SA Parliament House, with Susan Close MP holding 10,000+ petition signatures

South Australia declared a Climate Emergency


On 31 May 2022, South Australia became the first Australian state to declare a Climate Emergency, although the Australian Capital Territory did set a precedent for a sub-national region to do so back in 2019. The SA declaration was passed by both Houses of Parliament. The Liberal opposition proposed amendments, which were rejected, with the original motion then passing unanimously in the Lower House. The Liberal opposition voted against the motion in the Upper House but it passed with Labor and cross bench support.

The motion stated:

That this house —
(a) notes the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and current plans to address climate change are not ambitious enough to limit warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial level — a threshold scientists believe is necessary to avoid more catastrophic impacts;

(b) notes that around the world, climate change impacts are already causing loss of life and destroying vital ecosystems;

(c) declares that we are facing a climate emergency; and

(d) commits to restoring a safe climate by transforming the economy to zero net emissions.

Background

In September 2019, Mark Parnell MLC (Greens) moved a Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) motion in the Upper House. At that time, the ACT had already done so in May 2019, and around 45 local councils around Australia had too. The SA upper house CED motion passed with support from Labor and most of the cross bench, but was opposed by the Liberals. It was not debated in the Lower House at that time.

Soon after new legislation was passed in SA such that formal on-paper citizen petitions with over 10,000 signatures would be ‘taken seriously’ due to the effort require to achieve that – would be tabled in parliament, entered in Hansard, and be guaranteed a ministerial response (either in support of or rejecting the petition). Accordingly 3 ‘ordinary citizens’ started such a petition, and a wide range of grassroots helpers (individuals and members of climate groups) put many hours into collecting signatures. You can see the petition text here.

Helpers could download the petition sheet online and print it themselves, or collect printed sheets from a centrally located petition box at the Conservation SA premises. Signed sheets were returned either through a slot in the petition box or sent to a PO Box set up specifically for that purpose.

By Jan 2020 the team had already collected around 6,000 signatures, so we sounded out Labor MP Susan Close (opposition party at the time) about tabling the petition when we reached 10,000 signatures. She jumped at the chance to do that and indicated willingness to also propose a CED motion alongside tabling it. But then Covid struck and made signature collection really hard, so it ended up taking until mid-2021 to reach 10,000 signatures.

In August 2021, Susan Close tabled our petition and proposed a CED motion, with a large show of support from people on parliament house steps on the day she did that. Her motion was eventually allowed to be put on the debate agenda, but ultimately there was not sufficient time for it to be debated before the state election.

The 2022 state election saw Labor back in power, so the CED motion was put on the agenda again as a first order of business. In speaking to the motion Susan Close, now Deputy Premier, positioned the motion as being in response to clear community demand for urgent climate action. She also announced two initial climate policies for putting words into action: a green hydrogen project and removal of an EV tax.

You can see a global list of jurisdictions that have declared a Climate Emergency here, or click on the pins in this map.


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Guterres calls on all country leaders to declare a Climate Emergency

Every country should declare a state of climate emergency until the world has reached net zero carbon emissions, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, told a virtual summit of world leaders on Saturday.

View the longer 2-minute clip above to hear what else he said.

He mentions that 38 countries have already declared a Climate Emergency. The cedamia global database of CED jurisdictions only shows 14 countries plus the EU, but if you count the 28 countries in the EU separately that would make 38 (noting that some of those 28 countries have also declared a Climate Emergency separately).


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Four years of Climate Emergency Declarations

Today, on the fourth anniversary of the first Climate Emergency Declaration, almost one billion people, over 12% of the global population, live in an area that has adopted a Climate Emergency resolution.

1. Global overview
2. Are Climate Emergency Declarations ‘symbolic’?
3. Are there legal implications?
4. Partisan influence

 

1. Global overview

On 5 December 2016, Darebin City Council in Victoria, Australia, became the first jurisdiction anywhere in the world to declare a Climate Emergency. Four years later the global count sits at 1,854 jurisdictions in 33 countries. The vast majority (1,807) of the declarations have been by local government bodies such as municipal councils, but 32 were adopted by subnational regional or state governments, 14 by national governments, and one by the European Union (November 2019).


* Note: The statistics in this article are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing, but we rely heavily on English language media for news of new declarations and declarations in other language regions are probably under-reported. Please email info@cedamia.org if you know of declarations we have missed in the list at https://www.cedamia.org/global.

