Four major environmental groups endorsed President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection for president on Wednesday night, ahead of his speech at a League of Conservation Voters dinner in the nation’s capital.
LCV Action Fund, NextGen PAC, the Sierra Club, and the NRDC Action Fund endorsed Biden together at the dinner, which is honoring former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It is the first time all four groups have issued a joint endorsement, Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, told CNN.
During his remarks at the event, Biden touched on the hazardous air quality stemming from wildfires in Canada that hung over much of the American Midwest and Northeast last week, noting that while there are many threats to future generations, climate change “is the only truly existential threat.”
“If we don’t meet the requirements that we’re looking at, we’re in real trouble,” Biden said, adding that work of the environmental groups “has never been more important than it is today. Together we’ve made a lot of progress so far, but we’ve got to finish the job.”
The president listed his environmental wins to applause from the crowd, including new acreage that his administration has designated for conservation.
Sittenfeld said the endorsement is a recognition of Biden’s achievements on climate, clean energy, and environmental justice, including the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and strong federal regulations issued by Biden administration agencies.
“They have done more than any administration in history by far to address the climate crisis and advance clean energy solutions and environmental justice,” Sittenfeld told CNN.
Sittenfeld said environmental groups want to see Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris elected for four more years so they can “finish the job” on their climate agenda, especially given that Republican candidates running for president could undo part of that agenda.
“The stakes have never been higher and we’ve seen day after day MAGA Republicans in Congress trying to gut commonsense climate progress,” Sittenfeld told CNN, adding the contrast between Biden and Republican candidates for president “could not be more stark.”
“Clearly as much progress as we’ve made, there’s so much more needed,” Sittenfeld said.
“We are endorsing because of the transformational progress we already made and the progress they’re going to continue to make,” former EPA administrator Carol Browner, the chair of LCV’s board of directors, echoed.
The four groups have considerable sway in the environmental movement and the Biden administration. Their political arms have spent millions of dollars on past elections and mobilized voters across the country on climate issues.
The Sierra Club is one of the oldest environmental groups in the country, while NextGen calls itself the nation’s biggest group mobilizing youth voters. Meanwhile, Biden’s first White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy came most recently from NRDC before serving in her post (McCarthy was also EPA administrator in the Obama administration).
“President Biden’s climate leadership has been nothing short of historic,” Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the NRDC Action Fund, said in a statement.
Division within the climate movement
However significant the groups early endorsement of Biden is, it doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the entire climate movement. Some groups and activists have recently expressed frustration with the president and his administration for approving fossil fuel projects, most recently pushing for the Mountain Valley pipeline to be included in the debt limit law.
As wildfire smoke choked DC’s air quality last Thursday, activists staged a large sit-in outside of the White House to protest the pipeline.
“President Biden, we are all out here because we want you to declare a climate emergency and do the right thing,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a progressive Democrat from Michigan, told the crowd.
As CNN has reported, a White House official had said the White House pushed for the pipeline to be included in the debt limit provision to deliver on a compromise that the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia last year to secure his vote for the Inflation Reduction Act.
But some climate activists balked at that reasoning, saying they want to see Biden reject fossil fuel projects in addition to passing bold climate bills.
“Why does Manchin get priority over millions of young people who put their disillusionment aside to vote in 2020 and 2022?” said Elise Joshi, acting executive director of youth group Gen-Z for Change. “Every single time young people are showing up for the Democratic Party, and the uphold of promises doesn’t seem to apply to us.”
Joshi said she will ultimately vote for Biden in the 2024 election, but added the president needs to give her and young people more reasons to turn out enthusiastically for him.
“Most importantly I don’t want a Republican presidency, we know that would be horrific,” she said. “But if (Biden) is our best option of two, why not make that option better?”
This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Sam Fossum and Jack Forrest contributed to this report.