Climate Emergency Declaration

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Title

Climate Emergency Declaration

Website Frontpage

Description

Our goal is for governments to declare a climate emergency and mobilise society-wide resources at sufficient scale and speed to protect civilisation, the economy, people, species, and ecosystems.

Key goal elements

• Building public awareness that we are in a climate emergency which threatens life as we know it. We can’t take appropriate action if we don’t recognise we are in an emergency.

• Demanding that governments declare a climate emergency as a public signal indicating that governments and society will be mobilised in emergency mode until the emergency passes.

• Demanding a climate mobilisation of sufficient scale and speed to protect everything we want to protect. War-time mobilisation examples indicate how quickly and thoroughly ‘business-as-usual’ and ‘reform-as-usual’ can change when we rise to the challenge of dealing with an existential threat.

Primary environmental focus

Climate

Geographic sphere or activity

National

Primary location

Sydney, NSW

Website link/s

Founding Year

History of group

Campaign background:

Humans are like frogs in a saucepan of water being gradually heated to boiling. Each month brings us more frightening news on the effects of global warming, but because the changes are gradual, there’s never a clear signal that it’s time to jump – time to step up to stronger action.

Climate scientists have been warning us for decades that we face a climate emergency, and that we are close to catastrophic tipping points like the release of methane from the melting Arctic permafrost. Our action to date has come nowhere near what is required to meet the challenge. The future of ecosystems and indeed, human civilisation, now hang in the balance.

This website is part of a growing campaign by grassroots climate action groups to pressure our political leaders to step up and do what is needed to address the climate crisis.

Our goal is for governments to declare a climate emergency and mobilise society-wide resources at sufficient scale and speed to protect civilisation, the economy, people, species, and ecosystems.

We are using the alarming spike in global temperatures during February 2016 and the tragic bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as the impetus to insist our leaders stop playing political games on climate and stand together to draw a line in the sand.

It’s now or never. We are calling on Australian Councils, state governments and the Australian Parliament to declare a climate emergency and to mobilise resources accordingly.

Declaring a climate emergency is the first step in mobilising government and community resources and funds that are not normally available. Declaring an emergency inspires the public to act for the common good. In the Queensland floods of 2011, three-quarters of the council areas were declared disaster zones. Government funds were made available and a large workforce was mobilised to deal with the emergency. More than 55,000 volunteers registered to help clean up the streets of Brisbane. All over Australia kind-hearted individuals and community groups sent supplies and raised emergency funds.

The extreme weather, increasing food and water shortages, and the death of large areas of the Reef, show us that the earth is already too hot. What is needed is a society-wide mobilisation of a scale and speed never before seen in peace time. We must reach zero emissions as fast as humanly possible and rapidly scale up efforts to draw down the excess greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

This was the climate emergency declaration petition text we wrote in 2016:

Given that:
• climate impacts are already causing serious loss of life and destroying vital ecosystems
• global average temperature, atmospheric greenhouse gases, and ocean acidity are already at dangerous levels, and
• wartime economic mobilisations have proven how quickly nations can restructure their economies when facing an extreme threat

it is inexcusable to continue with climate-damaging policies that put us all in even greater peril. The Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal is not a safe goal.

We call on all Australian federal, state, and territory parliaments and all local councils to:
• declare a climate emergency
• commit to providing maximum protection for all people, economies, species, ecosystems, and civilisations, and to fully restoring a safe climate
• mobilise the required resources and take effective action at the necessary scale and speed
• transform the economy to zero emissions and make a fair contribution to drawing down the excess carbon dioxide in the air, and
• encourage all other governments around the world to take these same actions.

We’ve risen to big challenges in the past when an emergency has been declared, with citizens and all sides of politics rising to the occasion and working together for the common good.

We call on the Australian government to do what is necessary now.

Has the following subgroups/branches

Audience

Governments

Subject

Don't say 'climate emergency' in vain! (target setting in the climate emergency)

By Bryony Edwards 5 May 2019 (Updated on 10 May 2019)

As climate emergency talking and thinking shifts further towards climate emergency action, it is imperative that ‘climate emergency’ is not co-opted to mean something ‘convenient’ or ‘pragmatic’ (ie. weak goals and slow action). Climate emergency has to stand for safe climate principles for restoring a safe climate.

