Melbourne joins the movement to declare a climate emergency

By Joe Montero

Melbourne City Council has joined its counterpart in Sydney this week and 27 other councils across Australia, by declaring its own climate emergency. The pressure is on for other’s to follow in the same footsteps.

This didn’t come out of the blue. The matter has been under discussion for some time and circumstances and community pressure have now brought it to a head.

Melbourne City’s resolution was tabled and supported at a meeting of the council’s Future Melbourne Committee on 16 July. It did not stop at declaring a climate emergency. There was a re-affirmation of the council’s emissions reduction policy, a commitment to improve performance and an acknowledgement of the role played by school students in raising public attention of the threat of climate change.

Photo by Sarah Matray: Extinction Rebellion at an action in Melbourne on 21 June

The mover, Councillor Cathy Oke, also called on the council to sit down with groups such as fast-growing Extinction Rebellion and the kids who are planning another school strike on 20 September.

“Young people are willing to step back from their education to tell leaders to actually do something. We shouldn’t dismiss them as bludgers, or wasting time, or dismissing education,” she said, and added that, “If we don’t declare an emergency, I don’t think I can, hand on my heart, say we’re doing enough.”

Photo from the Australian Conservation Foundation: Kids on school strike in Melbourne. They had their second one on 15 March

Last week, the city’s Lord major Sally Capp made a statement, where she called on the federal government to declare a climate emergency on a national level.

Although there is still a vocal but dwindling group of Australians persisting in denying that humans are generating climate changing damage, climate emergency declarations by this and other councils, contribute towards making denial more difficult, and convincing others that the threat is real.

Opportunities are opening up to take this to a new level, going past words and transforming into concrete and effective actions.

Councils can be supported to organise community involvement in on the ground initiatives. This is will make a real difference.

Unsurprisingly, this fits in well with Extinction Rebellion’s message that this is an emergency situation requiring an emergency response, involving the mobilisation of people and resources. Another message, is that this is not merely about lobbying politicians to do the right thing. Citizens must stand up together, and if need be, put themselves on the line.

With this, has come a growing realisation that in the process of asserting a collective voice, the existing political structures and processes are inadequate, and this inevitably raises debate, about building of a new kind of democracy from the ground up.

This is the realisation that has led Extinction Rebellion towards developing the concept of Citizens Assemblies. They are a means for ensuring genuine community participation in decision making, as well to supervise political leaders and hold them to account for whatever they do.

A growing body of opinion sees, that a political system corrupted and hijacked by narrow corporate interests, and that this is a denial of democracy, a right that must be won, from the ground up, if the needed change is going to be achieved.

The emerging mve by local governments towards declaring a climate emergency and acting on it, needs the involvement of communities to continue and develop. This is a time where, opportunities to discuss and involve widespread participation will open up: To engage in the process of building the genuine democracy, which is necessary to creating the change we need.

The list of councils that have declared a climate emergency.

Adelaide Hills Council
Australian Capital Territory
Ballarat City Council
Bellingen Shire Council
Blue Mountains City Council
Brimbank City Council
Byron Shire Council
Clarence Valley Council
Darebin City Council
Fremantle City Council
Gawler Town Council
Hawkesbury City Council
Hobart City Council
Inner West Council
Kingborough Council
Light Regional Council
Maribyrnong City Council
Melbourne City Council
Moreland City Council
Newcastle City Council
Noosa Shire Council
Randwick City Council

Ryde City Council
Sydney City Council
Upper Hunter Shire Council
Town of Victoria Park
Vincent City Council
Wagga Wagga Council
Yarra City Council

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