildfires in Canada and heatwaves in the U.S. and Europe in recent months would not have happened without human-caused planetary heating.
Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network, emphasized that popular uprisings against the fossil fuel industry and the politicians that continue to support it have found success, such as the campaign that pushed Ecuadorians to vote against drilling in the Yasuní National Park in the Amazon last month.
“July 2023 was the hottest month in recorded climate history,” said Essop. “The unparalleled, deadly climate disasters sweeping the world seem to leave polluters unfazed. Historical emitters like Norway, the U.K., and the USA are announcing new fossil fuel projects even as floods, fires, and heatwaves take over our lives. We take inspiration from recent victories in the Yasuní region with the referendum to stop oil drilling.”
“When we the people use our collective power we can win,” Essop added. “Let our resistance against fossil fuels in September send a loud message to the fossil fuel industry and their supporters that their time is up.”
Outside of the U.S., more than 3,000 people are expected to join the Pakistan Climate March in the southern Sidh province; 100,000 are expected to join a march in Abuja, Nigeria; and 3,000 are expected to march near Malacañang Palace in Manila.
“We demand a phaseout of fossil fuels now,” said Farooq Tariq, secretary-general of Kissan Rabita Committee in Pakistan. “The fossil fuel industry and its supporters bear responsibility for the climate crisis and perpetuate a predatory and destructive economic system that harms both people and the planet.”
“This report is a wake-up call to the injustice of the climate crisis and a pivotal opportunity to correct course,” said one expert.
“The United Nations’ polite prose glosses over what is a truly damning report card for global climate efforts. Carbon emissions? Still climbing. Rich countries’ finance commitments? Delinquent. Adaptation support? Lagging woefully behind.”
That’s how Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, began his response to a “global stocktake” report released Friday by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ahead of two global summits.
“This report is a wake-up call to the injustice of the climate crisis and a pivotal opportunity to correct course,” Dasgupta continued. “We already knew the world is failing to meet its climate goals, but leaders now have a concrete blueprint underpinned by a mountain of evidence for how to get the job done.”
“There are a few bright spots worth celebrating,” he noted. “But overall, the report finds there are more gaps than progress—gaps that can only be erased by transformational change across systems like energy, food, land, and transport. The future of our planet depends on whether national leaders use this stark assessment as a catalyst for bold systems transformation.”
“This report makes clear that President Biden is squandering precious time every second he fails to take bold action on fossil fuels.”
The UNFCCC report comes nearly eight years after countries finalized the Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rise this century below 2°C, relative to preindustrial levels, with a more ambitious target of 1.5°C.
“The global stocktake was designed under the Paris agreement to assess our global response to the climate crisis and chart a better way forward,” the UNFCCC explained Friday. “The global stocktake is held every five years and is intended to inform the next round of nationally determined contributions to be put forward by 2025.”
Data collection began in 2021, ultimately resulting in more than 170,000 pages of written submissions and over 252 hours of meetings and discussions. The new synthesis report summarizes 17 key technical findings from the discussions.
“I urge governments to carefully study the findings of the report and ultimately understand what it means for them and the ambitious action they must take next,” said U.N. Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell. “It’s the same for businesses, communities, and other key stakeholders. While the catalytic role of the Paris agreement and the multilateral process will remain vital in the coming years, the global stocktake is a critical moment for greater ambition and accelerating action.”
As University College London professor of climatology Mark Maslin explained, the report “makes it clear that the Paris agreement was a game-changer” but also countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction pledges are not in line with the 1.5°C target.
“The U.N. estimates that… we need to reduce global GHG emissions by 43% by 2030 and further by 60% by 2035 compared to 2019 levels and reach net-zero [carbon dioxide] emissions by 2050 globally,” Maslin summarized. “This is a huge ask given that greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest level ever in 2022.”
“All the technology exists to undergo the net-zero transformation but the huge increases in renewables, [electric vehicles], and batteries [have] to be even more rapid to make the huge cuts suggested by the U.N.—estimates are we need everything to happen five times faster,” he added.
The UNFCCC publication was released in preparation for the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP28)—scheduled for November and December in Dubai, United Arab Emirates—where the first global stocktake will conclude.
“This global stocktake report provides clear direction on how we can meet the expectations of the Paris agreement by taking decisive action in this critical decade,” said COP28 President-Designate Sultan Al Jaber—whose selection for the summit post is controversial because he also heads the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. “We must urgently disrupt business as usual and unite like never before to move from ambition to action and from rhetoric to real results.”
Organizers of the NYC march are calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to stop federal approvals for new fossil fuel projects and repeal permits for “climate bombs” like the Willow project and the Mountain Valley Pipeline; phase out oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters; declare a climate emergency; and provide a just transition.
Advocacy groups supporting the march issued fresh demands for action on Friday in response to the UNFCCC publication.
“This report makes clear that President Biden is squandering precious time every second he fails to take bold action on fossil fuels,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jean Su, who previously authored a document detailing how an emergency declaration would empower the administration to tackle the climate crisis. “Every day we’re seeing and feeling the harms of fossil-fueled climate change from extreme heat to deadly wildfires and devastating floods.”
“As leader of the world’s largest oil and gas producer, Biden has more power than anyone to stop expanding the fossil fuels driving this deadly crisis,” Su added. “Ahead of the U.N.’s Climate Ambition Summit, thousands of people will be in the streets of New York on September 17 for the March to End Fossil Fuels. This is the perfect opportunity for Biden to declare a climate emergency, use all his executive powers to phase out fossil fuels, and finally secure a legacy as a climate leader.”
“We need the biggest players to use their power to avert climate chaos, and to flex their muscle to protect human life rather than protecting corporate polluters.”
Greenpeace International policy coordinator Kaisa Kosonen on Friday called out governments across the globe, declaring that “our house is burning down and the people with the power to save us are still sipping coffee pretending it’s not happening.”
“No government can claim they didn’t know how to fix the climate problem,” she said. “They’ve been thrown a lifesaver again and again by scientists, and now we have this report. What the world is waiting for is action; leadership. We need the biggest players to use their power to avert climate chaos, and to flex their muscle to protect human life rather than protecting corporate polluters.”
Looking toward COP28, Kosonen argued that “at this year’s U.N. climate summit, governments must agree to end the use of oil, gas, and coal in a fast and fair way and make the polluters pay. Leaders can no longer smile and claim they support the Paris agreement and its 1.5°C warming limit, if they fail to give fossil fuels an end date and continue their expansion.”
“The solutions are ready—renewables are now the cheapest power source—but we’ve got to push the fossil fuel industry out of the way,” she stressed. “Fossil fuel corporations are holding us hostage, but their time’s up.”
The UNFCCC report and resulting calls for action follow a series of scientific findings throughout the week that also generated demands for a swift end to fossil fuels, including that Antarctica is warming more quickly than models project, this summer is the hottest on record, and last year greenhouse gas concentrations, global sea level, and ocean heat content all hit record highs.