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“W​e Will Not Give Up”: AOC, Vanessa Nakate Lead Calls at Massive NY Climate Rally to End Fossil Fuels

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We continue our coverage of the March to End Fossil Fuels, where protesters noted the United States is projected to account for more than one-third of planned global oil and gas expansion from today through 2050. It is the top oil and gas producer in the world, one of just 20 countries that will be responsible for 90% of new fossil fuel production over the next few decades. We feature speeches from Sunday’s rally by Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were among more than 75,000 attendees of what was the largest climate mobilization in the world since 2020. “We call upon countries, and in particular the United States, to end new development of fossil fuels that are destroying livelihoods and lives, because we cannot eat coal and we cannot drink oil,” said Nakate, while Ocasio-Cortez said ongoing grassroots mobilization “too big and too radical to ignore” is needed to end fossil fuels and begin a just transition to a green economy.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Sunday’s March to End Fossil Fuels culminated in a rally after some 75,000 people marched through the streets of Manhattan toward the United Nations, where world leaders are gathering this week for the United Nations General Assembly that includes a Climate Ambition Summit Wednesday. While the rally addressed world leaders, it focused on President Biden, with a banner over the stage at the rally saying, “Biden, end fossil fuels.”

Among those who spoke was New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with local and international grassroots activists. These are some of their voices. This is UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate, who was the first Fridays for Future climate activist in Uganda.

VANESSA NAKATE: Before stepping here, my friend and sister Helena Gualinga, an Ecuadorian environmental and human rights activist from the Kichwa Sarayaku community, said something to me that everyone here and beyond needs to hear. She said we should look at Ecuador, that just voted out an active oil project in the Yasuní rainforest. This is the first example of climate democracy. She added and said, “This is what phaseout of fossil fuels looks like.” They are now protecting the most diverse place on this planet, and this was led by youth and Indigenous people. This is why there is no climate justice without Indigenous people.

In 2020, I wrote a letter to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris that said, “All we really want is a livable and healthy planet, an equitable and sustainable present and future. Is that too much to ask?” This letter received a lot of support, but I was also trolled for it. Those that trolled focused on the pen that wrote it, and ignored the message. They preferred the perfection in which it could have been delivered, and ignored the bigger picture. For them, it wasn’t about the message; it was about who wrote it and how it was written. I have learned that this world hasn’t been changed and transformed by perfect people. It has been transformed by people who dreamed and envisioned a better world for all of us. It has been transformed by people who stood so that we stand, people who believed so that we believe, people who dreamed so that we dream. I was 23 when I wrote that letter. And now I’m 26. My older self fully understands why I wrote it. My younger self was worried for the future of the planet, communities and people on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

On September 10, Storm Daniel dumped more than two feet of rain on parts of Greece. But as it traveled over the Mediterranean, it was boosted by sea temperatures that were two to three degrees warmer than average for early September. That extra warmth fueled stronger winds and allowed the air to hold even more moisture. The storm turned into a medicane, a Mediterranean storm with the characteristics of a tropical cyclone. As Storm Daniel approached Libya, the storm dumped rain over the mountains above the coastal city of Derna. In one place, more than a foot of rain fell in 24 hours. Two dams that had been constructed in the hills above Derna collapsed. A torrent of water swept down the hills and through the city. Thousands of people were dragged out to sea. Huge sections of the city were completely destroyed, and bodies are still washing up on the beaches. And now aid workers fear that a second humanitarian crisis is unfolding as the citizens of Derna face the growing risk of waterborne diseases amidst medicine and food shortages.

Two days after Daniel tore through Derna, a report by Oil Change International showed that just 20 countries are responsible for nearly 90% of extraction from new oil and gas fields planned between 2030 and 2050. Five Global North countries, with the greatest economic means to rapidly phase out production, are responsible for a majority 51% of planned expansion from new oil and gas fields through 2050. That is the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom. The United States alone accounts for more than one-third of planned global oil and gas expansion through 2050. Historically, the United States is responsible for 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The entire continent of Africa, 54 individual countries, is responsible for less than 4%. This is wrong. This is not climate leadership. This is throwing a party when you know that your neighbor is mourning. The Global North has long benefited from the extraction of fossil fuels, and over and over again the Global South has suffered the consequences.

