The youth-led Sunrise Movement on Thursday deemed President Joe Biden’s first year in office a failure on the existential threat of climate change, which the administration has vowed to tackle while simultaneously greenlighting fossil fuel projects that will worsen the crisis.
In a statement marking the one-year anniversary of the president’s inauguration, Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash said that “Biden is failing us — he’s failing young people and the millions of people that took a chance on him in 2020 because he refuses to meet the moment we’re in right now — from the climate crisis to the student debt crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“While Biden started off his first year strong by ushering through the passage of the American Rescue Plan and undoing most of Trump’s anti-climate executive orders like putting the U.S. back in the Paris Climate Agreement, Biden has stopped leading and is instead feeding us empty promises without delivering on a bold climate agenda,” Prakash continued. “Stump speeches alone will not save us.”
Since Biden took office last January, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has approved oil and gas drilling permits at a faster rate than the Trump administration, which was packed with fossil fuel industry allies and enthusiasts.
“Biden can’t be the climate leader he claims to be when he is actively conducting major lease sales and lobbying oil states to produce more fossil fuels,” said Prakash, referring to the president’s November call for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost oil production — a demand that came at the start of the COP26 climate talks.
Meanwhile, the president’s flagship Build Back Better package — a reconciliation measure that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in renewable energy investments — remains stalled in the Senate largely due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a coal profiteer and major ally of Big Oil.
During a press conference on the eve of his first year as president, Biden acknowledged that the climate proposals are stuck in the upper chamber but blamed Senate Republicans for obstructing them.
“What have they done to do anything to ameliorate the climate change that’s occurring, other than to deny it exists?” Biden said of the GOP.
But in her statement Friday, Prakash argued that it’s up to Biden to bring Manchin and other members of the majority party into line on climate action and other elements of the Build Back Better Act, whose failure could herald a midterm disaster for Democrats.
“He can’t be the Climate President when he refuses to play hardball with Joe Manchin and corporate politicians who have prevented the passage of a historic climate bill that will save lives across the country,” said Prakash. “And he can’t be a strong climate advocate when he creates emissions goals but has yet to demonstrate how he plans to achieve them.”
Going forward, Prakash urged Biden to make full use of his executive authority to achieve key climate objectives such as “banning fossil fuel extraction on public lands” — echoing a demand that more than 360 environmental groups issued Wednesday.
“Put simply, he needs to act with the urgency and courage that the climate crisis demands,” said Prakash. “Doing anything less risks young people’s support, and Democrats’ already slim majorities in the House and Senate.”