A growing number of councils are being urged by their community to join an international movement launched in 2016 declaring a state of Climate Change Emergency.
Darebin City Council, Victoria, lead the way in this country signing up in December 2016.
The Australian Capital Territory became the first parliament to make the declaration on 16 May 2019.
In June 2019, the Cities of Hobart and Sydney became the first two capital cities to take the step, followed in July by Brimbank in Melbourne’s west, Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, and Kingsborough, Tasmania, taking the country’s total signatories to 27.
They join the ranks of New York City, the Vatican, the Canadian House of Commons.
Climateemergencydeclaration.org sets the number of jurisdictions and local governments on board worldwide at 740 across 16 countries.
Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, called on the Federal Government for leadership and money asking for a commitment to a fund that will support transition of workers away from employment in fossil fuel industries.
At the Australian Local Government Association National General Assembly on 17 June, a motion was approved calling on the federal government to declare a climate emergency and create a $10 billion fund to help local councils build the resilience of their communities.
However, not all debate in this space have been affirmative.
While the author of City of Hobart’s motion, Councillor Bill Harvey, was quoted by local radio station 7hofm as saying it was mainly symbolic, Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds was soon after reported by the ABC saying the declaration was ‘more than symbolic’.
This contradiction is expressive of the discord the issue created within Council where three councillors walked out on the debate to deny the motion a quorum.
Many councils have demonstrated leadership in this area backing their aspirations of carbon neutrality with plans, actions and achievements.
However, the accusations of hypocrisy made in the Hobart City council chambers are not unique.
The day after the Canadian House of Commons declared a Climate Emergency it approved the expansion of a crude oil pipeline tripling its capacity to transport oil across the Rocky Mountains wilderness and increasing oil tanker traffic in the area.
It is to be hoped that joining the Climate Change Declaration movement will not turn out to be just another box ticked, that it will be followed up with real leadership by all levels of government resulting in policy change and resource allocation. Real action not just emotion and rhetoric.