So what should climate emergency emissions targets look like? This blog attempts to draw a line in the sand, proposing how to set targets for both central governments and councils from an NGO or campaigning perspective.

Where are we today in the climate emergency campaign?

In the space of 5 months, the phrase climate emergency has become household. Several months ago, the hashtag #climateemergency appeared in two tweets a week from a handful of the usual suspects. A snap count now shows 80 odd tweets in the past 30 minutes, including from mainstream voices.

For the last few weeks, 1000s with Extinction Rebellion are blocking central streets and bridges in London, demanding that their government implement a climate emergency response.

Just a few weeks ago, The Australia Institute released findings from a nationwide survey that the majority of Australians believe we face a climate emergency and want to see a ‘climate emergency’ response including the type of ‘mobilisation of resources undertaken in WWII’. Use of this language alone is a paradigm shift.

As of today, the phrase, climate emergency’ is used by:

The UK, which passed a non-binding opposition motion at the beginning of May. Wales and the Scottish National Party declared earlier in the week.
Over 500 councils across seven countries having declared a climate emergency (Aust, US, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Italy and Germany) with many more councils in the pipeline.
Universities; the University of Bristol and University of Newcastle recently declared
School Strikers
The Club of Rome, an international organisation with members including eminent scientists, business leaders, ex-politicians and retired heads of state.
14 MPs in Australia of different stripes
Political parties, including the UK Labour Party and Scottish National Party
Wales, which has declared a climate emergency
Large environmental organisations, which have just now adopted the term.​

What is the original intended meaning of 'climate emergency'?

Among different campaigners, early uses of the term 'climate emergency' varied slightly but captured the the intention of safe climate restoration at emergency speed. Dedicated campaigners introduced 'emergency' to communicate the urgency and systems change needed, which was in stark contrast to the sluggish aspirations of mainstream environmental organisations and 'good' politicians.

The thinking for what climate emergency in action looked like was based on work of organisations like Centre for Alternative Technology (UK) and Beyond Zero Emissions, (Aust) in the mid 2000s and their urgent sector wide transition plans. Centre for Alternative was using the term 'Climate Emergency' coupled with an emergency response. The transition timeframes proposed for the solutions packages were as short as 10 years.

From a Australian perspective, grass-roots climate campaigners started using the term at least as far back as 2008 (eg. in Climate Code Red) to represent what was needed to restore a safe climate. The expression was used 26 times in this linked article from 2013. 'Climate Emergency' was formalised in May 2016 with the Australian ‘Climate Emergency Declaration’.

In the US, the term appeared at least as early as 2011. It was probably The Climate Mobilization that popularised the term.

No doubt there were other early uses of the term so apologies if these uses have not been captured. More detail on the history of climate emergency is available here.

Maximum protection = maximum effort at maximum scale and speed
While today there is an ever-loosening use of the term climate emergency, people using the term need to understand that

We are too hot now. Our inaction over decades has set off positive feedback loops that speed up global warming. This means targets decades out are suicidal; we need to start now and we need to do it as fast as is humanly possible.
At current emissions levels (400+ppm CO2 / 470ppm+ CO2 equivalents) we have already built in 25m+ of sea level rise. All atolls are estimated to be unliveable by 2050, not to mention other low-lying coastal areas.
Ecological collapse across numerous systems; too many to name here. Credible news sites and scientific sources cover the seriousness of the issue.

Because we have an extremely dangerous climate now and switching to a zero carbon society still leaves us with today’s carbon in the atmosphere plus what will be emitted between now and the day we achieve the zero-carbon goal, zero emissions is not a safe end target.

Philip Sutton, Co-Author of 'Climate Code Red' has stated that 'We need a step before setting the goal of restoring a safe climate. Restoring a safe climate is a means to an end – providing protection so the first question is who and what are we trying to protect? Why do we want to protect them? For ethical reasons or because they are a means to protecting something else? And how secure do we want that protection to be?'

Philip's view and the only ethical view, is that we should aim to protect all people, species and civilisation globally and we should aim to protect the climate vulnerable. He calls this 'maximum protection'.

To provide maximum protection we need to do two things:

restore a safe (pre-warming) climate
make the transition with the least loss of people and species/biodiversity.

