Surf Coast Shire Council has declared a climate emergency

Five-minute report from the evening when the Shire declared a climate emergency

In this video, Surf Coast community campaigner Alex Marshall explains why she is excited about her Council’s decision – and what she believes it will mean for children, youth and adult residents in the coastal municipality.

Geelong Councillors ask: “What do you think Geelong?”

Geelong Councillor Anthony Aitken wrote on Facebook: “The City of Greater Geelong has been asked to join the International Movement to develop a Climate Emergency Plan. What do you think Geelong ? #OurFuture”

He cc:ed Cr Jim Mason, Cr Ron Nelson, Cr Peter Murrihy and Cr Kylie Grzybek, as well as Geelong Advertiser, Geelong Indy, Bay 93.9, and K Rock.

Two other Geelong councillors did the same:

1) Councillor Kylie Grzybek asks on her Facebook page:

“I’m keen to hear your views – the city will be debating whether to declare a climate emergency- I’m educating myself on the topic but I would love to hear your views. And if you have any links or info on this important topic I would appreciate it.”

Let her know!

2) And then you can go to Councillor Anthony Aitken’s post

…and answer him as well.

On 26 August, there were 113 comments on Aitken’s post, 90 likes, and only ONE ‘sour-face’

→ You can tell the Councillor Aitken what you think here:

3) Thirdly, please go to Geelong councillor Stephanie Asher’s post where she asks:

“OK, I am keen to hear from Bellarine residents and ratepayers about their views on declaring a climate emergency. The Geelong council group is receiving a lot of letters and emails urging us to follow the lead of a number of other local councils and make a declaration on behalf of the City of Greater Geelong. I want to get a sense of the breadth and depth of people’s feelings on this. Go…”

Let them know what you think!

Remember also to comment on those comments you like or dislike
The more online activity on that post, the merrier!

Mik Aidt wrote:

“I say a very BIG YES. Declaring a climate emergency in our municipality is the first step to take the issue more seriously. It sends a signal to all of us in this city that we need to wake up and start working together – businesses, organisations, individuals – on solving the dangerous issues with the climate and ecologicial breakdown. So please, show some leadership – that’s what sitting in a Council ought to be all about – and then let’s roll our sleeves up and help each other, as we would in any other emergency situation.”

Bega Valley Shire Council
Bega Valley declared a climate emergency on 27 August 2019

Why is a climate emergency declaration such a smiling matter?

Why do you think you see all these photos of community members cheering, smiling and holding their arms up in excitement on the photos that come out from city halls, each time a new Council has declared a climate emergency? An emergency shouldn’t be something to cheer about, you’d think.

That is because people are relieved to see leaders who actually do what you’d expect of a responsible leader when something frightening and potentially catastrophic is threatening our futures.

And also because people are immensely frustrated with politicians who clearly haven’t understood which kind of fire they are playing with when they keep protecting the companies right to pollute the atmosphere free of charge. They don’t care about the consequences, because they will most likely not hit humanity hard until after their next election period.

Both the science and the economics of renewables are essentially resolved. A clean energy future is now only a matter of will and vision. However, given the lack of either from Australia’s government, we’re going to have to do it with our local councils, corporations, and with people like you and me.

Declaring a climate emergency is also to be choosing side. Which side are you on? Are you with Alan Jones and Tom Elliot? – or with Jacinda Ardern and Alex Marshall?

It is sending radio hosts like Mr Jones, Mr Elliot and their followers a very clear signal that as much as they are entitled to have their opinions, we are not listening to them any longer – we listen to the science. And the science is telling us we have to change now. Rapidly.

Our procrastination over decades is causing irreversible damage to ecosystems and the melting polar ice sheets – hundred-year floods are now happening annually. We are heading for trouble, and we all need to raise our level of ambition now. Collectively. On a big scale.

That won’t happen unless some people take charge and go first. Show leadership.

It won’t happen until local leaders in our community begin to speak up about what they know is the truth in this matter. About what is required so we can move forward with confidence that we are doing the right thing. And so that others can confidently follow their example.