Ireland was the first country to declare a Climate Emergency at the national level in May 2019, followed by Canada, Argentina, Spain, Austria, France, Malta, Bangladesh, and Italy, then in early 2020 by Andorra and Maldives, and in late 2020 by South Korea and Japan. Of those, Argentina, Malta, Bangladesh, Andorra, Maldives only have their national-level and no subnational declarations (as far as we know).

Some (7) of the 28 countries with subnational declarations only have one, but over 50% of the population lives in jurisdictions with a Climate Emergency Declaration in South Korea, the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, and Canada. With the new national declaration approved in New Zealand on 2 December 2020, four of those countries also have national declarations. (The UK did pass an opposition day declaration in May 2019, but that hasn’t yet been passed by a full sitting of parliament.)

Before the first Climate Emergency Declaration four years ago there was almost no awareness of the possibility of making such a declaration, and only a rather small group of campaigners in Australia trying to achieve them. The first few declarations in Australia led to five in the US between July 2017 and September 2018. As part of a separate GMob campaign, the first 20 declarations in Quebec occurred in September 2018.

But everything changed with the IPCC 1.5 Degree Special Report in October 2018. That triggered the first UK declaration by Bristol City Council on 13 November 2018, and that in turn sparked off a very rapid proliferation of new declarations in 2019, initially within UK and then throughout Europe. During 2020 the most active region has been Asia, with South Korea suddenly overtaking most other countries in terms of the number of jurisdictions making declarations when all except two local councils adopted a Climate Emergency Declaration on 5 June 2020. In Japan 44 jurisdictions, including Tokyo just yesterday, have declared a Climate Emergency, and Taiwan had its first two local government declarations in November 2020.

While some national declarations have occurred before any local subnational ones, the sheer number of Climate Emergency Declarations at the subnational level globally appears to have been a significant enabler, with all of the national declarations occurring either during or after the mid-2019 very steep rise in the number of citizens represented by subnational declarations. The Climate and Environmental Emergency Declaration recently passed by the Philippines Lower House (but still requiring further ratification) specifically cited the global proliferation of declarations in their declaration, as did the New Zealand declaration on Wednesday.

Many countries do not yet have any known climate emergency declarations, and currently the greatest concentration is in Europe, but even so there are at least some declarations scattered across much of the globe. Details of each declaration can be seen by clicking the markers on cedamia’s global map at https://www.cedamia.org/global-ced-maps.

Jurisdictions range from the smallest town and parish councils up to major cities like London, New York, Paris, Rome, Sydney, and Tokyo. The 32 regional/state governments include Scotland, Wales, Gibraltar, Quebec, and Northern Ireland. Five of Spain’s 17 regions have declared a Climate Emergency, as have seven regions in Italy, six cantons in Switzerland, and the Australian Capital Territory.

In Australia there have been 97 declarations so far, including by five of our seven capital cities: Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, and Sydney.

 

2. Are Climate Emergency Declarations ‘symbolic’?

An astonishing number of news articles reporting new Climate Emergency Declarations refer to them as being ‘symbolic’.
According to a recent news article on the New Zealand declaration, ‘The declaration comes without any newly assigned statutory powers or money, making it purely symbolic.’ But Jacinda Adhern clearly indicated the declaration was a commitment to action, including a new initiative requiring public agencies to be carbon neutral by 2025.

It takes time to develop the most effective course of action and determine the best way of allocating budget, but climate is already an emergency. During an emergency it makes no sense to remain silent about it and to delay emergency declarations until all action plans are in place. That public signal is vital, along with the public commitment to respond to the emergency. This is particularly so when public cooperation and voluntary effort are essential in order to reduce loss of life.

Many local council declarations include a commitment to developing a climate emergency action plan within a specified timeframe, some set carbon neutral target dates, some set a principle of considering the climate impact of all future council decisions, and all indicate at least some sort of commitment to responding to the emergency.

However, when critics say Climate Emergency Declarations are symbolic they tend to imply that they are empty words. But even if that were true the tsunami of new declarations from all levels of government over the last two years has firmly established ‘declaring a climate emergency’ as a widely known possibility rather than a fringe idea. Since mid-2019 the Guardian style guide has been encouraging use of ‘climate emergency’ rather than weaker terms, and ‘climate emergency’ was selected as the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year in 2019. No declarations could occur until the idea of doing so was conceived, and very few occurred until the concept built its own momentum.

Certainly the campaigners urging their respective jurisdictions to declare a Climate Emergency are not asking for an empty symbolic gesture. They are expecting urgent effective action at a scale and speed commensurate with the existential threat we face, and are quick to criticise any jurisdiction that fails to take as much action as they expect.

