Discussions about the concept of declaring a climate emergency

Australian political issues in search on 9 May 2019: Climate change ranks as the Number One issue out of 22 election topics. Updated version

“With more opportunities behind a transition towards a low-carbon economy than ever before and time running out to implement it, cities declaring a climate emergency are helping to raise awareness and drive the changes needed to safeguard the planet. However, these declarations mean nothing without real, concrete action to support them.”

→ Forbes – 20 July 2019:
Climate Emergency Declarations: How Cities Are Leading The Charge
“What do places like Shropshire (United Kingdom), Hawkes Bay (New Zealand), Sydney (Australia), New York (USA), and Krakow (Poland) have in common? They are just some of the 822 (and counting) cities, councils and jurisdictions worldwide to have declared a climate emergency.”

“How can a Citizens Assembly deliver a mandate that helps Government take the actions necessary to fulfil its policy commitments, while avoiding disenchantment and disorder? To do this we think there are three things a Citizens Assembly needs to do…”

→ Open Democracy – 19 July 2019:
3 ways to ensure the Climate Assembly really addresses the climate emergency
“Parliament is setting up citizens assemblies to demonstrate the public desire for climate action. But we’ve been here before – what will be different this time?”

→ DW – 9 July 2019:
Climate emergency: New hope, or just empty words?
“Spurred on by the Fridays for Future movement, more and more cities around the world are declaring a climate emergency — in recent weeks, it’s been almost a daily occurrence. Is this a sign of real change?”

Discussion in Hobart Council


→ ABC News – 21 May 2019:
Hobart Council row erupts as members stage a meeting walkout against climate change motion
“A row has erupted inside the walls of Hobart City Council over a motion to recognise climate change as a global emergency.”



Suggestions and considerations

“Tectonic plates finally shifting”

“What a few weeks it’s been in terms of the sense of urgency and proportion in relation to climate change and the world’s unravelling ecological crisis. Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough, the Welsh and Scottish governments declaring a climate emergency, then the UK and Irish parliaments. There appears to be a new, and long-overdue, sense of ambition and momentum, of tectonic plates finally shifting deep below the surface.”
~ Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition Town movement

→ Resilience.org – 15 May 2019:
Why the Climate Emergency needs a National Imagination Act
Article by Rob Hopkins


“How to avoid greenwashing”

“Declaring a climate emergency without implementing any actions is green-washing. One can argue that raised awareness eventually helps to drive change, but from my perspective, delays are just as bad as inertia. It’s no surprise the new term in town is “climate delayers” as opposed to “climate deniers.” Declaring a climate emergency and then taking one to two years to develop a plan is a delaying tactic.”
~ Eleni Polychroniadou

→ Thinkstep Blog – 5 August 2019:
Declaring a Climate Emergency: How to Avoid Greenwashing
Article by Eleni Polychroniadou



“Declaring an emergency is child’s play compared to the next step—the complete mobilization of resources and the public in a full-out emergency response by all levels of government. For the most part, that is not happening or not happening fast enough.”

→ Below2C – 10 August 2019:
So How’s That Climate Emergency Thing Going?

Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Will Change the Way You Live

“In January, Vancouver became the second major Canadian city (Montreal was first) to declare the potential effects of future climate change “an emergency” for our city. The alternative: more forest fires and floods. Councillor Christine Boyle‘s resolution passed unanimously.

In response, city staff proposed ‘6 Big Moves’ to be implemented within the next six to 11 years.

How will that change the way you live? We’ll easily walk or bike to get most of our daily needs. We’ll use much more public transit, and most private vehicles will be electric. Buildings and water will be heated by solar, wind, and hydro power. New buildings will be 40% more energy efficient. And we’ll restore forests and coastal ecosystems that capture carbon.

To guide us through these changes, we welcome Councillor Christine Boyle; Atiya Jaffar, digital campaigner for 350.org; and New Westminster Councillor Nadine Nakagawa.”


