You have probably heard the term “Climate Change” mentioned in the news and public life, but have you also heard of the term “Climate Emergency”? From 15,000 school students going on School Strike for Climate in Australia last November, to famous nature documentary maker David Attenborough, and even Anthony Keidis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers in California, more and more people are talking about the climate emergency and encouraging their Federal, State and Local governments to make Climate Emergency Declarations.
A movement spearheaded by Australia’s “Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation in Action (CEDAMIA)” and the broader Australian climate emergency declaration movement, as well as The Climate Mobilization in the USA is working hard to help more people realise that the threat of climate damage is not far off, and nor is it unsolvable.
We are seeing impacts now such as more frequent heat waves and droughts, and more dangerous fires, more frequent and powerful extreme weather events. Australians are saddened by recent bushfires in Tasmania and Queensland which saw devastating losses of unique biodiversity as well as 1-in-100-year flood in Townsville and widescale flooding in North Queensland.
But Climate Emergency Declarations also highlight that we have the solutions at hand. Key aspects include that we have to stop burning fossil fuels, most urgently stopping new fossil fuel projects from being undertaken, and transition our standing and transport energy to 100% renewables. Carbon drawdown techniques such as sequestration in soils and protecting forests will also help.
State and Federal Climate Emergency Declarations require governments to develop and implement plans to effectively make these changes. Local councils can also have Climate Emergency Declarations, which focus on councils doing what they can locally to reduce carbon emissions. Local council climate emergency plan ideas include banning natural gas connections to new buildings, and setting climate-smart building standards, as well as raising community awareness of climate-smart options.
To date, councils have declared climate emergencies in the following places,
Australia: 8 councils, 650,187 persons
United Kingdom: 21 councils and 1 authority: 12,633,895 persons
USA: 9 councils, 5,750,171 persons
Canada: 258 councils, 6,592,648 persons
Total: 297 local government bodies, 25,626,901 persons (as at 14 Feb 2019)
Implementing Climate Emergency Plans, especially at the state and federal levels, needs to happen rapidly to help protect the climate for our kids’ to have a liveable world. The scale of this change has been likened to a World War 2 scale mobilisation effort.
Margaret Hender from CEDAMIA points out that it’s important to call on our governments to “Declare a Climate Emergency”. It’s one thing to use climate emergency messaging, but declaring an emergency at the state or federal level implies design and implementation of a climate emergency plan. As Margaret tells me, “declaring an emergency is a powerful public signal. It indicates that the government itself will be giving high priority to reversing the Climate Emergency rather than continuing with ‘business as usual’. It also functions as a call to action, prompting everyone to think that their own actions will make a difference because everyone, including the government, will be working together towards a common goal.”
As the new but rapidly growing school strike for climate movement inspired by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg grows, UK students are calling on governments to make climate emergency declarations. Adults inspired to join Greta’s broader worldwide climate strike movement on Fridays called Fridays for Future have also been empowered to consider climate emergency messaging on their placards. Inspired by the school strike movement and young people’s awareness of the climate emergency, Australian parents and grandparents have taken Greta Thunberg’s call to treat “the crisis like a crisis” to heart and are also calling for the government to declare a climate emergency.
But we are seeing momentum of and support for actions at this scale. For example, 1) the Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the USA, 2) California has committed to transition to 100 % renewables by 2045 for electricity, and 3) South Australia is on track to reach 75% renewable energy for electricity by 2025.
It is important to remind ourselves that this is possible. Indeed it is necessary. This is the scale of action that is required for our kids to have a liveable world. It might seem scary to think about at first, but on the other side of understanding the magnitude of the challenge we face, lies action and therefore hope. Why not spend some time today learning about how Australia can transition to 100 percent renewables? This is the kind of information that helps me feel empowered to protect my kids’ liveable world.
To find out more about Climate Emergency Declarations and how you can support them, head to cedamia.org or check out the additional links below.
Worldwide list of climate emergency declarations:
Key Australian thought leaders involved in developing the Climate Emergency Declaration framework: Mik Aidt (Geelong Sustainability), Anthony Gleeson (Centre for Climate Safety), Margaret Hender (CORENA), Jane Morton (DarebinCAN), David Spratt (Climate Code Red), Philip Sutton (RSTI), and Luke Taylor (Breakthrough).
Darebin City Council climate emergency plan:
(Darebin City Council, part of Melbourne in Australia, was the first council in the world to declare a climate emergency).
How to talk about the climate emergency (Jane Moreton):
Resources for CEDs in Australia:
The Australian Climate Emergency DEclaration movement and groups supporting this:
The Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) petition to all 3 levels of govt is at https://www.cedamia.org/sign/
The NSW state petition is at https://www.cedamia.org/nsw-nmbi-sign/
(petitions for other states are available on the website)
If you want to ask people to sign online, just use those links.
To download a hardcopy of the CED petition see
To download a hardcopy of the NSW petition see https://www.cedamia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/NSW-NMBI-Hard-copy-petition-sheet.pdf
Climate Emergency Declaration Resources USA:
Worldwide resources: Climate Emergency Declarations resources for Councils worldwide are available via Australia’s Community Action in the Climate Emergency group :
Image: Heidi Edmonds – Children on Brisbane Mudflats – Why the Climate Emergency Matters to Me