With over 1800 declarations it is easy to imagine significant variation in terms of follow-up actions, including some cases where the declarations might ultimately prove to be empty words, but a search of council websites reveals plenty of evidence that many local governments are making serious attempts to match their actions to the words.

A number have set new carbon neutrality targets for their own operations and for their entire communities. The cedamia data sheet does not yet have comprehensive data on targets for all jurisdictions, but the charts below show the data collected so far concerning community-wide targets.

Targets are known for 247 UK councils. Of those, 201 areas with a combined population of 35 million people have a 2030 or earlier carbon neutrality target date set by their council for their entire community.

The national trajectory adopted by the UK is to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. If the above 35 million people simply adhere to the national target, by 2050 their cumulative GHG emissions would be close to 4 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent. If instead they manage to achieve the 2030 target adopted by their local council, they will reduce that amount by around 2.5 billion tonnes.

The cedamia data sheet does not yet have comprehensive data on climate emergency action plans, but it includes links to 178 action plans from UK local councils that have declared a Climate Emergency and 29 from Australian councils.

The level of ambition varies, but typical actions include measuring current levels of GHG emissions and setting targets for reducing the emissions from council’s own operations and also those of the wider community, mapping out a costed action program to address emissions from buildings, transport, consumption, waste, and land use, and hiring extra staff or consulting experts to plan the most effective measures. Community engagement is a key feature in many cases, with the community either helping to draw up the action plans or being invited to give feedback on draft plans.

3. Are there legal implications?

This question has vexed many local governments and possibly prevented some from declaring a Climate Emergency. There are legal implications associated with declaring more familiar natural disaster or health emergencies, with associated ’emergency’ powers to allocate budget, mobilise resources to take specific counter-measures, and impose temporary restrictions on usual behaviour for the duration of the emergency.

Some Councillors have therefore wondered if declaring a Climate Emergency would expose them to legal obligations to take particular actions, and that uncertainty has given rise to various strategies. Some councils have chosen to ‘recognise’ or ‘acknowledge’ the Climate Emergency in order to avoid using the ‘declaration’ word. Some have a declared a climate crisis to avoid using the ’emergency’ word. Others have resorted to quotation marks and have declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ to signal that this is a neologism and not subject to legislation associated with other types of emergency declarations.

However, declaring a Climate Emergency began as a grassroots bottom-up initiative. Declarations and associated actions are evolving organically with no centralised top-down control, which is how it should be. As far as we know there is not (yet) any legislation defining what such a declaration means or stipulating anything a jurisdiction is obliged or permitted to do if they declare a Climate Emergency.

It has been the jurisdictions that have already declared a Climate Emergency that have been shaping what such a declaration is coming to mean in practice. Every local council that follows through with urgency and high ambition inspires other jurisdictions to equal or greater action, while ’empty words’ declarations are counter-productive and could potentially derail an otherwise promising avenue for urgent widespread change. If any jurisdictions are already operating in full-scale emergency mode it is not yet obvious from news articles, but anything less will mean more deaths and more ecosystem destruction.

 

4. Partisan influence

The first Climate Emergency Declarations in Australia and in the UK were proposed by Greens Councillors, but no council in either country had a Greens majority at the time of their declarations, and some had no Greens Councillors.

The vast majority of Councillors in the UK are affiliated with a particular political party so the UK provides the clearest example of cross-party support. Climate Emergency motions have been proposed by Councillors of all political stripes, and motions passing unanimously is not unusual.

In Australia many councils are either officially non-partisan or have many independents so trends are less clear. Anecdotal evidence suggest political bias is a factor influencing whether or not a declaration is proposed or approved, but at least one Liberal-dominated council has declared a Climate Emergency.

Political affiliations are not discernable for Councillors in Canada and New Zealand. In many cases affiliations are not published, and in the cases where they are, many Councillors are either independent or affiliated with local alliances rather than major parties. Patterns are also hard to see in European countries due to the large number of parties represented within councils, generally with no party having majority control.

Some states in the US stipulate that Councillors be non-partisan, including California where 36% of the declarations have occurred. Even so partisan influence is more clearly seen in the US than anywhere else. All 21 of the councils that have publicly partisan Councillors and a Climate Emergency Declaration have a Democrat majority.


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UK CED patchwork

Patchwork quilt of Climate Emergency Declarations in the UK

A small number of local councils in Australia and the US might have started the Climate Emergency Declaration trend, but is was Councillor Carla Denyer who got the ball rolling in the UK when her motion was passed by the Bristol City Council in November 2018. The subsequent spread across all of the UK has been truly astonishing.

