Strategies in Action
CED concept and practice
Most councils will only accept hardcopy petitions for tabling at a council meeting, so check your local council’s website for details. But, tabling a petition is really only helpful if you have not managed to persuade a Councillor to propose a CED motion yet. Online petitions are useful though for attracting attention to your council CED campaign and reaching out to potential supporters.
You can see our Sample Council CED petition full size here. (Keep the petition demand part short if you are also going to collect hardcopy signatures because the demand will need to be printed on every petition sheet.)
Council CED motions
The texts of the successful motions at all the Australian councils that have declared so far are at https://www.cedamia.org/ced-regions-in-australia/. Motions passed in other countries can be found via the country links at https://www.cedamia.org/global/.
We suggest you aim to include the following main elements:
– reference to the IPCC Special Report, recent increases in carbon emissions, and/or other indications of the urgency of taking action
– acknowledgment of local progress by your local council so far
– a clause clearly declaring or acknowledging the Climate Emergency
– a resolution to draw up a comprehensive action plan
– a focus on community-wide emissions reduction and engagement, not just council’s own operations
– a resolution to encourage other councils and higher levels of government to also take action
See our favourite clauses from various CED motions passed so far at Drafting a Climate Emergency Declaration motion.
Below are potential responses to some of the more common questions or objections from Councillors.
1. For those who want to use words other than Climate Emergency Declaration (CED)
Quite a lot of councils have declared a Climate and Ecological/Environment/Biodiversity Emergency rather than just a CED. You can see the motions passed by other councils and a lot of other data in cedamia’s global CED datasheet. The term CED is used generically, but if you look at the motions on the individual country pages you’ll see quite a few that have included ‘ecological’ or similar in their CED clause, and quite a few of the Australian ones have acknowledged/recognised/noted the Climate Emergency rather than using ‘declare’. (For inclusion on the global map and list of CED places, a council motion must include ‘climate emergency’, but the other words can vary.)
2. Council is already taking a lot of climate-related action, so what difference does declaring a Climate Emergency make?
Many councils are indeed already taking a lot of action to reduce carbon emissions from their own operations, but to turn the Climate Emergency around we need the entire community to be taking action. A CED motion is a powerful public signal. It says ‘we are all in this together – council is doing such-and-such and here is what all of you can do too’. People need to know they are not the only ones trying to make a difference (because they think one household doing the right thing can’t make a difference).
3. What does a CED imply for future council actions?
Even councils that have been doing very well in terms of climate mitigation actions in the past recognise that they could do better or act with greater urgency regarding reducing the carbon emissions from their own operations, and in particular they could do a lot more to engage their residents with a sense of community-wide climate purpose. In general, passing a CED motion should mean that council subsequently puts a higher priority on climate-related initiatives
Tangible actions will vary considerably from council to council, and council staff would be in the best position to advise about the most cost-effective and rapid carbon-reduction measures a particular council could take. For example, would it be more effective to put solar on all council premises, or more effective to set up a revolving fund to make it easy for all homeowners in the area to install solar? Or, maybe it would be even more cost-effective to help local households transition to all-electric rather than gas+electric energy use.
4. What about budget implications?
A CED motion does not necessarily imply higher rates. It might simply mean effective carbon reduction measures are given a much higher priority when making budget decisions. For example, one UK council had recently allocated 500,000 pounds to refurbishing council buildings, but after their CED motion they decided to postpone that and instead allocate that money to immediate programs to help reduce the carbon footprint of all their residents.
Community education and engagement programs don’t necessarily cost anything more since council already budgets for various types of community engagement. A program to educate householders about choosing efficient electric appliances rather than gas appliances when they build or need a new appliance would cost council very little but would potentially greatly reduce the carbon emissions of the council area as a whole, particularly given that the percentage of renewable electricity on the grid is increasing rapidly and once it reaches net-100% renewables household use of electric appliances will have no carbon emissions at all.
5. Is a CED ‘just symbolic’ or ‘just words’?
It should not be! And most councils do in fact include specific actions or specific emissions reduction targets in their CED motions. If you look at the individual country pages under cedamia’s global page you’ll see some ‘progress so far’ entries saying what some councils have done since. (That info is far from comprehensive – it just reflects what has been reported in the media so far.) Where known, links to local council Climate Emergency Action Plans are included in cedamia’s global CED datasheet.
6. We don’t want to scare people by using emergency language
Many people are already scared, and the scariest thing is that most levels of government are not taking climate seriously enough and are not implementing the solutions we already have available and already know are necessary. The CED motions and action resolutions being passed by local councils (and higher levels of government in some countries) offer the first glimmer of hope in an otherwise frightening time.
There is also the ‘duty of care’ aspect. If there is a flood or fire emergency, people rely on the ‘authorities’ to warn them and give information about what everyone can and should do to stay safe. If those in authority say and do nothing, people will assume everything is fine and not do the things they could do to help. Climate is a ‘long emergency’, not a short-term one, but we need to treat it like the emergency that it is and give priority to reversing it asap before we reach irreversible climate tipping points.
7. It’s not council’s job – council should stick to ‘roads, rates, and rubbish’
Each state has its own Local Government Act, but all of them indicate that council’s role is much broader than provision of basic services. Click below to see what the legislation says about the function of local councils in your state.New South Wales
NSW Local Government Act
[8A(2)] states that, when making decisions, Councils should
(b) Councils should consider social justice principles.
(c) Councils should consider the long term and cumulative effects of actions on future generations.
(d) Councils should consider the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
and at 8C, (h)
Councils should manage risks to the local community or area or to the council effectively and proactively.
