Members of a youth-led activist organization held a sit-in today, December 6, inside the office of Governor Jared Polis, demanding that he take stronger action to address climate change and bring an end to new fossil-fuel production in Colorado.
Following a Youth Climate Strike rally held on the steps of the State Capitol earlier on Friday, about a dozen members of climate activist group the Sunrise Movement visited Polis's office and asked to speak with the governor. They say they've repeatedly asked to meet with Polis to discuss their demands, which include the declaration of a "climate emergency" and a halt to state-issued permits for oil and gas drilling.
"Why are we here? Because Polis won't listen to our demands," Sunrise organizer Michele Weindling said as demonstrators began the sit-in. "How many times have we come here to and asked for him to give us a response? Too many times."
"The governor is out of the office," Polis spokesman Conor Cahill said in a statement. "We would consider this request as we consider all scheduling requests that are submitted through our website.”
"We first delivered these demands to Governor Polis back in September," says Morgan Anker, a Sunrise activist. "We followed up in October, and we never got a response from him. So we would just really would like our leaders to respond to their constituents."
The Sunrise Movement rose to national prominence after a series of sit-ins held at the U.S. Capitol in late 2018, and was a major force behind the Green New Deal, a sweeping progressive proposal to combat the climate crisis through a massive expansion of federal investment in jobs and clean energy.
Polis and other Colorado Democrats largely took a different approach in the wide-ranging new climate policies they enacted in 2019, emphasizing consumer choice and a market-based transition to renewable electricity generation, electric vehicles and more.
“Under the Governor’s leadership, Colorado has enacted bold legislation to address the threat of climate change, put the state on a pathway to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, give local communities more of a say in where oil and gas activities occur, and is committed to protecting clean air and water and expanding access to public lands," Cahill said.
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"I think [Polis] has interests that don't align with the progressive future we're envisioning in the Green New Deal," Anker says. "I think there's a lot of fear of rocking the boat and the status quo, but that's what we need in a climate emergency."
Polis's staff told demonstrators that they will try to schedule a meeting between the governor and Sunrise activists soon, but couldn't commit to a specific date and time.
"It's important that the governor himself approach us," says Weindling, who spoke for about fifteen minutes on Friday with a member of the governor's senior staff. "It's important that he account for the multiple climate strikes that have happened in front of his office on the Capitol steps without any response from him."
Weindling says the group plans to say in Polis's office until the Capitol building closes at 5 p.m.