Washington, DC—The Climate Reality Project will deliver over 42,000 citizen comments to the US Department of the Interior on July 28, urging it to end coal mining permanently on public lands. The effort comes as part of Climate Reality’s ongoing work to ensure the US fulfills its commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement.
Along with securing thousands of comments attesting to Americans’ overwhelming support for climate action, Climate Reality organized Climate Reality Leader activists to testify at public hearings and participate in a day of action with events across the country calling for an end to coal mining on federal lands. The event came just days ahead of the agency’s July 28 public comment period deadline.
These efforts build on the extraordinary momentum created last year, when 195 countries promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change under the Paris Agreement. The historic agreement unites countries in working together to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” (and make best efforts to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees).
“Putting an end to coal mining on public lands is a crucial step in the United States’ effort to lead by example when it comes to implementing and raising the ambition of the Paris Agreement,” said former US Vice President and Climate Reality Project Chairman Al Gore. “Climate Reality supporters spoke with one voice last December, urging global leaders to reach a bold, ambitious agreement in Paris. I’m proud that they are making their voices heard once again and demanding that the United States follows through on its commitment to the Paris Agreement by leaving dirty coal in the ground.”
Nearly 40 percent of US coal is extracted from federal lands. Since the beginning of President Obama’s administration, the Department of the Interior has leased enough coal-rich public lands to create 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon pollution – more than the 2011 emissions of India and Russia combined.
With some regional management plans foreseeing future leases for enough coal to release nearly 17 billion more metric tons of CO2 over the next 15—20 years, it’s clear that the US will struggle to fulfill its international commitment without reforming or ending the leasing of federal lands for coal mining. By embracing increasingly ambitious initiatives to cut emissions – such as ending coal mining on public lands – the US can not only make good on its pledges in Paris but lead the international community in the global fight against climate change.
“The strongest voices in the fight to reduce the dangerous carbon emissions perpetuated by the coal industry are our own. As citizens of the United States, we have the responsibility to send a message to the world that we will protect the public lands we love and ensure a bright future for our children,” said Jill MacIntyre Witt, a Climate Reality Leader who organized a group of other Climate Reality Leaders to testify at a Department of the Interior hearing on coal leasing. This year, Jill also organized her hometown of Bellingham, Washington to protest and ultimately prevent the construction of a coal export terminal, which was to be the largest of its kind in North America.