There is a climate emergency and we all need to acknowledge it. In order to prevent runaway climate change, everybody needs to take action.
YCAN started lobbying City of Yarra to recognise that there is a climate emergency in 2016.
In a submission to Council relating to the Draft Council Plan in January 2017, YCAN urged that Recognition of climate emergency must be the ‘bedrock’ of any plan. We take some credit for the fact that Council unanimously passed a motion at the 7 February meeting which “recognises that we are in a state of emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government including local councils”. All councillors were photographed holding signs stating their individual climate emergency declarations.
We were thrilled with the declaration, but without concrete follow- up action we saw it as only symbolic . A public question was asked at Council’s 21 February 2017 meeting which pointed out that a declaration of climate emergency without a plan was inadequate. Our question was, “how will you develop a climate emergency program based on the latest scientific research and with targets and budgets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which reduces exacerbation of the disaster and protects the municipality, for your term of office and into the future?”.
The City of Yarra had recently joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy which committed it to a number of actions including the development of a Climate Action Plan within three years. But there was reluctance to actually use this title Council officers favoured a Community Greenhouse Action Plan or a Nature Strategy.
In October 2018, the IPCC estimated that we had just 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5°C. To achieve that, world governments, cities, industry, businesses and individuals all had to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the effects of global warming. This shattering report gave YCAN new momentum to demand that the City of Yarra speedily produce a Climate Emergency Plan (CEP).
YCAN submitted that Council should condemn the federal government for its ‘absolute negligence’ in responding to the climate emergency. We again reminded Council of the need to develop a CEP.
Finally, at Council’s December 2018 meeting, former Cr McEvoy moved a motion to rename Yarra’s Community Greenhouse Action Plan as the Climate Emergency Plan. YCAN spoke in support of the motion which was passed.
In October 2018 YCAN wrote in support of the motion for Council to produce and display climate emergency banners, emphasising the positive feedback we had received from the community. That motion was passed and the banners are now in place at all three town halls.
Additionally, YCAN prepared its own Climate Emergency flyer for use at our stalls. This succinctly explained the issue, with suggestions as to what people could do.
YCAN continued to make submissions and ask questions during the drafting process of the CEP. While always wanting to support Council, we aimed to maintain a balance between that support, and not losing our independence to criticise where we felt that the CEP was lacking in rigour.
We felt a real sense of achievement when City of Yarra adopted its Climate Emergency Plan, only the second in Australia, in June 2020, after several years of concerted campaigning.
Climate Emergency banner at the Fitzroy Town Hall
We continue to remind Yarra Councillors and officers that action has to be urgent and ongoing.
What actions should government take?
We need urgent action from all levels of government on climate warming to ensure safety for ourselves, future generations, and all other life on Earth. Success means governments taking unprecedented action that recognises the climate emergency. Key actions will have to:
- build a zero-emissions economy (e.g. by transitioning to renewable energy)
- transform our agricultural system
- quickly transition to low emissions transport
- cool the planet (e.g. through massive reforestation).
What actions can we all take?
We can all:
- where possible, use renewable energy
- increase energy efficiency in our homes and workplaces
- use zero-emissions transport (walk or ride) and public transport
- embrace sustainable consumption patterns, a climate-friendly diet and minimise our waste
- lobby local Councillors and MPs to take urgent climate action consistent with an emergency.