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Climate activists launch hunger strike outside White House

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Activists said they felt compelled to protest for action against climate change. (Photo by Al Jazeera)

Tired of US President Joe Biden’s broken promises, a number of climate activists have launched a hunger strike outside the White House, in an effort to force Biden to declare a national emergency, and end projects involving fossil fuels.

The hunger strike was launched after Biden announced to water down his $3.5 trillion social and environmental legislation and with Washington’s commitments about to face scrutiny at the 26th UN Climate Conference, also known as COP26, which is slated to begin in Glasgow on October 31.

The protesters said they will eat no food and drink only water. They said they would gather in Lafayette Park every day from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm until their demands are met.

Sitting in the sun across the street from the White House, 18-year-old

Ema Govea, 18, held a black and yellow sign saying she is on a hunger strike to demand action to contain climate change, Al Jazeera’s website reported.  

Govea, a high school student, said she should be at school in her hometown of Santa Rosa, California, but the urgency of the moment has compelled her to join the protest.

“We are putting everything that we have on the line; we’re risking everything to fight for this world that is absolutely worth fighting for,” Govea told Al Jazeera on Friday.

Other protesters held signs including “Hunger striking for my dreams” and “Hunger striking for my future children”. They then sat down in red folding chairs with the words “Hunger strike day one” written in giant letters on the pavement before them.

“I’m nervous in that I know that I will go on hunger strike until the demands are met, until I’m absolutely physically unable to,” said Govea. “That’s scary and I know my parents are worried and my friends back home are worried.”

The protesters want Biden to push for the full $3.5 trillion legislation in his proposed social spending agenda that includes measures to cut carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Biden has pledged to transition the US economy towards clean energy and reduce emissions from coal, natural gas and oil. Biden brought the US back into the Paris climate accord in January after former US President Donald Trump pulled the country out.

Biden has asked Congress to approve a $36 billion budget for fighting global warming in 2022. 

The lion share of the budget will be allocated to clean energy initiatives, innovations and research, while a lesser share will go to the building infrastructures for storage and transmission of clean energy, as well as retrofitting homes and federal buildings.

Independent US Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Earl Blumenauer in February introduced legislation that required Biden to declare a national emergency on climate change.

Trump had labeled climate change a hoax, defying widening international support for the Paris agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He argued that the concept of global warming had been “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

In June 2017, Trump announced that he was pulling out of the 2015 global agreement to fight climate change, characterizing the decision as "a reassertion of American sovereignty."

The move drew a rebuke from Democrats at home and world leaders who had pressed Trump not to abandon the 197-nation accord. He argued that remaining in the deal would hurt the US economy.



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