On March 31st, hundreds of youth across the Commonwealth will walk out of classes and take time from their jobs to converge on the Statehouse and call on Governor Patrick to draw a hard line against new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Read our invitation letter to Governor Patrick.
Download the letter for faculty to inform your professors that you are walking out in protest of climate inaction, not their class.
March 31, 2014
Contact: Henry Jacqz, Students for a Just and Stable Future, 646 623 5271, firstname.lastname@example.org
After Student Walkout, Gov. Patrick Agrees to Meet Activists About Ban on Construction of New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
Boston, MA– After roughly two hundred students from across Massachusetts walked out of classes today to call for strong action on climate change, Governor Deval Patrick agreed to meet with activists to discuss a ban on the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“As a young person, I have an obligation to fight for a livable future, and right now, that means drawing a hard line in the sand against new fossil fuel infrastructure and committing to clean energy solutions,” said Martin Hamilton, a student at Brandeis University. “That’s why I walked out of classes today.”
The walkout, organized by Students for a Just and Stable Future, featured speeches from Newton North High School junior Kerry Brock, Wellesley College sophomore Ashley K Funk, and climate activist Tim DeChristopher.
The walkout came after months of campaigning by the grassroots organization Better Future Project and its volunteer-led climate action network 350 Massachusetts. Since summer 2013, activists have been calling on Governor Deval Patrick to “build only the best” by banning the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure and meeting all new energy demand through renewables and energy efficiency, using his authority under the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act.
After rallying outside the Statehouse, the group of students waited outside as a smaller delegation of students entered the State House to request a meeting. They returned shortly with news that they had succeeded in securing an agreement to discuss the proposed ban with the Governor himself.
“Governor Patrick’s response to our walkout today only reaffirmed my conviction that he is the sort of moral leader we need to confront the climate crisis,” said Alli Welton, an undergraduate at Harvard College. “He has already been an outstanding champion of clean energy and climate action, and this ban would be the logical next step for his climate legacy.”
Students who walked out of classes said that they were excited for the opportunity to meet with the Governor, and had high expectations for the meeting.
“It’s a matter of common sense. Our generation understands that now is the time to stop pouring resources into new fossil fuel infrastructure that would lock us into decades of dangerous emissions and instead to start investing in a real transition to viable energy alternatives. Governor Patrick’s demonstrated foresight and leadership on climate, make me believe he can take these bold actions and be our generation’s climate hero,” said Henry Jacqz, a student at Tufts University.
Dear Governor Patrick,
We write to you today as students and youth of Massachusetts concerned about our futures. On Monday March 31st, we will be walking out of class to call for a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure in the Commonwealth. We request that you meet us that day at a public rally on the Boston Common at 11:00am to answer our call. The energy infrastructure built today will affect our entire lives, and we insist that these decisions not be made without our involvement.
We are driven to this action by the desperation we feel as we see the impacts of political inaction on the climate crisis. Climate change is already turning western states into dustbowls while strengthening the devastating power of storms. Drinking water supplies are shrinking while sea levels are rising. Continued inaction robs more and more of our generation of the chance to survive.
There is still time to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis, but this window of opportunity is rapidly shrinking. The International Energy Agency has determined that we only have until 2017 to stop building new coal, oil, and gas infrastructure before we are “locked in” by the lifetime emissions of these projects to extremely dangerous levels of warming.
We must draw the line against new fossil fuels. Your climate initiatives, while stronger than those of most politicians, are not enough. Building more power plants, pipelines, and export terminals in Massachusetts will result in either billions of dollars of stranded assets or the creation of a society destabilized by unpredictable weather, food and water shortages, and extreme climate disasters. In either case, our generation will pay a heavy price.
There is an alternative. We can choose to meet all new energy demand through a combination of renewables, energy efficiency, and conservation. Reinvesting in sustainable solutions, from public transit to distributed solar power, will create thousands of local jobs, produce healthier communities, and, in turn, more equitably distribute resources in our society. This is the future, full of hope and possibility, that we would like to build– and we are determined to do whatever we can to achieve this vision.
Your legacy is our future, Governor Patrick, because the energy choices that you make determine the future that our generation will inherit. You should not make these decisions without us. Your actions today will be remembered tomorrow. For the sake of our generation and those to follow, we call on you to immediately ban new fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts.