One element of the theory of change concerning Climate Emergency Declarations by local councils is that, eventually, a patchwork quilt of council areas pursuing ambitious climate emergency action might cover almost an entire nation. This might lead to a national declaration, but even if not, the compelling vision is that almost the entire nation would be prioritising restoring a safe climate if each local council manages to engage and mobilise their community effectively.

Below is a council area boundary map of England showing the councils that had declared a Climate Emergency as of 20 February 2019. The pins indicate small town and parish councils, and the blocked in coloured areas indicate the city/district/county councils that had declared at that time. The purple area is the Greater London area declaration of December 2018. (View the full-size 2019 map here.) In addition, there had been declarations by the City of Edinburgh in Scotland and by several small towns and one county (Carmarthenshire) in Wales.

Climate Emergency Declarations in England at 20 February 2019

Then, in quick succession in April 2019, Scotland and Wales declared a Climate Emergency for their entire regions, and on 3 February 2020 Northern Ireland followed suit. Unlike those three countries, England does not have a separate devolved parliament, but the patchwork of English councils that have declared now covers much of England as well.

Climate Emergency Declarations in England at 20 Feb 2020

The blocked in pink areas in the map above represent declarations by individual city and district councils. Other coloured blocks represent county and combined authority declarations, but generally many of the councils within those areas have also declared a Climate Emergency independently. In addition, there have been numerous declarations by small town and parish councils but, for ease of viewing, the map only shows pins for those outside of areas where a higher level of local government has declared. (View the full-size 2020 map here.)

England might not have its own declaration, but even so almost 90% of the population live in an area covered by the growing patchwork of declarations.

With statistics like that, the theory of change suggests that the UK should have declared a Climate Emergency for the nation as whole by now.

A significant Opposition Day motion passed by Labour MPs on 1 May 2019 has been widely reported as the UK having ‘declared a Climate Emergency’, but they haven’t. For that to be binding the motion would need to be passed by a regular sitting of the full House of Commons and approved by the House of Lords. Hopefully that will still happen, but it might be tricky to build momentum for that given that ‘everyone’ seems to think the UK has already declared a Climate Emergency.

But either way, the spread of declarations across the UK, at various levels of local government from the tiniest to the very large, has so far been deeper and faster than anywhere else in the world…but the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand have been doing very well too! (Details are at https://www.cedamia.org/global/.)


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Latest Climate Emergency Declaration statistics

The number of jurisdictions globally that have declared a Climate Emergency changes almost every day, so bookmark this page if you want to always have the latest figures.

The Google sheet, charts, and map on this page are maintained by cedamia and update automatically whenever we verify and add a new Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) by any level of government, from local councils up to state/territory and national governments. [Scroll to the end of the page for our methodology and criteria.]

We rely heavily on Google Alerts for news of new CEDs in English-language regions, and we are grateful to our helpers in other-language regions for information about CEDs in their regions. Despite our best efforts, we are sure we miss some new CEDs, so please email us if you know of any we have missed. (Please send the council/jurisdiction name, date of the CED, a link to or copy of the declaration text, and a link to a news article if you have one.)

The following spreadsheet can be embedded in any website and updates automatically whenever we update the source data. Or it can be viewed directly in Google Drive via this link.

Click the sidebar icon at top left of the map below to see jurisdictions arranged in chronological order. Countries are arranged in chronological order according to the date of their first CED, and jurisdictions within each country are also in chronological order.

If you would like to embed this map in your own website, click the Share icon at top right of the map, then select ‘Share’ from the sidebar and copy the embed code.

Click on a pin on the map or on a name in the left sidebar to see CED details for that place. In most cases there is a link to a news article and a link to the text of the declaration passed by that jurisdiction.

Alternatively, use the country links on cedamia’s global page to see CED places in that country in chronological order and click the ‘more’ tags to see excerpts of CED resolutions and links to full texts.

Global charts…



New CEDs per month

CEDs by country

Sub-national CEDs

CEDs by region

Criteria and methodology

We add a jurisdiction to the list and map if:
– the resolution has been passed by the top level of the governing body of a jurisdiction, that is, by the Parliament of a country/state/territory/province, or by a meeting of full council or the cabinet of a local council
– the resolution declares/acknowledges/notes the Climate Emergency and resolves to act on it in some way. The words ‘climate emergency’ or the equivalent in the local language must be present, not just ‘climate crisis’ or similar, since our focus is specifically on places that are willing to name and frame climate as an emergency.

By way of verification we like to see a transcript of the resolution, for example the minutes of the meeting, or at least the agenda item and evidence that it was passed without significant amendment. News items alone are unreliable.

