Ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit on September 17, 2023, over 75,000 concerned citizens marched in Manhattan to draw attention to the urgent need for ambitious action on climate change. The protests in New York City were the epicenter of protests taking place around the world.
Problems and Purpose
The process looked to address the problem of continuously rising CO2 emission rates which are fueling the negative impacts of climate change and stifling government leaders' goal set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial times . The “March to End Fossil Fuels” was organized ahead of Climate Week NYC to pressure government leaders into taking bolder action on climate change, especially the Biden Administration.
Background History and Context
Climate change poses one of the most pressing challenges of our time with increasing global temperatures, extreme weather events, rising sea levels and ecosystem disruptions acting as clear indicators of the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Biden faced criticism from climate activists, especially in the months leading up to the Climate Ambition Summit, for not following through with his campaign promise to stop drilling on federal lands . In March 2023, his administration approved the Willow Project in the northern slope of Alaska which allowed ConocoPhillips to proceed with their eight-billion-dollar drilling project . Climate activists also pointed to the record number of leases approved on public lands for oil and gas drilling under his administration . The March took place amidst the hottest year on record as the issue of climate change continues to be a controversial political issue across the globe.  It also took place on the cusp of Climate Week NYC where government, corporate, and civil society leaders from across the globe gathered to discuss ways to speed up the fight against climate change. The March was the largest climate strike since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the largest since the youth-led climate strike on September 21, 2019. The March to End Fossil Fuels in New York City was similar in many regards to the 2019 youth-led climate strikes organized by Greta Thunberg ahead of the first youth climate summit. Both strikes were organized in coordination with global efforts in cities across the globe, and both strikes were heavily organized and composed of youth activists.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The March to End Fossil Fuels was organized by numerous grassroots youth activists and climate activists’ organizations committed to rapidly phasing out fossil fuels. In February of 2023, leaders with Climate Action Network International, the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty, and Global Gas & Oil Network worked to coordinate action on a global scale to phase out fossil fuels faster through grassroots efforts . Their efforts included organizing grassroots pressure in New York City in September 2023 ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit. In April and May of 2023, local and national organizations including Center for Biological Diversity, New York Communities for Change, Climate Organizing Hub, Center for Popular Democracy, Fridays for Future USA and NYC Earthworks, Greenfaith, and others worked with members of the People vs. Fossil Fuels Coalition and the U.S Climate Action Network among other organizations to organize the protests in New York . The movement was launched in June 2023 as The March to End Fossil Fuels, and it was accompanied by over 200 actions around the world leading up to the Climate Ambition Summit. According to their website, the March to End Fossil Fuels was organized by over 600 endorsing organizations and over 150 self-organized grassroots hubs . Many of the organizing and endorsing organizations worked together and amongst themselves to collect donations and recruit volunteers. They created an organizing website to collect donations, recruit volunteers and provide general logistical information for the March. Artists sympathetic to the cause also helped in creating and shipping art for banners and signs leading up to the March . Most of the staff was filled by volunteers who created organizing hubs through each of the partner organizations. A list of the hubs and partner organizations is available on their website, end fossil fuel.us.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The recruitment process involved the collaboration of hundreds of organizations to bring protesters from all walks of life to the March. The March To End Fossil Fuels organization reports over 75,000 participants, however there is not much specific data available on the demographics of participants, many of the protesters were youth activists and climate activists.  People from across the country participated in the event as well . The March was open to all members of the public that were interested and able to attend in New York City on September 17, 2023. Targeted recruitment was used through the organizing hub to gather members of indigenous, black, and youth activist organizations as well as other climate affiliated activist organizations. Donations and volunteer work were also encouraged for individuals interested but not able to attend in person. Social media was heavily utilized across platforms such as X, Instagram, Meta, and Tiktok by endorsing organizations. Pictures, videos, and posts were used to update interested participants leading up to and during the March . Participants were told to bring snacks, banners and signs, phones/electronic devices, and comfortable and safe attire . Participants of many communities directly affected by climate change and fossil fuel policies were heavily recruited. Particularly, indigenous communities, youth activists, and members of communities directly impacted by oil and gas companies drove recruitment and participation.