Well, I am now here to say to the fossil fuel industry, “Not anymore.” We are here to say to Big Oil CEOs, “Not anymore.” We call upon countries, and in particular the United States, to end new development of fossil fuels that are destroying livelihoods and lives, because we cannot eat coal and we cannot drink oil. Today — today I am not writing another letter to the president, as the last one must have got lost in the mail. I’m standing on the strength of service and the strength of community to ask — to ask the president of the United States to do the right thing, to be the climate leader that the United States needs to be. We also call upon leaders at COP28 to agree on a just and equitable phaseout of fossil fuels.

We will not stand by and let this destruction continue to happen. We will not stand by and let our communities to be destroyed. We will not stand by and let people’s lives get lost as climate disasters become worse, because we refuse to accept that anymore.

So, as a community, we have the power to stand together and say, “Not anymore,” because when we come together and gather like this and speak together, I hear revolution. When we chant — when we chant and say, “What do we want?” and we say, “We want climate justice,” I see a revolution. And change — change happens because of people who come on the streets. And we’ve seen that in the past. We will see it today, and we’ll see it in the years to come. Thank you so much.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: My name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I’m the congresswoman from New York’s 14th Congressional District, repping the Bronx and Queens. Do we have any outer borough out here? Got the BX in the building, Queens in the building?

I’m so honored to be here today shoulder to shoulder with you all, because we are all here for the same purpose: to protect the planet, the people, and make sure that we end fossil fuels across the globe!

Most importantly, I want to thank each and every one of you for being here and for showing up in force. It means something when people say, “Oh, we’re thinking 5,000, 10,000 people are going to be here,” and 50,000, 70,000 people show up. That means something, because we are in rooms, and I’m in rooms in Washington all the time, where people say that they have a commitment to this issue, but we need urgency on this issue right now. Right now. And the way that we create urgency on the issue of climate is when we have people all across the world in the streets — in the streets — showing up, demanding change and demanding a cessation of what is killing us. We have to send the message that some of us are going to be living on this planet 30, 40, 50 years from now, and we will not take “no” for an answer.

Climate must be a centerpiece of inside and outside organizing, an electoral and a popular force that cannot be ignored. This issue is one of the issues, the biggest issue of our time, and because of that, we must be too big and too radical to ignore.

The first piece of legislation I introduced in 2019 was the Green New Deal, which demanded a 10-year timeline. And at the time, people said it was too naive and too unrealistic. And we didn’t take “no” for an answer. We still won’t take “no” for an answer.

Since then, we have organized and hit some milestones. Here in New York, organizers won commitments for 100% renewables by 2040. We’ve made sure new buildings will be fully electric, ensured that not only will new energy be renewable, but it will be available as public, democratically controlled goods for our most vulnerable communities, because what we’re not going to do is go from oil barons to solar barons. This belongs to the people.

What we’re not going to do is have vulnerable communities in a fossil fuel economy be left behind in a new economy. We are demanding a change so that working people — working people — get better jobs and lower bills under a renewable energy economy. That is what we are here to make sure that we achieve. We’re going to make sure that this transition is union, is union jobs, organized labor, dignity at the center. And we’re going to make sure that we continue that fight.

But the powers that be are there, and it is real, and it is against us. Right now the United States continues to be approving record number of fossil fuel leases. And we must send the message right here, today, right now, that that has got to end today. We know they’re raking in record profits, but the popular support for climate is starting to buckle and crack that overall grip that the fossil fuel establishment has had in our politics. And that’s because of you. Because of you.

Don’t let the cynics win. The cynics want us to think that this isn’t worth it. The cynics want us to believe that we can’t win. The cynics want us to believe that organizing doesn’t matter, that our political system doesn’t matter, that our economy doesn’t matter. And we’re here to say that we organize out of hope. We organize out of commitment. We organize out of love! We organize out of the beauty of our future! And we will not give up! We will not let go! We will not allow cynicism to prevail. We will not allow our visions of a collaborative economy, of dignity for working people, of honoring the Black, Brown, Indigenous, white working class — we will not give up!

And that is what we are here to do today, to tell our leaders, from President Biden to the U.N. General Assembly to all of our elected officials, that we demand a change. It will happen now. It begins today. It is occurring today. And it’s because of you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Keep marching, and we’re going to accomplish this. See ya!

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