For population figures we generally use the figures published in Wikipedia. Where there are multiple tiers of government, such as town/city councils within county council areas, we avoid double-counting by making sure the population in the smaller jurisdiction is not counted again if the larger jurisdiction has already passed or subsequently passes a CED resolution. These adjustments are taken care of in background work sheets and are reflected in the various total and percentage figures, but actual populations of each jurisdiction are shown in the entries for individual jurisdictions.


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Climate Emergency Declaration Evolution

This timeline shows the evolution of Climate Emergency Declarations up to the end of May 2019 and their place in the broader Climate Emergency movement. No doubt there were other influences and influencers, but the following are the key timeline elements as far as we are aware.

Early days of the ‘Climate Emergency’ movement

2003, Lester Brown: advocated “climate action on the scope of the WWII mobilization” in his book Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble

2006, Al Gore: in the essay The Moment of Truth, and the film An Inconvenient Truth, urged the world to take the threat of climate change no less seriously than the threat of the Nazis during World War II and to face the “global emergency”

June 2008, David Spratt and Philip Sutton: in the book Climate Code Red: The case for emergency action argued that we must “devote as much of the world’s economic capacity as is necessary, as quickly as possible, to this climate emergency. If we do not do enough, and do not do it fast enough, we are likely to create a world in which far fewer species, and a lot less people, will survive… Declaring a climate and sustainability emergency is not just a formal measure or an empty political gesture, but an unambiguous reflection of a government’s and people’s commitment to intense and large-scale action. It identifies the highest priority to which sufficient resources will be applied in order to succeed.”

2008-2016, Australia: in response to Climate Code Red, a network of grassroots climate groups and activists started using the term ‘climate emergency’ and demanding emergency action as the only rational response. However, most large climate advocacy organisations in Australia consistently refused to use the term ‘climate emergency’, claiming it reinforced the wrong values and would ‘scare people off’.

November 2008, UK Public Interest Research Centre: published Climate Safety: In case of emergency…

November 2009, Paul Gilding: published the essay The One Degree War Plan with Jorgen Randers. It said it was time to “declare a global emergency and mobilise all available resources, political will and human ingenuity towards one task”, catastrophic climate change.

2010, Beyond Zero Emissions: published the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, the first in a series of reports from the group set up by Adrian Whitehead and Matthew Wright to map practical pathways to negative emissions in order to tackle the climate emergency

October 2010, UK Labour Party: proposed an Early Day Motion with 45 signatures, beginning as follows:

That this House recognises that there is a climate emergency and that the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate represents the greatest threat that humanity faces; further recognises that the world is already above the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration for a stable planet; further recognises the need to reduce this level to 350 particles per million or below; believes it is impossible to predict how close the world is to dangerous tipping points and that action to reduce emissions now is worth considerably more than doing the same later; further believes that immediate action is required to enact a program of emergency measures with substantial emissions reductions in the short term of the order of 10 per cent. by the end of 2010…

2011, Paul Gilding: in The Great Disruption, laid out the reasons to “address the emergency with the commitment of our response to WWII and begin a real transformation to a sustainable economy”

2013, Save the Planet: established as a political party, set up by Adrian Whitehead specifically to tackle the climate emergency

2015, The Climate Mobilisation (TCM): began calling for WWII-scale mobilisation to tackle the climate emergency, at least partly influenced by Climate Code Red. Margaret Klein Salamon published Leading the Public into Emergency Mode, which tackled the widely held view at that time that climate campaigners should not talk about a ‘climate emergency’. Initially TCM were asking for pledges to vote for election candidates based on their climate-related policies.

Thanks to Philip Sutton, Adrian Whitehead, and David Spratt for information about timeline events prior 2016.

From ‘Climate Emergency’ (CE) to ‘Climate Emergency Declaration’ (CED)

1 April 2016, Australia: drawing on mobilisation concepts from Climate Code Red, and treating the February 2016 spike in average global temperature of 1.6C above pre-industrial times as a ‘wake up call’, CE campaigners launched the first CED petition: ‘We call on the Australian Parliament to declare a climate emergency and to mobilise resources to restore a safe climate.’ A handful of other very similar CED petitions targeting the national government quickly followed and were handled as a suite of petitions on the climateemergencydeclaration.org website. By May 2019 over 22,000 signatures had been collected.

5 December 2016, Darebin City Council: became the first local council to declare a Climate Emergency. In the leadup to the 2016 Victorian council elections, local CED campaigners in various council areas asked council candidates to sign this CED statement of support and many of the Darebin, Yarra, and Moreland candidates who ended up being elected signed prior to be being elected. Yarra City Council was the next to pass a CED motion, on 7 February 2017. Moreland City Council also passed a CED motion, but not until 12 September 2018.

