Thousands of activists, Indigenous groups, students and others took to the streets of New York on Sunday, September 17, 2023, for the “March to End Fossil Fuels” protest, calling for President Joe Biden and other world leaders to take urgent action against climate change.
Protesters target Biden administration for approving new oil and gas projects
The march, which organizers estimated to have attracted 75,000 people, was the opening event of Climate Week NYC, a series of events and meetings aimed at accelerating climate action ahead of the UN Climate Ambition Summit on Wednesday.
Many of the protesters expressed their disappointment and anger at the Biden administration for continuing to approve new oil and gas drilling permits, despite his campaign promises to tackle the climate crisis.
“Biden, you should be scared of us,” said Emma Buretta, a 17-year-old Brooklyn organizer for youth protest group Fridays for Future. “If you want our vote, if you don’t want the blood of our generations to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
The protesters demanded that Biden stop federal approvals of new fossil fuel projects, phase out oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters, declare a climate emergency with larger executive powers, halt oil and gas exports, and transition to a reliance on renewable energy.
Speakers highlight the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities
The rally featured speakers from various backgrounds and sectors, including politicians, celebrities, scientists, activists, and frontline communities.
They highlighted the devastating impacts of climate change on people’s health, livelihoods, and rights, especially those of Indigenous peoples, people of color, low-income communities, and young generations.
“We are here to demand that the administration declare a climate emergency,” said Analilia Mejia, director of the activist group Center for Popular Democracy. “We must wake up and take immediate action.”
Nalleli Cobo, a 22-year-old activist from California who has worked with Sweden’s Greta Thunberg on climate campaigns, blamed the “toxic air” she has been exposed to at her home for the ovarian cancer she contracted at 19.
“Our lives are on the line,” she said.
Sharon Lavigne, an environmental activist from Louisiana who won the Goldman Environmental Prize this year for her fight against a plastics plant in her community, urged Biden to listen to the voices of those most affected by fossil fuels.
“President Biden, our lives depend on your actions today,” she said. “If you don’t stop fossil fuels our blood is on your hands.”
Protesters join global movement to end fossil fuels
The march in New York was part of a global movement to end fossil fuels and demand climate justice. Similar protests took place in other US cities such as Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, and Denver, as well as in countries such as Germany, France, Brazil, India, and Australia.
The protesters called on world leaders to take bolder and faster action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
A UN climate report released this month warned that this goal is slipping out of reach unless drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are made by 2025.
The report also said that achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – another Paris goal – will require phasing out the burning of all fossil fuels whose emissions cannot be captured or compensated.
The protesters hoped that their message would reach the ears of the world leaders who will attend the UN summit on Wednesday, where only countries that promise new concrete action are invited to speak.