→ Huffington Post – 22 May 2019:
Parliament Declared A Climate Emergency – Now It Must Ditch Fossil Fuels
“Public concern about our planetary crisis is hitting record highs – so why do a majority of over 400 sitting MPs not seem to take issue with their pensions being invested in fossil fuels?” – by Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, UK


→ Gareth Kane on Linkedin.com – 4 June 2019:
“OK, you’ve called a climate emergency, now what?”
“The in-thing at the moment is to declare a climate emergency. The idea behind the ’emergency’ bit being that we need to act now, not later, to combat runaway climate impacts. So a huge number of organisations are declaring an emergency, and then… well… ummm… box ticked?”



“Now what?”

‘So you’ve declared a Climate Emergency, now what?’ was an event that took place in May 2019 at Exeter University.

“The environmental challenges the world faces require leadership, investment, organisational and structural transformation and human behaviour change on a scale we’ve never seen before. (…) The questions and the conversation went in many different directions, but it was all engaging and fascinating. While nothing concrete came out of it, it was a vital space to think differently, to contemplate with others the kind of world a climate emergency could lead to if we are sufficiently brave, imaginative and brilliant.”
~ Professor Mark Goodwin, Vice Chancellor, Exeter University

→ Event review on www.transitionnetwork.org

Hollow symbolism? Or something else?

“Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has declared a “climate emergency” on behalf of the Sydney local government. This makes Sydney the 26th Australian local government to do so, after the UK became the first country to declare a climate emergency in early May, following weeks of climate-change street protests.

Ireland, France, and Canada have now added their signatures to the cause, and nearly half of New Zealand’s local governments have also joined more than 600 local, state and federal governments worldwide. So does the declaration of a climate emergency actually carry any weight? Is it hollow symbolism? Or is it something else?”

→ ABC Science – 27 June 2019:
Australian cities are declaring a ‘climate emergency’, but does that actually mean anything?
By environment reporter Nick Kilvert

“Climate change is THE issue and it is nice of Welsh Government to join us in the real world that recognises this. However that is all they have done, recognise it.”

→ Wales Online – 2 May 2019:
Wales declaring a climate change emergency means absolutely nothing without action | Will Hayward
‘If the Welsh Government wants praise they need to tackle the blaze, not just raise the alarm’



“A new wave of climate awakening”

“This is one of the most a significant series of events for climate action in recent years with new declarations announced almost every day. And the momentum is fueling the beginning of a paradigm shift across broader society as thought leaders and commentators begin to call for super national action.

Sure, many big challenges remain for us to overcome, as there’s clearly a need to engage much deeper and more effectively with all Australians. But, let’s also use the momentum that is building and uphold the full scale and speed of action we need to achieve a safe and just transition.”
~ Luke Taylor, Director, Sustainable Living Foundation

“At the end of 2018, the dam finally burst and the Climate Emergency Movement has emerged, finally, as a powerful force. This movement tells the truth about the scale of the crisis, and demands a “Green New Deal” or a WWII-scale climate mobilization — a 10 year transition to zero emissions plus drawdown. Led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the Justice Democrats in Congress, the Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, School Strikers, and Extinction Rebellion in the streets, this movement has burst forth with tremendous force and momentum.”

→ Medium – 25 May 2019:
Leading the Public Into Emergency Mode
“Introducing the Climate Emergency Movement”


“Great optimism and possibility”

“The point I want to make is that the concept of a climate emergency should fill our hearts with great optimism and possibility.”
~ Rob Hopkins


“We have 11 years now to reverse the direction of travel, to cut our emissions in half, and be well on the path to zero emissions. It is an extraordinarily big ask, but it is possible. Just. And if we manage it, it will be a social, cultural, economic, political transformation which is almost without precedent. It will, by definition, be a time when anything felt possible, when the imagination feels invited, valued and empowered. What an amazing time to be 18. It will be a time that future generations will sing great songs about, and tell great tales about. Hold onto your seats for the most exhilarating time when old certainties fade away, and when anything feels possible.”

→ Post Carbon Institute – 3 June 2019:
Why the Next 12 Years Could be the Making of us







→ Climate Home News – 24 June 2019:
Four countries have declared climate emergencies, yet give billions to fossil fuels
“The UK, France, Canada and Ireland have all formally recognised a climate crisis. But analysis shows they give $27.5bn annually in support for coal, oil and gas.”




