With our planet and communities at stake, now is the time to put an end, once and for all, to fossil fuel extraction on public lands. The science is clear: To fight the climate crisis, we must dramatically reduce carbon pollution. And, to reduce carbon pollution, we need to stop it at the source.

President Biden presents his national statement as part of the World Leaders’ Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1. He has approved more oil and gas permits per month than Donald Trump did in any given year during his presidency. Yves Herman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS

Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. Ending fossil fuel leasing on public lands will help prevent climate disaster and improve the health of our planet and our communities.

But sadly, in the face of climate catastrophe, President Biden has remained consistently inconsistent on his policy toward oil and gas leasing. He’s blocked drilling in the Arctic Refuge and near Chaco Canyon National Park and pledged to put an end to it everywhere, while simultaneously selling new leases and approving new drilling.

On the campaign trail, Biden had a bold plan to end leasing of fossil fuels on public lands. And yet, he has approved more oil and gas permits per month than Donald Trump did in any given year during his presidency.

Last year, Biden went to Scotland and told the world that the United States vowed to be a leader on climate, only to return home and hand 80 million acres of public waters in the Gulf of Mexico to fossil fuel companies. At the time, the administration asserted that it was forced to hold the sale because of a court ruling on Biden’s executive order that paused new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

This claim was explicitly contradicted by a U.S. Department of Justice brief filed before the lease sale. Additionally, instead of proceeding with new lease sales while appealing the case, the Justice Department could have sought a stay of the lower court ruling pending appeal.

Regardless of what is happening in the courts, Biden has the power to put an immediate end to oil and gas leasing on public lands. At any time, he could declare a climate emergency and use executive powers to put an end to federal fossil fuel leasing and extraction.

In January, in a case brought by Sierra Club and its allies, the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas sale was overturned by a federal judge who ruled that the administration didn’t fully consider climate change impacts. Instead of appealing this decision, Biden should meet the moment with action and choose to use his executive power, along with the court’s backing, to say “no” to new fossil-fuel extraction and “yes” to the health and well-being of our communities.

In Scotland, Biden told his fellow world leaders that his administration is committed to addressing the climate crisis with “action, and not words.” Now it’s time to see whether these bold words had meaning and if he’s willing to prioritize the U.S. public over oil CEOs.

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