Tens of thousands of climate activists convened in New York City yesterday for a “March to End Fossil Fuels”. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for the movement to become “too big and too radical to ignore” and criticized the US for signing off on record numbers of fossil fuel leases.
“We must send a message, right here today,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The United States continues to be approving a record number of fossil fuel leases and support for the fossil fuel industry is starting to buckle and crack.”
Organizers estimated the march drew between 50,000 and 75,000 people to the streets of Manhattan. “This is an incredible moment,” said Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity, who helped organize the mobilization. “Tens of thousands of people are marching in the streets of New York because they want climate action, and they understand Biden’s expansion of fossil fuels is squandering our last chance to avoid climate catastrophe.”
The march coincided with the UN General Assembly where world leaders are gathering this week. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has referred to a climate ambitions summit taking place Wednesday as a “no nonsense” conference meant to highlight new climate commitments.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said this week, however, that President Biden is not currently scheduled to take part in the summit. Climate activists have praised Biden for passing historic climate legislation last year but have also criticised him for permitting drilling projects and the expansion of gas facilities.
In response to this, Su said his absence from the summit is “unacceptable”. “The time is now for Biden to lead on the world stage, and show he means it when he calls climate change the existential threat to humanity.”
Climate action was also visible in Berlin this week, where activists sprayed orange paint onto the Brandenburg Gate, among over 650 other global climate actions. Many of these marches were organised by young people, including activist Greta Thunberg’s ‘Fridays for Future’.
Veteran environmental activist Bill McKibben travelled to New York City to participate in the march, describing it as “a real restart moment after the pandemic for the big in-the-streets climate movement.”
McKibben added that the crowd reflected the diversity of New York City, remarking “I’m glad to see there’s a lot of old people like me here. We’ll be marching in the back because we’re slow!”
The Paris Agreement remains the main international mechanism for reducing emissions and protecting the planet, although the US, by withdrawing from the agreement, made it much harder to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. The 2020 global emissions need to be halved by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement to have a shot at doing that.
It is, therefore, clear that the actions highlighted today are only the beginning of necessary measures to protect the planet for future generations. The future starts now, and there’s no time to waste.