“Top-down corporate and government solutions that entrench disadvantage and disenfranchisement”

“With the UK, Ireland and Iceland all just declaring a climate emergency and a global movement swelling around the demand (including Peter Garrett calling on the ALP to declare one if they win government), it’s worth taking a step back, checking our privilege and seeing that emergency powers being invoked rarely fairs well for people of colour or those on the margins of our society.

Initially my trepidation was a communications response – you can’t compel people to take sustained action by instilling fear – they need anger (at the fossil fuel industry), solidarity or hope to act. But when you dig a little deeper, this call for an “emergency mobilisation of government resources” lends itself to top-down corporate and government solutions that entrench disadvantage and disenfranchisement, rather than putting decision-making in the power of people and creating a better world for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”
~ Kelly Albion, director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition

→ AYCC – 15 May 2019:
Why calling for a “climate emergency” is not climate justice



“Kelly Albion from AYCC recently shared a blog post arguing why declaring a climate emergency is not climate justice. There are several reasons why I think this stance needs broader reflection and why I think that climate justice can and must be a part of climate emergency declarations and plans.”
~ Heidi Edmonds, Climate KISS


→ Climate KISS – 17 May 2019:
Why climate justice must be at the heart of the climate emergency declarations, not in opposition to them
By Heidi Edmonds

“It is a symbolic gesture”

Somini Sengupta wrote for the New York Times on 3 July 2019:

“Emergency. The word has a dire ring to it. It can signify curfews, a crackdown on dissidents, or an infusion of emergency funding to deal with a big problem. But what does it mean for New York City to have declared a climate emergency in June? The emergency declaration by the City Council comes with no specific legislation, nor funding. It is a symbolic gesture, and its champions see it as a way to send a message about the urgency of taking climate action.

New York City is the largest city in the United States to take this step, though not the only one. Oakland, Calif., and San Francisco declared climate emergencies in 2018. Cities abroad have been moving in this direction, too, some accompanying the gesture with specific targets to ratchet down their emissions. Sydney, the most populous city in Australia, declared a climate emergency in June, in an apparent effort to draw attention to the inaction of its national government.

Britain, Ireland, Canada and France have also all declared climate emergencies. Those moves don’t come with any specific legislation, either. Those countries all continue to support fossil fuels.”

→ Vice – 30 May 2019:
Declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ Is Meaningless Without Strong Policy
“A teen leading climate strikes in Canada says the Liberals’ motion is merely a ‘publicity stunt.’”

→ Global News – 18 June 2019:
Reality check: Declaring a climate emergency sends a message but does little else
“While the vote made headlines across the country, that support doesn’t mean the government is compelled to do anything — and it came just hours before the government is set to announce its decision on whether to let the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proceed despite outcry from environmental groups.” By Amanda Connolly in Canada

“Another layer of bureaucracy and red tape to a complex issue”

→ New Zealand National Party – 16 May 2019:
ECan climate change emergency not the answer
Press release: “Environment Canterbury’s decision to declare a climate change emergency will only add another layer of bureaucracy and red tape to a complex issue, National Local Government spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.”


“Wasteful spending”

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union: “Louis and Porky the Waste-hater visit the Nelson City Council to turn up the heat on their $100,000 Climate Emergency Declaration.” 20 May 2019



Ezra Levant’s video monologue





The Guardian adopts climate emergency language

→ The Guardian – 17 May 2019:
Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment
Instead of “climate change”, the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown”, and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned.


→ The Conversation Canada – 7 June 2019:
Language matters when the Earth is in the midst of a climate crisis
“Can new language change the way the public and politicians perceive the hazards of the Earth’s changing climate?”


“The use of clear and accurate language in covering critical subjects such as the climate emergency is not merely an option for journalists; it is their duty.”
~ Luis Fernández, Noticias Telemundo’s evp of network news

→ Cablefax – 7 June 2019:
Noticias Telemundo Now Using Term ‘Climate Emergency’
Noticias Telemundo, the news division of the second largest Spanish-language broadcasting company in the United States, will be using “climate emergency” to describe the situation – instead of “climate change” or “global warming.”