Council candidate CED statement of support

2017, Council Action in the Climate Emergency (CACE): set up by Adrian Whitehead and Bryony Edwards to encourage and guide local council CEDs

1 January to 28 February 2017, kayak4earth: Steve Posselt’s 8-week kayak trek down the coast of NSW from Ballina during which he promoted the Climate Emergency Declaration petition and collected signatures to add to those being collected online. He handed over the 18,000 signatures collected at that stage at Parliament House in Canberra.

June 2017, CED petition to all 3 levels of government: in recognition that smaller jurisdictions would be likely to declare a Climate Emergency earlier than a national government, as had indeed already occurred at Darebin and Yarra councils, cedamia launched a 3-level CED petition targeting local councils and state/territory governments in addition to the national government. Cedamia continued to collaborate with CACE on encouraging other Australian local councils to pass CED motions, as well as developing state/territory No More Bad Investments (NMBI) campaigns as a first step of Climate Emergency action.

November 2017, Hoboken City Council: The Climate Mobilisation (TCM) in the US began focusing on climate action by local councils after seeing the Darebin and Yarra declarations. The Hoboken resolution was their first success, although this was actually a ‘climate mobilisation’ resolution rather than a CED motion.

December 2017, Montgomery County Council: the first actual Climate Emergency Declaration to pass in the US.

April 2018, Vincent City Council: the first successful CED motion in Western Australia. This was achieved via outreach by CACE.

August 2018, GMob group, Quebec: began their Déclaration Citoyenne Universelle D’Urgence Climatique campaign which resulted in over 300 places in Quebec, from tiny towns to large cities, signing CEDs by the time we heard about it in early 2019. An English translation of their declaration document is here. This campaign appears to have sprung up without any cross-fertilisation with the other events in this timeline.

8 October 2018, IPCC Special Report: another strong ‘wake up call’, and one which appears to have galvanised the exponential growth in jurisdictions passing CED motions ever since. Prior to publication of the IPCC report, we were aware of only 10 councils in the English-speaking world that had passed CED motions, five in Australia and five in the US. (Although we didn’t know it at the time, councils in Quebec had already begun passing French-language CED motions, and there may have been declarations in other language groups that we don’t know about).

October 2018, Greta Thunberg: became a prominent figure as instigator of School Strikes for Climate, with students in numerous countries joining in and calling for Climate Emergency Declarations and/or other types of emergency action since November 2018

13 November 2018, Bristol City Council: became the first local council in the UK to pass a CED motion. The CED motion proposed by Clr. Carla Denyer explicitly mentions “City Councils around the world are responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing resources to address this emergency”, and a footnote mentions successful CED motions in the US.

December 2018, UK CED supporters: began calling for councils, and later the UK parliament, to declare a Climate Emergency. This was initially primarily the work of the Greens Party, but was soon picked up and amplified by students and Extinction Rebellion campaigners. Subsequent CED motions at UK councils were proposed by either Greens, Labour, Lib Dem, or Conservative councillors, with even Conservative-dominated councils passing CED motions. By May 2019 over 100 UK councils, ranging from parish councils to borough and county councils and including the London Assembly and Glasgow Council, had passed CED motions,

5 December 2018, global CED map: was set up by cedamia to track the spread of CED councils, with much of the information for the map and the ICEF spreadsheet of CED places sourced from daily Google Alerts. At that time the Google Alerts rarely included any news items that mentioned ‘climate emergency’, but by May 2019 there were 50 or more news articles most days. Some involved generic use of the term, but most of the increase resulted from the exponential rise in news articles about jurisdictions ‘declaring a climate emergency’, or being urged to declare one.

Global CED map as of 5 December 2018
Global CED map as of 30 May 2019

16 January 2019: Vancouver Council: became the first Canadian council outside of Quebec to declare a Climate Emergency, to be followed over the next few months by 20 others, including Ottawa on April 24

20 February 2019, Switzerland: was the next country to join in, with Basel passing a CED motion, followed by six more over subsequent months, including Geneva

29 April 2019, Welsh Parliament: became the first Parliament in the world to declare a Climate Emergency

29 April, Italy: was next when Acri City Council passed a CED motion in response to campaigning by the Fridays for Future group, followed by Milan on May 20

