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Youth To Obama: "Have Some Faith In Us"

Mr. President,

We, young people from across the United States of America, write to you from the United Nations climate talks in Doha, Qatar, as representatives of a growing national movement. Our best scientists tell us that a livable future on earth will be secured, or lost, within this decade. We are already experiencing the devastating impacts of a warming planet.  We have come of age with the understanding that unless we transform our energy sector quickly, we will face a world in which increasingly extreme and dangerous weather is the new normal.  In spite of this challenge we have faith in our own ability to innovate, collaborate, and organize, our path forward.  We are capable of more than you can imagine, but we need you to meet us halfway.

A little over a month ago we came out in force for you as voters and volunteers because we believe that you want to fight for our future.  We hoped, after a year of climate change charged disasters, that you would send negotiators to this summit with a clear message that international climate diplomacy is a priority for your second term.  We have not seen this.

This year’s conference builds toward a proposed 2015 treaty, which wouldn’t need to be ratified until 2016. We need serious domestic action in the next two years in order to establish credibility so we can lead the way to a meaningful long-term deal.

President Obama, we thank you for your commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020.  We appreciate your use of executive action to meet this target.  However, this is not enough.  We need you to stand with young people, think about your climate legacy, and be part of the solution.  Call on Congress to put a price on carbon that reflects our national priority of sustainable prosperity for all.  This is the only way we can achieve ambitious action, supporting a just, fair, and legally binding climate agreement.

Young people are already taking ambitious action. From Alaska to Georgia, students are mobilizing their communities to shut down dirty energy, to move beyond coal, oil, and natural gas.  In just two years, we successfully won commitments to close over a third of on-campus coal-fired power plants. Over a hundred universities have pledged to move towards a zero-emissions future. A hundred more are currently working to divest from fossil fuels. At the same time, youth are fighting for good green jobs, achieved through a just transition to cleaner energy.  Many are creating their own jobs starting green tech companies and social enterprises at an unprecedented rate.  Others are finding ways to engage through public service. Together these constitute a diverse youth climate movement that will only continue to grow.

In Doha we had the opportunity to build on the framework established last year in Durban.  Now, two weeks later, without bold leadership from the US, we are exactly where we started, with vague plans to continue talks at next year’s summit.  Our negotiators put the blame on an unwilling Congress.  Frankly, this is a cynical and defeatist argument.  It assumes that American climate politics in 2016 will look the same as they do today.  It shows a lack of faith in our generation to rise to the occasion and build support from the bottom up for the policies we desperately need.  We know that fossil fuel money pulls hard in the direction of inaction, but we intend to pull harder.

One way or another, history will judge your administration by your response to climate crisis.  For our part, we have no choice but to fight for our future.  We are asking you to join us.


The Sierra Student Coalition

SustainUS: US Youth For Sustainable Development


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