Susan Close and School children launching Create4Adelaide climate action project

Sub-national governments and the Climate Emergency

Most of the 2,300+ known Climate Emergency Declarations (CEDs) so far have been at the local government level, but 41 have been by sub-national governments. They include UK devolved governments (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), state governments (eg. Hawaii, Quebec, and South Australia), six of the 26 cantons in Switzerland, eight of the 20 regional governments in Italy, four of the 17 autonomous regions in Spain, and seven of the 47 prefectures in Japan.

While sub-national governments have much greater capacity to take action on the climate emergency than lower levels of government, I don’t often see reports in English-language media about good things they are doing (although there may be more in other languages). It was refreshing therefore to see the recent reports on the sub-national government actions below.

Climate Emergency action in Wales

Wales was one of the earliest sub-national governments to declare a Climate Emergency, on 29 April 2019. They have adopted a net zero 2030 target for the public sector and a 2050 target (with numerous interim targets) for Wales as a whole.

In February 2023 the Welsh Government scrapped all major road schemes, placing the climate and ecological emergency at the heart of decision making on future infrastructure spending. After a review some of the previously planned road projects are likely to proceed, but priority is being given to rail, bus, walking, and cycling projects.

In March 2023 the Welsh Government announced £60 million to make schools and colleges across Wales more sustainable. This will include money for efficient low-carbon heating and LED lighting.

And an article just this week discusses the Welsh response to the highly topical issue of climate migration. On one hand they are dealing with strategies for relocation of the first Welsh town likely to become uninhabitable due to erosion, extreme storms, and sea level rise, Fairbourne in Gwynedd. But they also are focused on a humanitarian response to the broader global issue of climate displacement. This includes the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership, under which the Welsh Government provides funding to help coordinate refugee schemes and settle refugees in Wales.

Action in South Australia

South Australia has a long history of championing renewable electricity and reached an average of 70% renewable electricity over the last year. The state Upper House passed a Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) back in September 2019, then in May 2022 both houses passed a CED motion. The government also announced plans for a new green hydrogen project in SA at that time.

In February 2023 Deputy Premier Susan Close announced the Create4Adelaide project. This is a novel community outreach scheme involving a survey asking school children to vote on their top priorities for climate action, followed by a climate emergency art competition which will continue in schools throughout the year. The resulting artworks will be part of the 2024 Adelaide Festival of Arts. While none of that directly reduces carbon emissions, it is a clever mechanism for normalising climate emergency thinking and action.

Additionally, in April the SA Government will be holding an Industry Climate Change Conference exploring the path to net zero.

Hawaii state climate emergency action

The state of Hawaii passed a CED motion back in April 2021, so far the only US state to do so, and set a 2045 carbon neutral target date. Hawaii is also one of the very few sub-national governments to support the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty so far.

In February 2023 Hawaii created a $100 million climate fund to continue guiding the state’s adaptation and mitigation efforts. The fund will be used to leverage historic federal matching funds for climate action, to provide a year-round source of funding for government and communities, to facilitate better coordination between communities and agencies, and to receive donations to address climate issues from non-government organizations.

Other sub-national climate actions

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) passed a CED motion back in 2019 and was the first sub-national government to sign the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty. The ACT has already reached 100% renewable electricity and has various schemes in place geared to ending fossil gas use as early as possible.

The of Quebec Parliament passed a CED motion in 2019. While they’ve not signed the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty, they did ban all new coal, oil, and gas extraction and production in April 2022.

No state CED yet – but some good climate actions

New York state has not yet declared a Climate Emergency (New York City has), but they currently have a bill before the Senate to declare a climate emergency and place a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Similarly the New South Wales state government has not passed a CED motion but are making good progress on their Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) rollout.

In an even more encouraging move, NSW has announced an $8 million electrification pilot program during which householders in three towns (one each in an urban, regional, and remote community) will have the opportunity to ‘electrify everything’ and stop using fossil gas. The focus is on finding the best ways to upgrade existing homes with all-electric and energy efficient appliances and technologies before expanding to other towns and regions.

To my mind the really very best thing about this electrification pilot scheme is that it amounts to unusually explicit recognition by an Australian state government that ‘getting off gas’ is the way to go.

If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

A semon representing new fossil fuel projects and a smiley-face world for a safe climate

Quebec: Climate Emergency Declaration and fossil fuel ban

Quebec declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, and in April 2022 Quebec banned all new coal, oil, and gas extraction and production. This ban is a massively important precedent, but I’d not heard about it until I saw this announcement from the David Suzuki Foundation.

Quebec has ended fossil fuel exploration and development projects on its territory — a historic victory for its ecosystems and population … proving that it’s possible to act on the science the climate emergency requires.

Charles Bonhomme, Public Affairs and Communications Manager

Quebec has huge amounts of hydroelectricity, perhaps making a fossil fuel ban easier to achieve than in many other jurisdictions. But even so, the Suzuki article mentions a handful of proposed oil and gas projects that now will never be able to go ahead. It also claims Quebec is the “first jurisdiction on Earth to ban fossil fuel development in its territory — a visionary lead for all of Canada, and the world.”