We will walk out of class on March 31st because we are determined to fight for our futures. Will you acknowledge your generational responsibility and meet us in public on that day?
Students for a Just and Stable Future
Did you just say ban all fossil fuels?!?!
That’s not what we said. We said ban building *new* fossil fuel infrastructure, like plants, pipelines, and export terminals.
Ok, but why ban building *new* fossil fuels? Is that even possible?
Choosing this path will lead to a measured, responsible transition where we replace fossil fuels with renewables as they come offline. We can meet our *new* energy demand through clean energy, energy efficiency, and conservation. The solutions are ready and waiting to be built.
We don’t want to put this transition off for several decades by building a new generation of natural gas infrastructure. If we do, we will either be burdened with millions of dollars in stranded assets and have to make a sudden painful transition, or we will fail to make a sufficient transition and be left in a world of climate disaster. In either scenario, our generation will pay the price.
Investing today in clean energy, energy efficiency, and conservation is cheaper in the long-term than paying for the health costs of fossil fuels, climate disaster, and the eventual problem of stranded assets.
A ban on building new fossil fuel infrastructure will redirect investment towards clean energy, energy efficiency, and conservation. This foresighted step also makes sense for our economy in the long-run because banning new fossil fuel infrastructure will spur innovative clean energy solutions, and leave Massachusetts with a strong competitive advantage as the era of clean energy arrives.
Isn’t Governor Patrick a climate leader already?
Absolutely! Governor Patrick is one of the strongest champions of climate action and clean energy among our nation’s politicians. During his first term in office, he helped pass landmark legislation– including the Global Warming Solutions Act, Green Jobs Act, Green Communities Act and more– that have grown the clean energy economy and reduced our state’s emissions.
There are three reasons that we believe that this additional step of banning new fossil fuel infrastructure is necessary.
First, the expansion of natural gas in Massachusetts means that we may fail to meet our goals set under the Global Warming Solutions Act. To achieve our legally mandated 2050 emissions reduction targets, the state’s own reports suggest that we will need a 100% clean electricity grid by mid-century– but gas plants build today will be around for at least 40 years. There is also reason to think that methane leakage is much higher than calculated by the GWSA, which has the potential to severely undermine the effectiveness of the GWSA.
Second, climate change is ultimately about the total amount of pollution put into the atmosphere, not our emissions levels in 2050. If we don’t reduce emissions quickly in the near-term, we are likely to go over that “carbon budget” and still face terrible impacts from climate change.
Third, national energy development is going in a dangerous direction and emissions are rising when they need to be falling rapidly. We desperately need strong moral leadership to steer our country towards energy sources that secure a better future for our people instead of eroding our existing social progress.
With Governor Patrick’s guidance, Massachusetts has already been a leader on clean energy– but the impact of our leadership has not spread fast enough. A ban on new fossil fuel accelerate the impact of the leadership that Massachusetts has already shown. It has potential to be a more viral public policy than wonkish instruments like cap-and-trade that lend themselves to being misconstrued and defeated by the fossil fuel lobby. Committing to build clean energy alone from this point forward is a common-sense idea that the public can easily understand and support. With its forward-thinking framework, this policy shifts the conversation to climate solutions, clean energy, and green jobs.
As a rising star in the Democratic Party with a track record of improbable success, Governor Patrick is uniquely placed to steer this country in a better direction. This is his moment to define himself as the greatest climate visionary among Democrats, a champion of our generation, and a defender of the future of hope in this country.
How can the Governor ban new fossil fuel infrastructure without approval from the legislature?
The Global Warming Solutions Act provides two options. First, he is required by law to come out with 2030 emissions reductions targets and a plan for achieving them. He could set targets for renewables and energy efficiency in that plan that would obligate the Energy Facilities Siting Board to decline permits for major new fossil fuel infrastructure. Second, he could instruct the DEP to issue a performance standard for powerplants in 2050 with a per-unit level of carbon dioxide emissions that is below natural gas.
The Governor’s other option is to use a statute from Chapter 111 of Title XVI (“sixteen”) of our general laws to declare a moratorium on the construction of new fossil fuel plants and pipelines, as done previously to block construction of waste incineration facilities.
For more information, see Section V Part 2 of the Climate Legacy Campaign’s white paper.