This is not a political question. Never was. This is simply about responding to the emergency that we are facing. No matter which political colour you associate yourself with, avoiding the worst of climate crisis by drastically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is in yours and in society’s intest as a whole.

The greenhouse gas pollution traps heat in the atmosphere, and this has severe consequences. There’s no getting around it — burning fossil fuels is changing the course of our planet’s future.

So we need to decarbonise. But before we can get started on doing that effectively, we also need to depolitisise and depolarise the public debate. We need consensus around this. Maybe start with asking yourself: How can it be that poll after poll by the professional polling agencies show that a majority of the population wants our governments to take much stronger action on climate change?

Fundamentally, almost the entire population want their leaders to quite simply fix this problem – and yet the politicians keep procrastinating, while debating endlessly and pretending they don’t know what to do. There is only one answer to that question, and that is the influence of powerful industries on politics and lawmaking. This is not a conspiracy theory, it is a well-documented fact.

So, in that respect, the climate emergency is not political. It is scientifical and multi-partisan. It is in everybody’s interest to fix the problem – except for one single group: those people who benefit economically short-term from the current, climate-destructive system.

This is the real reason the dangerous climate crisis wasn’t tackled and solved with legislation already 30 years ago, when the issue was raised by scientists and acknowledged by the world leaders at global conferences. Bringing humanity into an existential crisis was a policial choice in the 1990s and 2000s, today it is nothing less than a crime against humanity.

In case you didn’t know, right now:

Brazil is burning. Siberia is burning.

California, Oregon and Washington is burning. So is Columbia, Alberta, Montana, and New Scotland.

Greece is burning. Portugal. Canary Islands. Algeria.

While North Carolina is “cooking in a hell”, Texas is under the water.

India, Pakistan and Nepal are under the water with massive monsoons.

In Sierra Leone and Nigeria there is massive flooding.

Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia – as well as Southern California – are attacked by heat waves.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma – the greatest ever recorded in history – Jose and Katia are sweeping the Atlantic.

So, really, why should we have to listen to these shockjocks and fossil fuel industry advocates claiming that climate emergency declarations are ‘just words’ or ‘just virtue-signalling’ without giving any evidence to back up their claim?

They are wrong. Obviously councils that have declared very recently have not yet had time to do much, but Margaret Hender and Philip Sutton at Cedamia have started contacting the earlier climate emergency declaring councils to ask them which climate emergency actions they have taken so far, and they will soon be publishing the council action lists, partly by way of evidence to counter these claims of ‘virtue-signalling’, but also as a resource for councils who may want to learn from each other about effective new strategies.

Rolling out a similar line of criticism, I heard radio host Mitch ask on 94.7 The Pulse: “Shouldn’t Councils focus on our roads, rates and rubbish? Isn’t climate change a matter for our state and federal governments?”

Well, Mitch, here is the thing you may not yet have come to grips with: If we don’t fix the climate, the roads and bins won’t matter.

Georgia Moore’s questions to Geelong’s councillors

My name is Georgia Moore and I’m a 21-year-old university student. Growing up, little did I know at this age I’d find myself torn between my studies, trying to make an income for myself and trying to save my own life and the life of the 7.7 billion other people on this planet, not to mention the some 50 million species of animals and 300,000 species of plant life recorded around the world.

I am affiliated with multiple groups in the Geelong community including the local branch of the Greenpeace movement Break free, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Extinction Rebellion.

So today, I do not stand here alone. This is the reality for so many other wonderful people in the community, who are fighting for my future and the future of their own children, and grandchildren, and this is our burden which is yet to be adequately shared by you, our representatives. So, I have three questions for you this evening.