It is certainly visionary and makes Quebec an inspiring precedent to emulate, but it isn’t actually the first. The first subnational jurisdiction to ban new fossil fuel projects was the Australian Capital Territory when it signed on to the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty in June 2021. In May 2022 the state legislature of Hawaii also signed that treaty. However, neither the ACT or Hawaii had current or proposed fossil fuel projects, so in that respect the Quebec ban could be counted as the first to achieve a really tangible benefit.

Fossil fuel bans as a follow-on action to Climate Emergency Declarations

Banning new fossil fuel exploration and extraction seems like such a very obvious first step to take after declaring a Climate Emergency for any jurisdiction that has control over such things. It is essential even if it is hard to achieve. However, so far Quebec, the ACT, and Hawaii are the only ones I’ve heard of doing so out of the 41 subnational jurisdictions (states, provinces, etc) and 18 nations globally that have passed a Climate Emergency Declaration (CED).

South Australia has declared a Climate Emergency, and like Quebec has much less dependence on fossil fuels than many regions. Could South Australia be the next jurisdiction to sign the non-proliferation treaty and/or simply ban new fossil fuel projects?

In Australia it is the state governments that make fossil fuel decisions and building regulations rather than local councils, but Darebin (and maybe some other CED local councils) have sought state government exemptions to enable them to ban gas connections to new buildings in their area. Local councils can also sign on to the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty like five of the Australian CED councils have done (Sydney, Darebin, Maribyrnong, Moreland and Yarra), and they can lobby their state governments to do so too.

Climate Emergency Declarations in Quebec

Climate Emergency awareness seems to be unusually high in Quebec.

In Montreal 150,000 people turned up in May 2019 for the first of the really large global school climate strikes, by far the biggest turnout anywhere. For that particular strike, numbers of 30,000 or less were reported for other major cities. The September 2019 global school climate strike in Montreal was even bigger, with an estimated 500,000 attendees, compared with 100,000 or similar in other major cities.

GMob campaigners promoting climate emergency declarations in Quebec
Promotion of GMob Climate Emergency Declarations in Quebec

Climate Emergency Declarations in Quebec have taken a different path to those elsewhere, with no apparent cross-fertilisation between Quebec and other regions. The GMob Climate Emergency Declaration (Déclaration d’Urgence Climatique) is a strong declaration statement that was drafted by the GMob team. They lobbied all Quebec local councils to sign that declaration rather than having each council develop their own CED motion. In most other countries – South Korea was an exception – each council has been responsible for developing their own declaration text albeit with a degree of copying and pasting from earlier declaration texts, particularly in the UK and USA.

At the time of the first 20 Quebec declaration sign-ons in September 2018 there were already four CED councils in Australia and four in USA, but Quebec campaigners told us they had not heard about those. There were another 80 declarations in Montreal in November 2018, around the time of the first CED in the UK, but similarly we in Australia did not hear about any of the Quebec declarations till much later.

As of April 2021, 525 local councils, representing 83% of the population of Quebec, have signed the GMob declaration. Of those, 403 councils had already signed by the time of the Quebec state-level Climate Emergency declaration in November 2019. Quebec has thus been one of the few regions where the pattern campaigners expected has materialised: first a groundswell of climate urgency support at the local level, then a state-level CED, followed by major state-level actions such as the recent ban on new fossil fuel projects.

The power of precedents

The global spread of CEDs has been helped along by the power of precedents, with clear cross-fertilisation firstly from Australia to USA, then from USA to the UK before becoming widely visible and spreading to Europe, the rest of Canada, South America, and Asia.

It is hoped something similar will happen with bans on new fossil fuel projects, but precedents only have power if they are seen!

If you want South Australia to follow its CED with a ban on new fossil fuel projects, you could try telling your MPs about the precedents set by the ACT, Hawaii, and Quebec. If you want your local CED council to restrict fossil fuel use in new buildings, or sign on to the fossil fuel treaty, they are likely to prick up their ears if you tell them about the other CED councils that have already taken those initiatives. And please tell us all in a comment below if you know of other fossil fuel bans I’ve missed!

If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

China gears up to ban new fossil fuel powered cars

The largest and fastest-growing car market in the world is going to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars. China has announced plans to join the rapidly expanding list of countries with plans to phase out fossil fuel-burning cars, a list that includes the UK, France, Norway, and India.

“These measures will promote profound changes in the environment and give momentum to China’s auto industry development.”said vice minister of industry and information technology, Xin Guobi, at a recent Chinese forum on cars. China has moved swiftly to be the world’s largest producer and buyer of electric cars — motivated by a desire to reduce urban air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and oil imports.

Read the full article by Joe Romm, published by RenewEconomy on 12/9/17, at

France to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040

Norway, Netherlands, and now France setting dates for bans on petrol and diesel vehicles. Not sure why they can’t do this sooner, but it’s nevertheless a step in the right direction.

France will end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of an ambitious plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord, Emmanuel Macron’s government has announced.

The announcement comes a day after Volvo said it would only make fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards, a decision hailed as the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine’s dominance of motor transport after more than a century.

Read the full article by Angelique Chrisafis and Adam Vaughan, published by The Guardian on 06/7/17, at