The Spanish news agency EFE have made similar changes.


→ The Guardian – 17 June 2019:
The urgency of climate crisis needed robust new language to describe it
“Changes to how the Guardian writes about climate announced by Katharine Viner prompted a discussion with readers.”



‘Climate Emergency Declaration’ versus ‘State of Emergency’

“Nuance of language is important. That’s how we ended up with the benign word “Climate Change” in the mainstream rather than “Global Warming” back in the 1990s.

Mexico currently has over 100 fires burning across the country. This article is talking about an understandable “State of Emergency” type of response to the immediate situation.

A “Climate Emergency Declaration” is different. It is a longer term regional strategy to the overall Climate Crisis even after these fires are put out, because we know that more extreme weather events and food security and social unrest are continuing our way.

If we don’t start changing our way of thinking, living, consuming and re-prioritising our needs and wants we are going to have Government and Corporations do it for us because that is what a State of Emergency is and that is a very different beast.”
~ Global Climate Emergency Now



→ Centre for Climate Safety – 6 June 2019:
600 climate emergency declarations: the beginning of a global referendum
“The declarations by 600 councils and local governments, plus a few state and national governments, can be seen as a slowly growing referendum on whether the people of this world believes we should do something serious about this emergency, or whether we should just continue to trust that the policies of our democratically elected leaders, next to do-nothing, are going to protect us sufficiently.”




“Declaring an emergency means absolutely nothing unless there is action to back it up. That means the government having to do things they don’t want to do.”
~ Eamon Ryan, Green Party leader, Ireland


Emergency-level action to back the declaration up

“A climate change emergency fund will be created to get the ball rolling and cut global warming in Devon as rapidly as possible. Wednesday’s Devon County Council Cabinet meeting saw councillors unanimously agree to set aside £250,000 towards an initiative to persuade organisations, communities and individuals to do more to reduce global warming. And Chief Executives and Directors from nearly 20 public and private sector organisations in Devon have already given with one voice their unhindered commitment to tackling the climate emergency.”


→ Devon Live – 16 May 2019:
Devon agencies will act NOW to tackle climate emergency
“Public bodies, business representatives and utility companies – all members of a new Devon Climate Emergency Response Group – are supporting urgent action on the climate emergency.”


‘Crisis’ is throw your hands up. ‘Emergency’ is roll your sleeves up.”
~ Rachel Reese, Mayor, Nelson in New Zealand



Rationing energy?

→ Counterpunch – 31 May 2019:
WWII Lessons for the Climate Emergency
“A rational and responsible response to the intersecting climate and political disasters is the rationing of energy. There are historical precedents. Yet rationing, moratoriums, and a range of measures that could immediately cut emissions and address intersecting emergencies are largely ignored in climate policy.”

→ Resilience – 24 May 2019:
What would a Climate Emergency Plan Look Like?
“Across the world, national and local governments are declaring a climate emergency on the back of dire warnings from UN scientists about the need for urgent and far-reaching action that have triggered a wave of protests from school children and given rise to the Extinction Rebellion movement.”


“Surely what is required by the Earth that feeds us and so many other amazing creatures is a war-type, non-affiliated “cabinet”. It would include representatives from all sides of politics and be directed by non-politically aligned experts. (Any pecuniary interests would need to be declared.)

Structurally this could include an environmental wing of our armed forces (for example, the navy helping to clear plastics from our oceans and sewerage and chemical run-off which is destroying our Great Barrier Reef). It could provide school leavers with an interesting, voluntary, “national service” gap year of employment, and perhaps work and skills development for the unemployed.

Through the United Nations, we could suggest a co-operative approach between nations that could enhance eco-tourism and a sharing of innovative solutions.”
~ Steven Sommer, Highton



“This isn’t something we can wait for someone else to fix. We all need to act now. We can be leaders for change. Think globally, act locally.”
~ Ben Andrews – in a Facebook comment


Media coverage in May 2019

See examples of news stories and articles