Build Back Fossil Free: COP26 Means Little without Action on Fossil Fuels from Biden

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

November 13, 2021 

Contact: Alana Murphy, alana@stgresults.com, 973-953-9697

Coalition Activists in Glasgow Exert Two Weeks of Pressure on Administration to Halt Pending Fossil Fuel Approvals or Risk Wiping out Climate Progress 

GLASGOW — As the COP26 conference concludes this weekend, the Build Back Fossil Free coalition is sounding the alarm that the proclamations and pledges from world leaders and the Biden Administration will be dramatically undermined without urgent action to phase out fossil fuels. Throughout the two week conference, Indigenous leaders, environmental justice advocates, and climate activists from the coalition pressed Biden Administration officials to lead on climate by stopping fossil fuel leasing on federal public lands and waters, rejecting permits for fossil fuel projects under federal review, curbing fossil fuel exports, and declaring a climate emergency to rapidly and equitably deploy renewable energy solutions.

“In Glasgow we got to meet Biden cabinet members face-to-face and demand they choose sides: Communities like mine in Port Arthur, or a fistful of fossil fuel CEOs. We made it plain that President Biden can use the power of his pen to stop the toxic buildout in the Gulf and across the country. If we’re in code red, as Biden says we are, he’s got to act now to stop the crisis,” said John Beard, CEO of Port Arthur Community Action Network.

After the Build Back Fossil Free coalition held the “People vs Fossil Fuels” mass civil disobedience actions at the White House in early October, advocates took their case directly to Glasgow. Actions included:

“Returning from COP 26 where there were more fossil fuel lobbyists allowed into the conference than Indigenous leaders from around the world, it is very clear that the elites of the world are not taking climate change seriously. We are pushing ourselves to the brink of extinction by continuing the status quo. We are not going to sit idly by while our people die from climate chaos and the pollution of our waterways that comes with it. Expect us to keep showing up and fighting until our voices are heard,” said Joseph White Eyes, Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective, Indigenous Environmental Network COP 26 Delegate. 

The Biden Administration currently has no legislative achievements on climate and announcements at COP26 leave the world far short of the action needed. Meanwhile, new analysis from Oil Change International shows that if the Biden Administration moves ahead with 21 major fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are currently under federal review, it would be the emissions equivalent of adding 316 new coal-fired power plants — more than are currently operating in the United States. The total emissions from just these projects would represent 17% of total US greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. 

The International Energy Agency — the world’s leading energy organization — issued a report in May of 2021 indicating that the only way to effectively tackle the climate crisis is to immediately halt all new investments in fossil fuels and rapidly phase out existing production. Findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that drastic actions are needed to move away from fossil fuels, while U.N. Secretary General António Guterres declared that the IPCC report should “sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.” 

The final decision is the first time that the U.S. and other countries acknowledged fossil fuels in the global climate treaty framework. However, this language was weakened to accelerate the phase out only of “unabated coal” and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, opening the door to false solutions like carbon capture that permit continued fossil fuel pollution.

Leaders from some countries demonstrably listened to the science and took steps to phase out fossil fuels entirely at COP26. Costa Rica and Denmark launched the world’s first diplomatic initiative focused on keeping fossil fuels in the ground: the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. Core members of this alliance “commit to end new concessions, licensing or leasing rounds for oil and gas production and exploration and to set a Paris-aligned date for ending oil and gas production and exploration on the territory over which they have jurisdiction.” Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Greenland, Ireland, Québec, Sweden and Wales joined the alliance as full members, but the United States did not.

“In Glasgow President Biden showed he’s content with the status quo of relentless fossil fuel pollution punishing people and the planet,” said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice Program. “Real climate leadership came from countries like Denmark and Costa Rica who led the historic Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, committing to ending the fossil fuel era. There’s still time for Biden to unlock his climate superpowers by stopping fossil fuel project approvals and declaring a climate emergency. He can start by cancelling the giant lease sale scheduled for the Gulf next week, and making that a transformative moment for putting people over polluters.”

Build Back Fossil Free has laid out a long list of steps that President Biden could take today with his existing executive authorities to curb ongoing fossil fuel production and emissions. They include:

  • Stopping all fossil fuel infrastructure project approvals
  • Following through on his promise to ban federal fossil fuel leasing and drilling
  • Stopping fossil fuel exports
  • Declaring a Climate Emergency under the National Emergencies Act to unlock statutory powers to reinstate the crude oil export ban, redirect a portion of military spending to carry out a rapid construction program of renewable energy projects, and invoke the Defense Production Act to provide critical loan guarantees and ensure a comprehensive buildout of just, renewable energy development that creates millions of good union jobs.

Over the coming weeks, Build Back Fossil Free will ramp up pressure on the Biden Administration to act in accordance with science and its own commitments to Indigenous rights, climate action, and environmental justice.

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