Jun 4, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Scoop: Group that aided climate plan is lukewarm on Biden

Illustration of a VOTE pin with the red and blue semicircles filled with an Earth image.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Sunrise Movement, a national organization of young progressives that helped President Biden shape his 2020 climate agenda, is withholding its endorsement of him in 2024, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Young voters were central to Biden's winning coalition in 2020.

Driving the news: In a national call with volunteer leaders in April, Sunrise officials debated the merits of a Biden endorsement—and the consequences of not endorsing him.

  • For now, the group is taking a wait-and-see approach. But officials are clearly sounding the alarm that Sunrise activists might not support Biden, even after he passed historic climate legislation that they helped craft.
  • "Biden is shooting himself in the foot: his actions on fossil fuels and Gaza mean he's not going to get the celebration he's looking for" from environmentally conscious voters, Stevie O'Hanlon, communications director for Sunrise, told Axios.
  • "Sunrise is still finalizing plans for the 2024 general election," she said. "Like in 2020, we are not planning to endorse Joe Biden."

Zoom out: In 2020, the group's then-executive director Varshini Prakash, was invited by Biden to sit on his Unity Climate Task Force to help draft Biden's environmental agenda.

  • The group helped mobilize its volunteers to contact other young voters to vote against Trump.
  • The group had high praise for Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, and took credit for the creation of the climate corps.
  • "Young people everywhere should feel empowered by this victory and continue demanding the change we need," said Prakash, in a statement posted by the White House.

Zoom in: But the group has been critical of some of Biden's other energy moves, including his decision to approve ConocoPhillips' Willow oil project on Alaska's North Slope.

  • Sunrise officials also believe that many of their volunteers are disappointed with Biden's position on Gaza, including the U.S. weapons shipments to Israel.
  • "Our voter contact work is volunteer driven," O'Hanlon said. "That means that if our generation's frustration with Joe Biden remains at its current levels through the summer, our impact will be severely limited."

Between the lines: Biden's approach to Israel and its war against Hamas appears to be a bigger impediment to fully backing Biden than his climate positions.

What they're saying: "Joe Biden delivered the largest-ever investment to combat climate change, while Donald Trump continues to call climate change a "hoax" and promises oil and gas executives they'll get whatever they want ... if they donate to his campaign," Biden campaign spokesperson Seth Schuster said.

  • Biden "has earned the support of the nation's major climate groups and 15 leading youth mobilization organizations."
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