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OPINION: Fridays for Future: Biden and Harris, keep your promises on climate change action

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 10:39 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The time for lies is over. Fulfil your duties," say young climate activists from around the world.

Dear President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris,

We - 12 youth climate activists around the world - are writing this because our present and future depend on the actions your government takes within the next four years.

We have suffered from the most horrible climate impacts last year.  In Colombia one of us had to sit under the storm huddled with her family inside their own house as the roof of their house collapsed because of the extreme rains and uncontrollable hail that affected Bogotá. More have experienced worse.

This is why we fight back harder every time. This is why we demand action.

You made promises to take action against fossil fuel polluters who put profit over people, and knowingly harm our environment and poison our communities. It is time to let actions speak louder than words. Are you going to do what science is asking you to do to fight the climate crisis? 

The United States is the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases. The next four years will decide whether we can limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. Your place in history makes you the last administration able to act in time.

To live up to the targets you’ve promised,  you need to start taking concrete, immediate, and decisive action immediately. Being better than Trump isn’t enough. But also simply continuing where the Obama administration ended is far from sufficient.

President Biden and Vice President Harris, our carbon budget to avoid the worst effects of global heating is running out in approximately seven years. You promised to join the Paris Agreement on day one of your presidency. This means keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5°C.

Net-zero targets for 2050 are too late. Be braver and ramp up the support for climate measures even more in the current stimulus packages. Only gradually transitioning towards renewable energy won’t be enough to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement.

The US must reduce dependence on hydraulic fracturing. Many of these projects take place on indigenous lands and threaten to harm indigenous people, the water supply, the area’s wildlife, and the ice sheets of Alaska.

We need you to honor and preserve the treaties and sacred lands of Native Americans. The world cannot afford for the United States to begin any more of these dangerous drilling and fracking projects.

Current levels of warming of 1.2°C are already hell for millions of people. In Argentina, more than 1 million hectares were burned in 2020, the equivalent of 55 times the city of Buenos Aires.

In the Philippines, one of us couldn’t go home and had to sit in the dark without electricity in someone else’s house, as the wind and floods were raging outside, not knowing if her home and family were consumed by 40-foot-high floods.

The crisis we're in is caused by the exploitation and environmental plunder of the Global North, specifically of the United States, in the Global South.

Now, we see so-called critically acclaimed plans to solve the crisis, like the Green New Deal, which is still built on the exploitation of the Global South. Corporations are still not being held accountable beyond domestic climate goals and carbon emissions.

This only causes the most impacted regions to shoulder the cost of development while perpetuating the historical patterns of resource extraction for wealth creation.

Women, children, indigenous peoples, people of color, peasant communities, those most historically marginalized, are the most impacted by the direct impacts of the climate crisis. The crisis is racist, sexist, and elitist.

Therefore, we demand climate justice which includes racial justice, gender equality, and equity. If you want to prove that you are a champion of the climate as you have said, then your administration needs to be unlike any of the previous administrations that have done nothing but spew out empty promises. 

The state of civilization as we know it is at stake. It is nothing short of climate calamities destroying our countries, taking our families away from us, and leaving us without a home. People are burning, drowning, and dying. Enough.

All we really want is a sustainable present and future and you have the power to ensure it. Will you challenge the systems that started the climate crisis? Will you ensure that just recovery and transition is led by marginalised groups to ensure fair implementation? Will you keep your promises?

Or will you celebrate your vague 2050 targets which we won’t even reach according to the science? We would like to know. Our eyes are on you. The time for lies is over. Fulfil your duties. We expect a reply. #NoMoreEmptyPromises

Nicki Becker, Jovenes por el Clima Argentina; Disha A Ravi, Fridays For Future India; Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines; Leonie Bremer, Fridays for Future Germany; Sofía Gutiérrez, Fridays For Future Colombia; Dominique Palmer, England; Ayisha Siddiqa, Polluters Out, USA, Fatemah Sultan, Fridays For Future Pakistan; Hilda Nakabuye, Fridays for Future Uganda; Hyally Carvalho, Engajamundo, Brazil; Handel Mux Roquel, Cambium, Guatemala; Laura Verónica Muñoz, Fridays For Future Colombia