3 May 2019, Gibraltar Parliament: became the second Parliament in the world to declare a Climate Emergency

3 May, Greenpeace Australia: became one of the first major Australian eNGO to start using the ‘climate emergency’ term, and launched a petition calling on the Australian government to declare a Climate Emergency, which in a matter of weeks reached over 25,000 signatures

9 May 2019, Republic of Ireland (Eire): had already passed one CED motion, at Wicklow County Council on April 29, but then in May the Irish Parliament passed the first national CED anywhere in the world

16 May 2019, Australian Capital Territory (ACT): became the first state/territory level government in Australia to declare a Climate Emergency. A week later Tasmania looked set to become the second, with both Greens and Labor proposing CED motions, but ultimately the Greens motion was defeated 13:12 with the Speaker of the House using her casting vote to defeat it.

17 May 2019, The Guardian style guide: had this to say – Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”

19 May 2019, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation: in the Yukon, Canada, became the first autonomously governed First Nations region to declare a Climate Emergency

20 May 2019, Kate Ahmad: launched a change.org petition asking Prime Minister Scott Morrison to declare a Climate Emergency. It achieved over 75,000 signatures in the first week.

May 2019, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, New Zealand, and Czechia: in quick succession all had their first successful CED motions, including 11 in Germany, 4 in New Zealand, and the Catalonian Parliament in Spain

As of May 31, 2019
As of May 31, 2019

By the end of May 2019, we were aware of 594 jurisdictions in 13 countries that had declared a Climate Emergency (but there may have been more), representing an overall population of over 70 million. In Britain roughly 50% of the population lives in areas that have declared, 30% in Canada, and around 15% in New Zealand, Switzerland, and Spain. In Australia 22 jurisdictions representing 8.29% of the population had declared: 5 in Victoria, 3 in WA, 10 in NSW, 3 in SA, and the ACT government.

Many of the declarations prior to the IPCC Special Report appear to have resulted from campaign efforts by groups such as CACE, TCM, and GMob, and more recently School Strikers, Fridays for Future, and Extinction Rebellion have also started calling for declarations. But quite often Councillors or other local authorities have been instigating Climate Emergency Declarations themselves in response to seeing the declarations by other local authorities in their region and globally.

What started out as a ‘wild idea‘ has become ‘a thing’ that has taken on a life of its own, and in the process has well and truly moved the term ‘climate emergency’ into everyday usage.


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Hostage to myopic self-interest: climate science is watered down under political scrutiny

In his book Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell describes a double-speak totalitarian state where most of the population accepts “the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane.”

Orwell could have been writing about climate change and policymaking.

International agreements talk of limiting global warming to 1.5–2°C, but in reality they set the world on a path of 3–5°C. Goals are reaffirmed, only to be abandoned. Coal, by definition, is “clean”. Just 1°C of warming is already dangerous, but this cannot be said. The planetary future is hostage to myopic, national self-interest. Action is delayed on the assumption that as yet unproven technologies will save the day, decades hence. The risks are existential, but it is “alarmist” to say so. A one-in-two chance of missing a goal is normalised as reasonable.

Read the full article by Ian Dunlop, published by the Guardian on 11/9/17, at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/11/hostage-to-myopic-self-interest-climate-science-is-watered-down-under-political-scrutiny

Metamorphosis from wild idea into a no-brainer

This article was originally published by Margaret Hender on the Climate Emergency Declaration website on September 7, 2016.

You might recall, not so many years ago, nobody was asking for 100 per cent renewable electricity, or even thinking about it or imagining it might be possible. So what happened?

One evening a group of climate campaigners were sitting around a kitchen table trying to devise strategies for reducing carbon emissions. One person had a wild idea and wondered aloud if it would be possible to switch to 100 per cent renewable electricity (or so I’m told – I wasn’t there). How could we do that? Would that be possible? Reliable? How much would it cost?

Beyond Zero Emissions then set about researching those questions, and a year or so later published the 100% Renewable Stationary Energy Plan. They showed it could be done, how to do it, how long it would take, and what it would cost.

Suddenly we all knew 100 per cent renewable electricity is perfectly possible, and we could all imagine achieving just that. Almost overnight, we started believing it was a possible future and campaigning to get it. Since then other studies have confirmed and updated BZE’s basic message.

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These days almost any conversation about climate includes mention of 100 per cent renewable electricity. It’s a familiar part of the public discourse. It appears in petitions, submissions, interviews, and media. It’s treated as a standard and fully legitimate campaign ask. What’s more, almost everyone can imagine it happening, and almost everyone except the fossil fuel incumbents want it to happen sooner or later. It’s become a no-brainer.

