“My generation is going to be around for a long time, and we want to have a healthy planet to live on,” said Adam Sazama, a 16 year-old junior at Boston Latin School.
The youth day of action is part of a campaign, dubbed #StandUpCharlie, requesting that Governor Baker sign an executive order directing state agencies to avoid permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure. Mass Power Forward, a broad coalition of organizations supporting urgent climate action and a transition to 100% clean energy, is spearheading the campaign. Volunteer activists have stood in at the governor’s office regularly since September. Thus far the governor has refused to meet with campaign representatives.
When the youth assembled inside the State House on Tuesday, Governor Baker again declined a request for meeting with them and hearing them out. As the young people gathered at the top of a marble staircase leading to the governor’s office, Governor Baker emerged and walked down the staircase past the expectant group of students. Instead the more than 70 youth – from four year-olds to college age – and some adult supporters met with the governor’s Constituent Services Director John Tapley. When pressed on the question of whether the governor would sign the executive order against new fossil fuel infrastructure, Tapley said he is not sure and would relay the group’s message to the governor.
In September 2016 Governor Baker signed Executive Order No. 569: Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth, which addresses continued greenhouse gas emissions reductions as well as climate adaptation and resilience planning. The governor has also joined the bipartisan coalition of states committing to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement following President Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the pact. Massachusetts climate activists acknowledge this leadership, and insist that following through entails abandoning further fossil fuel projects and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“Governor Baker has told us that he wants to not just meet but exceed emission reduction targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. How is he still allowing gas pipes and power plants that run on fossil fuels to be built? We have to hold him accountable to his words,” Kevin Kiamai, a junior in the Boston public school district, said during a brief prepared speech at the youth demonstration.
Elementary school student April Soltysiak touched on similar concerns. “I want Governor Baker to stop gas pipelines from being built because that causes climate change,” she said. “We want clean, renewable energy so that kids like me can have a bright, healthy future.”
The Boston hub of the Sunrise Movement – an “army of young people” working on climate action across the country – helped organize the Youth Day of Action at the State House. According to Sunrise Boston’s Brian Stilwell, youth have the most at stake when it comes to confronting the climate crisis. “Young people did not create the problem of climate change but we will inherit the impacts,” he said. “So it is imperative that Governor Baker take immediate action to halt fossil fuel infrastructure in our state.”