ACT becomes first Australian jurisdiction to declare climate emergency

Image shows the ACT Legislative Assembly building and statue outside

The ACT Legislative Assembly on 16 May became the first Australian jurisdiction to pass a motion declaring the country was in “a state of climate emergency that requires urgent actions across all levels of Government.”

The motion, proposed by Greens MLA and ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Shane Rattenbury, also called on the Commonwealth to provide more money for the states and territories to “deal with worsening climate change risks and impacts, such as bushfires and extreme weather.”

The Canberra Liberals opposed the motion, with leader Alistair Coe accusing the Greens of hypocrisy because Mr Rattenbury flies to COAG meetings, rather than use video conferencing, and has taken overseas holidays.

Mr Rattenbury said while he took public transport or rode his bicycle to some meetings, it was not possible to teleconference for COAG gatherings and other federal government meetings.

The passed motion also noted that the ACT is on track to reach 100 percent renewables by 2020, and has committed to zero net emissions by 2040.

The ACT’s move comes as climate change emerges as a strong theme among local councils for next month’s National General Assembly.

At least one dozen motions were received from across the country, with a common theme that the federal government must declare a climate emergency, and help fund local governments to deal with the implications including adapting buildings.

Other related motions include calling on the federal government to take action on water security, drought mitigation, and air pollution.

Local government is a strong supporter of taking action to address the worsening consequences of climate change, with more than 100 local government areas part of the Cities Power Partnership, Australia’s largest local government climate alliance with the Climate Council.

Before the federal election, 15 mayors in the partnership issued a joint statement urging the incoming federal government to take swift action.

This month, the Council, a climate change communications organization, released Compound Costs: How Climate Change is Damaging Australia’s Economy, which listed how insurance and commodity prices would rise and property values fall unless emissions are cut.

It cautioned that about one in every 19 properties could have “effectively unaffordable insurance premiums” by 2030 because they would cost 1% or more of the property value annually.

The Council of Capital City Lord Mayors in March agreed Australia’s capitals needed urgent national action to adapt to climate change. They also called for a National Chief Resilience Officer Fund to hire specialists to help cities prepare for climate extremes.