Even before President Barack Obama took the stage for his victory speech Tuesday night, environmentalists were laying out their expectations for his second term: act on climate change, whether it’s through sweeping legislative action, regulatory rules or decisions like blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.
Just minutes after the race was called Tuesday, the group 350.org announced a Keystone XL protest on Nov. 18. Young climate activists who joined the celebration outside the White House held up a sign saying “Sandy Demands Climate Action Now,” a reference to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
One line in Obama’s victory speech gave the green groups hope that he might act.
“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” the president said.
But taking action to achieve those goals isn’t going to be easy. While more than a dozen legislators targeted by environmental groups for their votes on clean energy and climate change bills were defeated in the election, neither chamber switched parties. With the status quo likely to continue in Congress, environmental groups say they’ll pressure the White House to continue, or amplify, its work of the last four years.
“When I listened to his speech, I was happy to hear that he talked about the problem of climate change in the category of things the country can agree on,” said Lou Leonard, managing director of climate change for the World Wildlife Fund. “The president needs to continue to build on that narrative in the transition. We need him to join the conversation we’re having about climate change and lead that conversation in Washington.”
Eileen Claussen, president of Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said Obama “has an opportunity and an obligation to press the case for stronger climate action.”