Notable climate quotes from 2020

December 29, 2020

Thank you to all the climate champions that worked tirelessly to advance climate solutions throughout the year. 2020 saw an outpouring of calls for green recovery, racial and climate equity, natural climate solutions, and strong climate leadership from every level of governance – from local to international. Here are our favorite climate quotes of 2020:


“If we don’t have strong enough carbon pricing in place, this industry is never going to be able to innovate fast enough to compete in this global market that is demanding low-carbon oil.”

“My gap year ends in August, but it doesn’t take a college degree in economics to realize that our remaining 1.5° carbon budget and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and investments don’t add up.”

“All of our cities, and I know very few that are not, are congested, polluted, completely unhealthy environments. And that is an assault on our human right to health and to breathe clean air, simply put. Now it’s not so easy, obviously, to go from there to a system where all vehicles — and this is the ideal — all vehicles are shared, and hopefully not owned, and clean, and where there is efficient, clean, interconnected public transport. Because you will never get any public transport, whether it be buses, or whatever, that take you from A to B; you will always have to interconnect.”

“I joined a group of climate activists demanding that you, the world’s most powerful and influential business and political leaders, begin to take the action needed. We demand, at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction; immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies; and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050 or 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.”

“We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall.”


“If we want to successfully address climate change, we need people of color. Not just because pursuing diversity is a good thing to do, and not even because diversity leads to better decision-making and more effective strategies, but because, black people are significantly more concerned about climate change than white people (57 percent vs. 49 percent), and Latinx people are even more concerned (70 percent). To put that in perspective, it means that more than 23 million black Americans already care deeply about the environment and could make a huge contribution to the massive amount of climate work that needs doing.”


“When we say ‘I can’t breathe’ — whether it is an officer with a knee on our neck or the pollution which continues to take away our breath — that’s why we march and that’s why we work so hard to change these dynamics.”


“The real challenge is racism in America in the various forms it takes, whether it takes the form of police brutality, whether it takes the form of the exercise of the powers of the state to regulate brown and low-income and black populations to areas where they have to be exposed to bad water or bad air.”


“Whether it is a global pandemic, climate change, or policy brutality, people of color — particularly black communities — are always the first and worst hit, and it must end. I think it’s a tough road ahead. But there are things we can do. Number one, we have to center black and brown voices in our struggle for a better world. Our response to this crisis must meet the urgent needs of those who are hit hardest by the pandemic and looming recession: frontline workers, immigrants, the unhoused, and black and brown people. It must be guided by an inclusive vision that deals with the root causes that got us into this crisis, and centers climate, economic, and racial justice.”


“The people most responsible for climate change historically — globally, as well as domestically — are not the same people who are feeling the pain first, worst and longest. If you’re just talking about greenhouse gases and parts per million, you’re not seeing the issues around vulnerability and justice.”

“Very often, agriculture is seen as one of the contributors to climate change. I think we can fundamentally turn this around and make agriculture not just a part of solution, but one of the biggest contributors to addressing climate change. Farmers have the opportunity to become the heroes of the climate solution.

“Here’s why we believe that is true.

“There are 3.6 billion acres of farmland worldwide. Those agricultural acres – and the farmers who operate on them – have a unique opportunity to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it within the soil.  Farmers have the potential to do so by transitioning to a more beneficial agriculture system – including implementing what are commonly referred to as regenerative practices – those that regenerate the soil. These practices include cover cropping, crop rotation, reduced pesticide and fertilizer use, not tilling the soil, and integrating livestock. Many farmers are already using these practices around the world.

“By adopting and applying more of those practices, farmers are in a position to draw down and sequester more carbon in the soil. By doing so, farmers can become a key solution to not only reducing emissions on the farm but to harnessing their soils to draw down carbon dioxide and address climate change.”



“Cap-and-trade is a market-based tool, and when there are less carbon emissions, there are less allowances that are required to be purchased. There has been a reliance on those funds to help stimulate incentive programs—although those are going through a painful process of reassessment—in terms of the climate priorities, they remain very strong.

“We have to keep our eye on the prize and use all the tools that we have including fighting very hard to keep our authority to regulate tailpipe emissions. That is probably the single largest sector where—because of COVID, frankly—we’ve been seeing benefits from reduced vehicles miles traveled. We’re looking at how we maintain those.”


“We understand now better than we ever have before that to reach our shared objectives on climate change will require us not simply to invest in new infrastructure and energy assets, it will also require a major focus on investing in nature and the products and services that our natural environment provides.”


“For much of human history, the way to make money from a tree was to chop it down. Now, with companies rushing to offset their carbon emissions, there is value in leaving them standing.”


“EPA must restore science as the backbone of decision-making, building on its strength in understanding ecological systems to develop better systems-based approaches for addressing complex issues. We are at an environmental crossroads and we are hopeful that America will again muster the resolve, the will, and the action needed to protect public health, the environment, and our economy.”


“As we work with our suppliers to achieve our climate goals, carbon markets will play an important role incentivising, recognising and rewarding agriculture producers for the significant positive impacts they can quantifiably deliver.”


“This crisis offers us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild our economy in order to withstand the next shock coming our way: climate breakdown. Unless we act now, the climate crisis will be tomorrow’s central scenario and, unlike Covid-19, no one will be able to self-isolate from it.”