If you agree with the maximum protection principle, the only course of action is to bring other organisations and governments on board. The same goes for 1.5C goals because maximum effort, scale and speed will also be required.*

As such, we need to go to negative emissions to restore safe (pre-industrial) greenhouse gas concentrations (safe at about 280-300ppm) and restore a safe climate. Getting to negative emissions ASAP means:

Zero emissions across all sectors as fast as possible
To begin drawing down excess greenhouse gas emissions on an industrial scale using available strategies and investigating new strategies. We don’t know how long it will take but using current land based tech (revegetation, soil carbon, biochar), it may take over 100 years.
Create an immediate cooling. At present with current particulate pollution levels, we are geo-engineering almost 1 degree of shade (solar reflection). If the world went to zero emissions today, the global average temperature would jump half a degree Celsius or more.

And all this done at emergency speed.

While these 3 demands are a tall order and extremely ‘inconvenient’, there’s a very high chance anything less is giving up on a liveable planet and our futures.

If we are not very clear with our expectations (targets), they will not be met:

If we don’t demand emergency speed transition to zero emissions across each sector, it will not happen.
If we don’t demand industrial scale drawdown, it will not happen.
If we don’t demand economic restructuring toward a safe climate, this response will not happen.​

A maximum protection response goes way beyond not doing more bad stuff, it also means doing more good stuff than we ever thought possible to restore a safe climate.


Is everyone talking climate emergency using the safe climate restoration frame?

No. For example, there are councils passing climate emergency declarations that are aiming for net zero by 2050; this includes large councils such as the London Assembly and Vancouver.

After declaring, London quickly went on to approve another runway at Gatwick. Although the UK made a ‘resolution’ for a climate emergency, Labour and Tory Councillors in Cumbria went on to back a new coal mine.

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (the CCC), an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008, has recommended just ‘zero by 2050’ for the UK’s emergency response. The CCC is similar to Australia’s Climate Council, which recommends the same target for Australia.

It shouldn’t be surprising that soft targets are defeatist. Soft targets set us up to fail.

What is the role of targets?

Governments usually set targets before the full suite actions for how they will be achieved is known. As such, they tend to set targets for complex work far into the future. But decades-out targets can be easily ignored because any one government can’t be easily held to account.

A target ideally works as a slogan of 3 to 5 words, and needs to communicate ‘what we need to do and how fast should it be done’. The target can also include more detail, such as interim or contributing targets, which can hold any single government to account.

Given the scope of work for a climate emergency response, once adopted, a climate emergency target should drive policy development, governance and performance measurement across all of government’s work. The target implicitly communicates the degree of priority the work will need, which in this case is maximum priority.

There are good arguments for not providing a target deadline in case it is too ambitious and stakeholders expect failure, but this is outweighed by the benefits of having a timeframe (or the cons of not having one). And with the right governance, more will be achieved with an ambitious target than with a less ambitious one.

A recent example of a target at work is Oxfordshire Council (UK). At the time of writing this, Oxfordshire Council is trying to weaken the target they set with their climate emergency declaration (zero by 2030). The council is worried they won’t meet the target. Perhaps not but having such an ambitious target means the council will have to go above and beyond to try to meet it.

When setting goals for safe climate restoration, it is implicit that these goals will require:

Immediate implementation of current solutions and seeking other solutions via R&D
A restructure of governance and the economy to achieve those goals.

Because we have to demand the action needed first then it’s important we get the targets right. Our governments will latch onto the easiest around and then may fall short of them anyway. Governments will look for a path requiring the least amount of effort, whereas we need a herculean effort.

A brief history of climate target setting

We are currently grappling with a very climate-confused public not only due to years of misinformation from hard climate deniers, but also misinformation from the soft climate deniers, generally the large environmental organisations, who are supposedly representing a safe climate but present weak targets for governments.

People trust in these environmental organisations so they trust the targets of ‘zero by 2050’ that they promote. Hence the general confusion around what a safe target is. Ask a random person whether zero by 2050 is safe climate policy and they’ll probably say yes.

If we are too hot now, how can net zero by 2050 mitigate the impacts we are experiencing today, let alone save us?

Why have environmental organisations set weak targets?

Environmental organisations set weak goals because they wanted to be taken seriously by government - they want a seat at the table, but in addition they have:

lacked imagination in what can be achieved
misread what the public is ready for.

The environmental organisations should have been asking themselves, ‘how do we get the public on board to drive an effective campaign with government?’, not ‘what will government accept?’ or 'What will get us a seat at the table?'.