NT Local Government Act
11 Principal role of council
The role of a council is:
(a) to act as a representative, informed and responsible decision-maker in the interests of its constituency;
12 Functions of a council
(1) The functions of a council include the following:
(c) to provide for the interests and well-being of individuals and groups within the council area;
(d) to carry out measures to protect its area from natural and other hazards and to mitigate the effects of such hazards
13 Objectives of a council
(h) generally to act at all times in the best interests of the community as a whole
SA Local Government Act
The functions of a council include –
(c) to provide for the welfare, well-being and interests of individuals and groups within its community;
(d) to take measures to protect its area from natural and other hazards and to mitigate the effects of such hazards;
(e) to manage, develop, protect, restore, enhance and conserve the environment in an ecologically sustainable manner, and to improve amenity;
(f) to provide infrastructure for its community and for development within its area (including infrastructure that helps to protect any part of the local or broader community from any hazard or other event, or that assists in the management of any area);
Queensland Local Government Act
(2)The local government principles are—
(a)transparent and effective processes, and decision-making in the public interest; and
(b)sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure, and delivery of effective services; and
(c)democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement; and
(d)good governance of, and by, local government; and
(e)ethical and legal behaviour of councillors and local government employees.
Tas Local Government Act
20. Functions and powers
(1) In addition to any functions of a council in this or any other Act, a council has the following functions:
(a) to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the community;
(b) to represent and promote the interests of the community;
(c) to provide for the peace, order and good government of the municipal area.
(2) In performing its functions, a council is to consult, involve and be accountable to the community.
Vic Local Government Act
3C Objectives of a Council
(1) The primary objective of a Council is to endeavour to achieve the best outcomes for the local community having regard to the long term and cumulative effects of decisions.
(2) In seeking to achieve its primary objective, a Council must have regard to the following facilitating objectives—
(a) to promote the social, economic and environmental viability and sustainability of the municipal district;
(b) to ensure that resources are used efficiently and effectively and services are provided in accordance with the Best Value Principles to best meet the needs of the local community;
(c) to improve the overall quality of life of people in the local community;
3D What is the role of a Council?
(2) The role of a Council includes—
(a) acting as a representative government by taking into account the diverse needs of the local community in decision making;
(b) providing leadership by establishing strategic objectives and monitoring their achievement;
(c) maintaining the viability of the Council by ensuring that resources are managed in a responsible and accountable manner;
(d) advocating the interests of the local community to other communities and governments;
(e) acting as a responsible partner in government by taking into account the needs of other communities;
WA Local Government Act
1.3. Content and intent
(3) In carrying out its functions a local government is to use its best endeavours to meet the needs of current and future generations through an integration of environmental protection, social advancement and economic prosperity.
Deputations at Council meetings
Most councils require that you register a couple of days in advance if you wish to address a council meeting (give a deputation) from the public gallery, so check you council’s website for details. This is a powerful thing to do to show public support when there is a CED motion on the agenda, particularly if you can also pack out the gallery with supporters. Ideally the person giving the deputation will be a local resident (but there can be more than one deputation, so it might be helpful to also arrange for a local climate scientist to speak).
Generally there is a time limit of 5 minutes, but short and sharp is best (3-4 minutes).
If you already know a CED motion will be on the agenda, the email texts below might give you some ideas. For an up to date count on how many councils have declared globally and in your own state, see https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1rUFVOw8GKgZyOXprE8uUOQnUewljoxoE0Jp7wZUevPY/.
As a resident of Moonee Valley, I want to congratulate you on the wonderful efforts that you are already taking to care for my future, especially though the MV2040 strategy. However, I am also deeply concerned about the state of our planet and what the future holds for me, my family and my friends and I believe we are facing a climate emergency.
I therefore ask that you please support a climate emergency declaration to acknowledge the situation. Once this important step is taken, we then need the follow through with resources and action to fully address the crisis as rapidly as possible. I will fully support you in this and would love to see all residents and Council working together to create a stronger community and a better future for all of us!
Dear Lord Mayor Verschoor and Councillors,
Yesterday Zel Whiting (an Adelaide School Striker) and myself met with Clr Robert Simms and Michelle English to ask Adelaide City Council to declare/acknowledge that we face a Climate Emergency that requires everyone, Council and the wider community, to take urgent action.
Adelaide City Council has already been taking leadership on climate for many years, and in particular with the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Plan, so we think you are in a great position to also join the growing wave of local councils globally that are declaring a Climate Emergency. Typically they are committing to develop even more ambitious action plans – plans that go beyond council’s own activities to also engage their communities in an empowering sense of shared action.
So far almost 400 local councils in 5 countries, including 12 in Australia, have passed Climate Emergency motions. The global list includes major cities like Los Angeles, Vancouver, and London, but so far no Australian capital city councils have done so. We’d love Adelaide to be the first!
Gawler Town Council is the only SA council to have passed a Climate Emergency motion so far, but Adelaide Hills and Light Councils both have such a motion on the agenda for their March meetings.
As I’m sure you know, thousands of School Strikers took to the streets in Australia last November, and thousands more in Europe as well more recently. A massive global student strike day is this Friday. The scariest thing about the Climate Emergency is that, until recently, no level of government seemed to be taking it seriously. Action brings hope. The local councils that are declaring a Climate Emergency and committing to urgent action are providing the first ray of hope in an otherwise very frightening time.
As a capital city council you are in a great position to have a huge influence on other councils, the state and federal governments, and on the general public. A brief explanation of the importance of making a public declaration is at Why Declare?.
I hope you will support our request for Adelaide City Council to take this vital and inspiring step. I’m more than happy to discuss this further with you if you wish.