Where we are at

Right now the Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation campaign is just a few months past the wild idea round the kitchen table stage. Very few people have thought of it or heard of it, and very few are yet imagining it is a possible future. How do we get from this point to the same sort of no-brainer point that the 100 per cent renewable electricity campaign now enjoys?

We’ve done a few things already. The first thing was the petition. Asking someone to sign a petition is a good way of making the signer aware that this new campaign ask exists. We’ve also collected quite a few eminent person endorsements, which helps tell the world that this is not just a wild idea.

We’ve been trying to paint a picture of what a climate emergency declaration and mobilisation might look like, and what it might achieve. We posted a hypothetical Sydney Morning Herald front page and article in which the Prime Minister of the day announced such a declaration and discussed a couple of first climate mobilisation measures.

Philip Sutton has written a draft of the sort of legislation that would need to be enacted in order for Parliament to declare a climate emergency.

We’ve been posting social media memes indicating that many of the current climate-related campaigns, like stopping Adani, banning CSG, stopping drilling in the Bight, protecting native forests, closing Hazelwood, etc., would be won almost automatically if this top level climate mobilisation ask is won.

The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse in Geelong has been podcasting a series of interviews with policy makers and leaders about the challenges and the solutions.

Once we imagine it we can demand it

Clearly there is more work to do though to make the Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation campaign into a familiar no-brainer. But we think we have a powerful tale to tell.

Global average temperature spiked at over 1.5°C in February, and already another 0.5°C is locked in once we stop burning fossil fuels unless we take additional actions to counteract that. Already people are dying from heat stroke and starvation, drowning in floods, and running out of water. Ecosystems are being damaged, and inhabited land is being lost to sea-level rise. Doing anything less than going ‘beyond zero emissions’ as rapidly as humanly possible is now morally inexcusable.

History has shown us how amazingly quickly economies can be restructured when society faces an existential threat. During World War II, factories were repurposed, large slabs of the GDP were spent on the war effort, and the public by and large rose to the occasion and did what was deemed necessary. The best minds from all sides of politics worked together for the common good.

A climate emergency declaration would be a powerful signal saying that society as a whole is now entering ‘emergency mode’ and will give highest priority to reaching net zero emissions as quickly as possible. Emergency mode would continue until we are clearly heading in the right direction for a safe and cooler climate.

A first mobilisation step might be to ban all new fossil fuel projects and ban logging of native forests. Those could be achieved with the stroke of a pen. Fossil fuel subsidies could be redirected to help establish an electric vehicle industry. Coal and gas exports could be replaced by exporting solar generation to Asia via an undersea cable.

Renewable electricity and energy efficiency measures could be rolled-out extremely rapidly following a well-considered best scenario of what to do where. We already know what to do! This would create large numbers of jobs for those no longer employed in fossil fuel industries and others. As in World War II, it’s likely we’d again enjoy full employment.

So, what should we do next to help society as whole imagine this possible future? Once we imagine it we can demand it. If enough people from a broad enough cross-section of society demand it, the government could declare a climate emergency tomorrow and start throwing our considerable resources at the goal of protecting all people, species, and ecosystems.


Paris 1.5-2°C target far from safe, say world-leading scientists

This is why we do what we do!

So what would be safe? The answer is that “limiting the period and magnitude of temperature excursion above the Holocene range is crucial to avoid strong stimulation of slow feedbacks”.
In other words, aim to get temperatures back under the Holocene maximum of 0.5ºC, which implies a level of greenhouse gases below 320 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), compared to the current level of 405 ppm.

Read the full article by David Spratt, published at Climate Code Red on 27/7/17, at http://www.climatecodered.org/2017/07/paris-15-2c-target-far-from-safe-say.html


The Planet Is Warming. And It’s Okay to Be Afraid

Another article in response to David Wallace-Wells’ recent controversial article in the New York Magazine.

Last Week, David Wallace-Wells wrote a cover story for of New York Magazine, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” on some of the worst-case scenarios that the climate crisis could cause by the end of this century. It describes killer heat waves, crippling agricultural failures, devastated economies, plagues, resource wars, and more. It has been read more than two million times.

The article has caused a major controversy in the climate community, in part because of some factual errors in the piece—though by and large the piece is an accurate portrayal of worst-case climate catastrophe scenarios. But by far the most significant criticism the piece received was that it was too frightening.

Read the full article by Margaret Klein Salamon, published by Common Dreams on 17/7/17, at https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/07/17/planet-warming-and-its-okay-be-afraid

Also read her excellent analysis of the benefits of ’emergency mode’ at Leading the Public into Emergency Mode