Climate activists call on Biden to take more forceful action

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Ask young activists about the Biden administration’s efforts to address the climate, and they’re quick to point out the problem isn’t close to being solved.

Despite historic climate moves put in motion by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which hit its first anniversary last week, many in the critical voting bloc of young Americans want to see the Biden-Harris administration rein in fossil fuels and declare a climate emergency.

“It’s not enough now for the Democratic Party to wipe their hands and say, ‘IRA solved it all.’ We’re still in a crisis. This is still an emergency,” Michele Weindling, electoral director at the youth-led progressive environmental advocacy group Sunrise Movement.

President Biden marked one year since “taking the most aggressive action ever on climate energy — ever” with the wide-ranging climate and infrastructure bill. Biden, to loud applause, said that the IRA will triple wind power by 2030, double solar power and change the electric grid to 81 per cent clean energy. Imagine the impact of the IRA on the climate and air that we breathe. Biden stated that the law would help him achieve his ambitious climate goals, by reducing carbon pollution by half by 2030. Weindling, who represents the Young Environmentalists, said that the IRA was a “historical step” that had delivered “an incredible amount of climate investments,” but that it wasn’t “enough for young people.” She cited the escalating concerns about the environment, such as the extreme weather of this summer. While Biden’s administration celebrates the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act and establishes a new White House Office of Environmental Justice, young activists continue to raise concerns over the administration’s plans to open up more land for oil drilling. The Biden administration approved controversially the Willow Project in Alaska, an oil-drilling operation earlier this year. It also pushed the Mountain Valley pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia. The administration also OK’d a Trump-era decision to let Alaska LNG to export liquified natural gas to countries with which the U.S. doesn’t have a free trade agreement.

“They’ve done a lot of great work on electrification and the build out of renewable energy. Artis stated that the White House had not yet formally declared a state of emergency. However, the president said earlier this month that he has “in practice” declared one.

Asked recently about the label, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden “has called it an emergency since day one” and is taking the crisis “very seriously.” She also noted that Biden declared climate “as a basis for emergency action” under the Defense Production Act to set aside funds for bolstering the electric grid and other initiatives.

Treating climate change as an emergency is “a completely different thing” than declaring one, Artis said. Artis warned against the “youth washing” of the issue, which he defined as inviting youth to participate in outreach and celebrate the IRA but ignoring their calls to oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline or stop the Willow Project. The climate has consistently been a major issue for young voters between 18 and 29 years old. They helped Biden win in 2020 and voted heavily for Democrats during the midterm elections. This demographic will be crucial for Biden and the Democrats in 2024. Ashley Aylward is a research manager for the public opinion firm HIT Strategies. She believes that climate change will continue to be a motivating issue in 2024. “Young voters don’t realize that Biden is fulfilling the promises young voters asked him to fulfill,” she said. The Biden campaign says it is working to “meet young Americans where they are,” and has emphasized its commitment to climate change and other issues that are important to them.

And the Biden-Harris reelection bid scored the first joint endorsement from four major environmental organizations early in the campaign: the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, the Sierra Club, NextGen PAC and the Natural Resources Defense Council.NextGen America President Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez said her group is gearing up to reach millions of young Americans and share what’s in the IRA, how it impacts their lives and why they need to keep voting come 2024. “The climate crisis cannot be solved by a single piece of legislation. It is clear that Biden-Harris will be the best candidate to help us move forward. And that is clearly Biden-Harris,” she said.Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.