Mayor Harwood, at the last meeting you stated climate change is a problem ‘we can’t fix overnight, we are taking action and doing what we can,’ including the 2017 Zero Carbon policy and Carbon Action plan. With all due respect, however, this is not enough. These actions are not ground-breaking, these are not an adequate response to the existential threat we are facing, this is not emergency policy making. Council acknowledges expected sea level rise of up to 80cm by 2100 on its website. This would see Barwon Heads and many other suburbs from Corio Bay to the Bellarine inundated. Proposed amendment C394 would see to apply a ‘Land Subject to Inundation Overlay’ to 1614 properties in these areas.

On your website Councillor Jim Mason states, this overlay “recognises the location may be subject to future coastal flooding and sea level rise impacts.’ This does not acknowledge the seriousness this threat. Sea level rise is already happening, and it is not a potential threat, it’s inevitable.

It’s time council start taking the risk of coastal inundation seriously and the emergency of our situation is appropriately reflected by council policy. I ask of you that in all future council communications, motions, documents and policies you only refer to this situation as what it is, a climate emergency or crisis. This is not climate change; this is a man-made existential time-bomb.

Will you commit to telling the truth and calling this situation what it truly is, an emergency?

Mayor Harwood, at the last meeting you gave me a sense that you believe this is a state and federal issue, not capable of being addressed locally, what can one local council do? This was deeply disappointing to hear from my elected community leader. Yes, it’s essential we have strong cohesive national climate policy. But our federal government is currently letting us down. Yes, it’s vital we have ambitious state climate targets to push for federal accountability, but our state government is currently letting us down. 50% renewable energy by 2030, that’s not good enough. At a local level, we must declare a climate emergency to influence change at a state level, to see stronger action on climate than the watered-down targets they have just committed to. Once the majority of states have declared a climate emergency, our political leaders might actually start pulling their weight and stop using excuses to avoid taking their dirty hands out of the deep pockets of the fossil fuel industry. It’s council’s role as our local leaders, to push for federal accountability from the bottom-up. Together we are powerful, so join the movement of 34 local councils Australia-wide who are empowering their electorates and are fed up with being voiceless. I call upon you all to declare a climate emergency for bottom-up change, and most importantly for our future.

Will you stop being complicit with a federal government who thinks it’s okay to take away my future and push for change?

Councilor Atkien, at the last meeting you stated that you weren’t prepared to declare a climate emergency without being able to support it with ‘meaning.’ I understand this, but what you may not understand is that the longer you wait, the more you tap away at our hope.

Many within our community feel hopeless, insignificant, overwhelmed and afraid. As our community leaders it’s imperative you’re leading the way, empowering the community, inspiring innovation and supporting education.

Every time we ask, and you don’t deliver, it hurts.

Every time my activist friends question “Why even bother?,” I feel despair.

Every time the uninformed look down on me as alarmist or dramatic, I feel frustrated and angry.

But how can I blame them when our own federal, state and local governments let us down by failing to recognise the emergency of our situation?

If council recognise this situation for what it is, an emergency, it will open the eyes of those who are currently blind with fear or hopelessness. Most importantly it will give hope to those who are out there in the community, my friends, who are out there fighting and working tirelessly for all of our futures. It will make us feel supported, recognised and valued, and I truly feel this hope and sense of empowerment will be contagious.

Will you take my future, if not, your own children’s future seriously, by tabling discussion and a vote for a declaration of climate emergency at the next meeting?

~ Georgia Moore

Global movement for action on the climate emergency

Climate emergency declarations in 975 jurisdictions and local governments cover 212 million citizens

In Australia, where the climate emergency declaration mobilisation and petition was launched in May 2016, 43 jurisdictions representing roughly 4 million people and 15 per cent of the population have declared a climate emergency, including the government of the Australian Capital Territory, based in the capital Canberra.

975 jurisdictions in 18 countries have declared a climate emergency. Populations covered by jurisdictions that have declared a climate emergency amount to 212 million citizens, with 47 million of these living in the United Kingdom. This means in Britain now roughly 70 per cent of the population lives in areas that have declared a climate emergency. In New Zealand, the percentage is even higher: 73 per cent of the population. It’s 24 per cent in Switzerland and Spain.

→ More figures on

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