In private conversations, staff from these environmental organisations confide that the goals they are setting ‘couldn’t save us’ but they ‘don’t want to frighten people away’. These eNGOs have effectively given up and have created havoc in their wake.

This environmental organisation campaigning logic was a bit like trying encourage locals to stay and fight an oncoming bushfire by lying that the fire is 200km away, when in fact the fire is already throwing embers and all roads out are closed. Which would you imagine to be more effective at motivating to stay and fight the fire? The eNGOs chose the 200km option. Jane Morton’s booklet, ‘Don’t Mention the Emergency?’ examines this campaigning dissonance in detail.

If the environmental organisations had been campaigning on safe climate goals for the past few decades, we would be in a very different place today with regard to public understanding and what they demanded from government. Yes, the hard deniers would still be around but we wouldn’t be dealing with such a high degree of public confusion on what we need to do.

What are the risks if we couple climate emergency with suicidal targets now?

Just in the past week, two large environmental organisations have finally woken up to the fact that ‘fear’ is in fact a necessary tool for climate campaigning and have declared a climate emergency. These same eNGOs had refused to use ‘fear’ in climate campaigning for years. ‘Climate emergency’ as a term was officially blacklisted by professionals campaigning for climate action.

As with the past so with the future. If the organisations with the biggest profiles and deepest pockets couple the ‘climate emergency’ headline with soft targets, nothing will have changed other than the word ‘emergency’ and the broader public will believe they are in good hands with the lobbying on their behalf.

Environmental organisations’ inability to shift into emergency mode has just been confirmed by WWF. WWF has jumped on the ‘emergency’ bandwagon with their declaration last week but only moved their ‘net zero’ target forward five years from 2050 to 2045.

And these decades-out targets are what governments will adopt, regardless of what is actually possibly under a mobilisation response with technical breakthroughs that mobilising economies can drive ahead of the deadline. Imagine if in 1970, we set 30 year deadlines based on the technology available at the time!

Most governments will do all they can to compromise emissions targets. Climate campaigners supposedly campaigning for a safe climate shouldn't do it for them.

Reject suicidal targets from any group speaking on behalf of the planet and promote safe climate targets!

Climate-emergency target setting

For maximum protection, we need to set targets based on what can be achieved under ideal circumstances (ie emergency action), not business as usual or a supposedly pragmatic view on what our current political landscape can deliver.

High level targets for central governments

What we need to capture in a high level target is three main components:

Zero emissions by 2025-2030 (or 5-10 years from announcement) plus
Begin industrial scale drawdown of excess greenhouse gas emissions, e.g. Large scale drawdown of emissions annually
Investigate the best options to create an immediate cooling

But how to turn this 3-part target a slogan of 5 words or less? These could include:

Zero and drawdown by 2025
Negative emissions by 2025
Zero and drawdown by 2030, zero by 2025

If implemented globally it could be ‘A cooler planet by 2025’ or ‘a safe climate by 2030’

Targets for Councils

A council target is more complicated because many councils lack regulatory and economic levers to achieve net zero or net negative emissions.

Councils should acknowledge:

the central government target above (whether or not the central government has set it as a target or is working to achieve it), plus
a target that reflects the the council’s community wide goals across the council and community portfolio. This could still be ‘the largest possible negative emissions as soon as possible’.

In addition, the council can state what they will do or achieve across each sector that is within their control. In the declaration, these targets could be captured as, for example:

Restoring healthy tree canopies and wetlands across all available green spaces within 10 years
Zero or negative emissions in council waste management within 5 years
300% increase in the capacity of private solar PV across the community in four years.

(See the CACE website for ‘CACE goals and targets fact sheet’ and Post declaration page for a range of options across council portfolios.)

Last word

It is amazing what can be accomplished in emergency mode (Eg UK in WWII) when government realigns to achieve something ambitious, when the public is properly informed, when vested interests are forced to stand down.

If this is our last ditch effort at saving the planet, why would we comprise safe climate principles before we’ve even sat at the government negotiating table? Compromising on safe climate principles is how we got here in the first place.

*In the CACE Goals and Targets Fact Sheet available in the Toolbox we discuss how Maximum Effort would be required to meet goals such as maximum protection, minimum protection, and acceptable risk.

Date Created

2003

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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

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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