“As Black people in America we need an assurance to a commitment for the right to live a life with the same rights as anyone else. We deserve the right to breathe clean air, drink safe water and live in communities free from pollution.”


“As much as we appreciated the commitment of the corporate sector to the Paris accord, that doesn’t do anything for our communities. It’s a nice business plan … but doesn’t provide what our communities need to close health disparities and reduce emissions in specific communities. Everyone was happy with a market-based system, but we’ve got to go beyond the market to be moral.”


“If your actual objective is to close these gaps between disadvantaged communities and the more affluent communities, you have to think about being strategically unequal in the extent to which these incentives are available.”


“I can’t breathe are the words changing a nation. Hopefully part of that change will be more breathable air and better respiratory health for the Black and brown communities who have been the victims of systemic racism that runs rampant in municipal waste management practices. These very practices are also contributing to higher COVID-19 mortality rates in those neighborhoods.”


“The critical question is not whether we have to rebuild, but how do we rebuild the U.S economy? Investment in low carbon infrastructure and focusing on climate policies is going to be win-win for the U.S. economy not only in the near term, but it’s going to set up the economy for long-term prosperity.”


“I Can’t Breathe is echoing across the planet. Filled with anguish and pain, these haunting words are spotlighting the systemic racism that has infected unjust policing practices, putting black and brown communities in its crosshairs. As police take lives with chokeholds and asphyxiate others with knees on their necks, we are reminded that racism is literally killing our people and planet.

“Communities of color have appealed for decades to politicians, policymakers and environmental organizations that they “can’t breathe,” only to be ignored. The simple fact is that Black, Brown, Indigenous and lower-wealth communities have disproportionately been the dumping grounds for our country’s deadliest toxic pollutants. We have instituted economic and environmental apartheid through redlining, restrictive covenants and unfair zoning practices.

“These continuing actions have created sacrifice zones, filled with smelters, coal-fired power plants, incinerators, petrochemical facilities and a host of other polluters. Along with the deadly co-pollutants being pumped into the lungs of local residents every day, sacrifice zones become killing fields.”


“You get so much leverage out of nature-based solutions, whereby you sink carbon using nature, you create habitat for at-risk species, you create resilience because you manage floods better, you filter water because of the extensive root systems these plants have — you get a whole broad suite of benefits.”


“The only hope of avoiding catastrophic damage is most every country decarbonizing as rapidly as they are capable, regardless of their histories and rivalries.

“Electricity must be rapidly decarbonized to get rid of coal; heating and transportation must be rapidly electrified to get rid of oil and natural gas. Wealthy countries should mobilize to drive down the costs of clean-energy technologies through research and large-scale deployment; developing nations should work as hard as possible to substitute clean technologies when long-term industrial policy and infrastructure decisions are being made. And those with resources should help those with fewer prepare for the turbulent century to come.

“Whoever’s fault it is, we either all chip in to solve it or we all suffer.”


“When you add COVID, extreme heat, wildfires and air pollution all together, they’re all detrimental to public health, and it just makes things worse. These stressors are happening at the same time. So the impact is cumulative and maybe even synergistic to each other. People may not directly connect local air pollution to global climate change, but they are intertwined. They are two sides of the same coin.”


“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand, and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians.” (President Trump: “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.”) “I wish science agreed with you.” (President Trump: “I don’t think science knows, actually.”)


“Not to say that it’s all about trees and farms, but they do need to be part of the package. When you look at the economic modelling of what does it take to get to net zero and what does a serious Paris-compliant plan have in it, the role of nature is really paramount.”


“Of all the simultaneous crises that we face as a state, and I would argue as a nation, and for that matter a global perspective, none is more impactful, none is more forceful, than the issue of the climate crisis.”


“Let me dispel the notion that carbon pricing has had its demise politically. Pretty much every Republican official or Republican-leaning group that has recommended a climate policy has landed on a carbon price.”


“As policies come into effect that aren’t directly called climate change policies, that are called infrastructure policy, or promoting electric transportation, or rebuilding roads with charging stations alongside, these kinds of programs will attract other states that are not now in the climate coalition. That is how we are going to achieve the reductions that we need.”


“Science tells us, every day with more precision, that it is necessary to act with urgency — I am not exaggerating, science tell us this — if we want to have the hope of avoiding radical changes in the climate and catastrophes. We have just a few years — scientists calculate roughly fewer than 30 — to drastically reduce the emissions of gas and the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere”



“Mr. president-elect, you’ve put forward a bold transformative climate plan. But you’ve also underscored that no country alone can solve this challenge…To end this crisis the whole world must come together. You’re right, to rejoin Paris on day one. And you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough. At the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option. Succeeding together means tapping into the best of American ingenuity, creativity, and diplomacy, from brain power to alternative energy power, using every tool we have to get where we have to go.”


“We will be driven by our conviction that every person has the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthier life—no matter how much money they have in their pocket, the color of their skin, or what community they live in.”


Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere. 

 “The door is open; the solutions are there. 

“Now is the time to transform humankind’s relationship with the natural world – and with each other. And we must do so together. Solidarity is humanity. Solidarity is survival. That is the lesson of 2020.” 

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