November 4, 2021, Washington, D.C.–Today, Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to use the US government’s powerful sanctions authorities to avert the looming climate emergency and deter climate-wrecking behavior. 

Keith Slack, Director of Strategy and Campaigns for EarthRights International, issued the following statement: 

We applaud Senator Markey for his leadership today. Climate change is the most urgent challenge facing humanity–one that now affects every person on the planet. Climate science clearly shows that we have a narrow window to act to avert climate catastrophe. It’s time to treat the destruction of our climate as what it really is–a crime. Those who destroy the planet for profit, such as fossil fuel companies, need to face the consequences. 

“Worldwide, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other frontline communities face violence, repression, and human rights abuses as powerful actors exploit the planet for profit. In Peru, for example, Indigenous communities such as the Wampis Nation experience repression and human rights abuses connected to logging and oil development. Throughout the Amazon region, business, organized crime, and other corrupt actors drive deforestation and threaten the lives of environmental defenders. More than 300 people have been killed during the last decade in the context of conflicts over land in the Amazon region.  

“The Biden administration has made soaring rhetorical statements about the need to address the climate crisis and has worked hard to negotiate with other governments towards collective action. But when it comes to holding corporations accountable for climate abuses, they quietly back down. Reliance on fossil fuels is antithetical to solving the climate crisis. Yet, puzzlingly, the Biden administration has also called for increased oil and gas production and has not yet canceled the Line 3 pipeline, despite vocal opposition to the project by Indigenous communities. 

“We use sanctions to address other serious global problems, like drug trafficking, organized crime, corruption, and human rights abuses. We need to add climate-wrecking behavior to that list. EarthRights calls on the United States government to use sanctions and all other tools at its disposal to crack down on climate-destroying activities. A great place to start is with the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel companies bear tremendous responsibility for the climate crisis and need to be held accountable for the harms they impose on people and the planet. 

“Frontline communities living in the shadows of fossil fuel development face the wrath of corporate power, inept governments, and an escalating climate crisis. To protect these communities and their rights, the US government needs to sanction those who threaten and harm them.  

“We must also remember that strong climate action begins at home. The US government needs to combine sanctions and other foreign policy tools with strong domestic accountability measures to ensure that US-based corporations end their efforts to block the shift to a carbon-neutral economy.”

Learn more about the threats facing Indigenous and frontline communities and EarthRights’ work to support them through our Frontlines of Climate Justice campaign.

Kate Fried, Communications Director, EarthRights International
(202) 257.0057