Methods and Tools Used
The March to End Fossil Fuels was a form of demonstration that took place along a 1.3-mile-long paved environment in Manhattan . Protesters were encouraged to bring signs and billboards. The organizers used organizing hubs and volunteers to have people sign petitions and participate in the March . They also used social media to broadcast videos and pictures of the March across platforms. Hashtags such as #EndFossilFuels were used to drum up support and bring attention to the March on platforms such as X . Endorsing organizations showed support and used their platforms to reach a broader audience across platforms, and the organizing website endfossilfuel.us linked X, TikTok, and Instagram accounts to the website.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
On September 15th, 2023, climate activists for the March to End Fossil Fuels issued a letter to President Biden urging him to declare a climate emergency and keep his campaign promises to end fossil fuel production on public lands. Locally elected officials across the nation that endorsed the March also wrote and signed a letter to President Biden urging him to phase out fossil fuels. The letters also called for the end of oil and gas exports.
Protesters gathered in the early afternoon of September 17, 2023, to march in Manhattan. Over 75,000 protesters participated in the event including many well-known political activists and politicians. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke at the end of the March near the U.N. headquarters . She applauded the protesters for their commitment to climate action and spoke about the need for phasing out fossil fuels. Susan Sarandon also spoke at the end of the march and advocated for more action on climate change . The use of celebrities and prominent climate activists was important to showing the broad support of the movement and to gathering participants from a wide range of backgrounds. Pictures and videos of the March spread across platforms with #EndFossilFuels garnering millions of views on TikTok and X  . People brought instruments such as drums to play as they marched, and many indigenous activists wore ceremonial and traditional dress as they marched . Signs, paintings, canvases and were heavily utilized. Many of the participants brought them from home, while organizing hubs also created much of the art on display in the days leading up to the protest and then disseminated some on the day of the March as well .
Participants were able to order some paintings and posters leading up to the day of the protest, as organizers of the protest worked with artists sympathetic to the cause to help disseminate signage and artwork . The streets were packed with participants, and many of them also had megaphones to lead other participants in chants of protest against fossil fuels and climate policies. The March to End Fossil Fuels was a large scale event that was purposely placed right outside the location of Climate Week NYC where corporate, non-profit, and government leaders all gathered to discuss combatting climate change and pushing towards a greener future.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The massive scale of the protests was certainly on display for political leaders across the world attending Climate Week NYC and the Climate Ambition Summit on September 20, 2023. A picture of the protesters made the front page of the New York Times on September 18, 2023 . At the opening ceremony while the protests were happening, the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, railed against fossil fuels and announced plans to sue oil and gas companies for their part in downplaying the risk of burning fossil fuels and swaying public perception for decades . Many of the speakers and participants at the hundreds of events held during Climate Week NYC showed support for rapidly expanding green energy and pivoting away from fossil fuels. This March was the largest climate strike since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it showed the momentum for swift action on climate change has not deteriorated among youth and climate activists. The March also demonstrated that a broad swath of voters is concerned with the pace at which the Biden Administration has taken action to address climate change. The actions and activities of the March were geared towards pressuring government action, and specifically action from the Biden Administration. The speakers and participants also looked to raise general awareness and promote bolder action on the use of fossil fuels by leaders of government and industry across the globe as well. However, the Biden Administration has yet to endorse or act on any of the requests from the open letters signed by climate activists and locally elected officials. Still, the March was successful in gathering tens of thousands of concerned citizens and activists to pressure industry and government leaders to take bolder action. Climate Week NYC ended with many bold proposals and innovative solutions supported by the gathering members. Volvo announced plans to end all production of diesel fuel vehicles by early 2024, and over 250 companies and non-profit organizations endorsed the proposal for world leaders to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 . The March was a testament to the growing support of bolder action to address climate change, and showed the urgency of the issue as leaders gathered to discuss action on climate change across the globe.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The March to End Fossil Fuels was the largest organized climate protests since the start of the pandemic. Many different organizations joined together to form a grassroots protest ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit. One of the most impressive aspects of the March was the broad array of support from varying activists and government leaders. The March was endorsed by hundreds of local and state government leaders that signed their own letter to the Biden administration. The broad array of support helped motivate the grassroots effort which led to tens of thousands of people showing up at the March. Moving forward, some have argued that building these types of coalitions and endorsements can be effective in increasing pressure on government leaders during important summits and international meetings . The 2019 youth climate strikes used similar tactics of organizing global protests with a “Hub” of the largest protest to demonstrate to world leaders the support of the movement. While the impact of the protest on policy or world leaders is hard to measure, some have argued the public outcry and support of climate action by the thousands of protesters that participated showed how important this issue is to many people across the globe . The March showed that people from all walks of life can join to support radical policies to address climate change. As climate change continues to be a hot topic in political discourse, organized protests as large as this may continue to happen until action is taken to reduce CO2 emissions at a faster rate. One challenge that the March ran into was the difficulties of tracking participants demographic information. 
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The original submission of this case entry was written by Stanley Rousseau, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in the current version are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.