Updated Sep 18, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Thousands march to demand end to fossil fuels ahead of UN climate summit

Thousands of activists, Indigenous groups, students and others take to the streets of New York for the "March to End Fossil Fuels" protest on Sept. 17, 2023 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people marched in New York City and across the U.S. Sunday to demand President Biden and other world leaders to end fossil fuels ahead of this week's UN Climate Ambition Summit.

The big picture: Several of the speakers at the New York event that kicked off Climate Week NYC took aim at the Biden administration for approving new oil and gas drilling permits.

  • "Biden, you should be scared of us," said Emma Buretta, a 17-year-old Brooklyn organizer for youth protest group Fridays for Future. "If you want our vote, if you don't want the blood of our generations to be on your hands, end fossil fuels."

What they're saying: A White House spokesperson defended the administration's record on addressing climate change in an emailed statement Sunday evening, pointing to measures including his reversal earlier this month of Trump-era decisions on oil drilling in Alaska.

  • "President Biden has treated climate change as an emergency — the existential threat of our time — since day one," the spokesperson said.
  • "That's why he signed into law the most ambitious climate bill in history, conserved more land and water in his first year than any President since JFK, rejoined the Paris Agreement, attracted $240 billion in private sector investment in clean energy manufacturing, and used his emergency authorities to invoke the Defense Production Act to supercharge domestic clean energy manufacturing.
  • "Just last week, the President secured commitments from the G20 to take additional steps to meet the goals set in the Paris Agreement," added the spokesperson, who criticized Republicans for "trying to repeal his historic bill and unwind regulations that reduce emissions and curb pollution."

What we're watching: The spokesperson said the administration would announce next week "additional actions to combat the climate crisis, create good-paying jobs, and advance environmental justice."

In photos: Climate protests in U.S., across the world

 Governor Gavin Newsom's mock-up is seen as hundreds of climate change activists are gathered at Old Sacramento Waterfront near the Tower Bridge, to protest global climate change and fossil fuels, in Sacramento, California, United States on September 17, 2023.
An image of California Gov. Gavin Newsom above a sign at a rally in Sacramento that acknowledges his state's lawsuit against Big Oil companies including Exxon, Shell and BP for allegedly downplaying the risk of fossil fuels, but taking aim at his administration for issuing oil and gas drilling permits. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
 People rally to end fossil fuels ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 17, 2023.
People rally on Sept. 17 to end fossil fuels ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit in New York. Photo: Leonardo Munoz/AFP via Getty Images
People take part in a solidarity march for climate emergency and the end of fossil fuels, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 17, 2023. A UN climate report released this month named 2025 as the deadline for global greenhouse gas emissions to peak -- followed by a sharp drop thereafter -- if humanity is to cap global warming in line with Paris Agreement targets.
People take part in a solidarity march for climate emergency and the end of fossil fuels, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sept. 17. Photo: Marco Bello/AFP via Getty Images
Thousands of activists, indigenous groups, students and others take to the streets of New York for the 'March to End Fossil Fuels' protest on September 17, 2023 in New York City. The rally and protest comes days before the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit brings world leaders to New York for the UN General Assembly.
Protesters at the New York City March to End Fossil Fuels protest on Sept. 17. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
People take part in a solidarity march for climate emergency and the end of fossil fuels, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 17, 2023. A UN climate report released this month named 2025 as the deadline for global greenhouse gas emissions to peak -- followed by a sharp drop thereafter -- if humanity is to cap global warming in line with Paris Agreement targets.
People take part in a solidarity march for climate emergency and the end of fossil fuels, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sept. 17. Photo: Marco Bello/AFP via Getty Images
Activists hold a large banner with a message for President Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom on the Tower Bridge as hundreds of climate change activists are gathered at Old Sacramento Waterfront, to protest in Sacramento, California, on Sept. 17.
Activists hold a large banner with a message for President Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom on the Tower Bridge as hundreds of climate change activists are gathered at Old Sacramento Waterfront, to protest in Sacramento, California, on Sept. 17. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Democratic Representative from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at the end of the rally to end fossil fuels ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly and Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 17, 2023.
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at the end of the Sept. 17 NYC rally. "The United States continues to be approving a record number of fossil fuel leases and we must send a message, right here today," she said, adding that the fossil fuel industry was "starting to buckle and crack" despite record profits. Photo: Leonardo Munoz/AFP via Getty Images
Activists kayak on the river with flags that say ''End Fossil Fuels'' as hundreds of climate change activists are gathered at Old Sacramento Waterfront near the Tower Bridge, to protest global climate change and fossil fuels, in Sacramento, California, United States on September 17.
The Sacramento protest also took place on water on Sept. 17. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A person holds a sign listing natural disasters as people take part in a solidarity march for climate emergency and the end of fossil fuels, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 17, 2023. A UN climate report released this month named 2025 as the deadline for global greenhouse gas emissions to peak -- followed by a sharp drop thereafter -- if humanity is to cap global warming in line with Paris Agreement targets.
A person holds a sign listing natural disasters as people take part in a solidarity march for climate emergency and the end of fossil fuels, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sept. 17. Photo: Marco Bello/AFP via Getty Images
Protesters hold placards as they march down a street during the Global Climate Strike in Jakarta on September 17, 2023.
Protesters during the Global Climate Strike in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 17. Photo: Yasuyoshi ChibaH/AFP via Getty Images
 Civil society and climate action groups demonstrate on Sandymount Strand in Dublin, as they call on the Government to take urgent action to phase out climate-wrecking fossil fuels. Their demonstration is part of a global wave of demonstrations and marches that are taking place across the world, calling for a fast and fair phase out of fossil fuels. Picture date: Sunday September 17, 2023.
A climate protest in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, Sept. 17. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images
The columns of Berlin's landmark the Brandenburg Gate are covered in orange paint on September 17, 2023 in Berlin. Activists of the "Last Generation" climate activist group said they had sprayed orange warning paint on the six columns of the Brandenburg Gate and also poured paint in front of the landmark to call for political action against climate change and for the phasing out of fossil energies until 2030 in a social fair manner.
The columns of the landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, are covered in orange paint on Sept. 17, an act claimed by the "Last Generation" climate activist group. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images
 Dozens of activists protest in a demonstration for decarbonization in the Plaza Mayor, on 15 September, 2023 in Madrid, Spain. Under the slogan 'Decarbonization Now! Fast, fair and definitive', climate organizations have called, from today until Sunday, September 17, demonstrations in different cities around the world to demand a "fast, fair and equitable" end to fossil fuels. This wave of mobilizations includes a march in New York on September 17, while world leaders attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
Activists protest in a demonstration for decarbonization in Madrid, Spain, on Sept. 15 ahead of the UN climate conference. Photo:Ricardo Rubio/Europa Press via Getty Images

Go deeper: Global climate ambition gets fresh boost, as world lags on Paris Agreement goals

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and more photos.

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