Gamechanger for climate emergency declaration campaign

We start The Sustainable Hour no 345 with the words of the United Nations’ leader Antonio Guterres as he urges world leaders to declare a climate emergency for their countries:

“I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a state of climate emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached,” the Secretary-General told a global Climate Ambition Summit over the weekend.

The summit included leaders of more than 70 countries – including the British Prime Minister, the President of France, of China, Korea, Japan, India, the European Union, the Prime Ministers of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Italy and Germany, and many more.

“Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” Guterres asked via the live-streamed video-transmission of his opening remarks at the summit.

This was a peak moment for the Climate Emergency Declaration movement which has been five years in the making. It started with volunteers collecting signatures in the streets of both Geelong and Melbourne. Darebin City Council in Melbourne was the first local government in the world to declare which inspired a torrent of local, state and even some national goverments across the world to do the same, while excited volunteers kept track of the exponentially growing number of global declarations on a shareable spreadsheet.

After a slow start, a tipping point was gradually reached, and four years down the track, almost 2,000 local government authorities worldwide had declared a climate emergency in their municipality. In the United Kingdom, close to 500 councils have declared a climate emergency, and 90 per cent of the population there live in a jurisdiction which has declared.

And our language changed. Oxford Dictionaires named ‘climate emergency’ Word of the Year in 2019, and whether or not one has “declared” took on a whole new meaning. To declare, became a thing everyone can do.

On Saturday 12 December 2020 – five years after the global Paris Agreement – the movement reached the top, the head of the United Nations.

This is one of those moments where an editor-in-chief runs into the editorial room of hard-working journalists nearing the deadline and shouts, “We have breaking news! Whatever you are working on, drop it! Put everything aside and clear the front page!”

It didn’t happen in any editorial rooms that we know of. It was not put on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald or the New York Times. But it was what happened with the 345th Sustainable Hour – including Colin Mockett’s Global Outlook: We dropped our plans and instead concentrated on covering this weekend’s UN Climate Ambition Summit for you, our listeners.

On short notice, the Greens’ leader Adam Bandt joins us in our virtual podcast studio. As the federal member for Melbourne, Adam was one of the first politicians to sign the Climate Emergency Declaration petition when it was launched in May 2016.

In February 2017, Adam was the one who opened his parliamentary office in Canberra to receive a box of 18,000 petition signatures calling for the federal government to declare and brought to him by kayak-travelling Steve Posselt.

Colin Mockett‘s Global Outlook gives us facts and figures that show the significance of this online UN event in terms of how many countries were involved as well as the percentage of the world’s CO2 emissions they were responsible for.

This segways neatly into talk of the largest sand island in the world and the fires that have been burning out of control there for six weeks before being extinguished by a flood.

Next we hear about the world’s biggest company announcing it will be carbon neutral by 2030. Just as significantly, their supply chain companies also have to have at least the same ambition, or they will be dropped.

Following this we hear the satirical brilliance of Juice Media take on the Morrison government’s lack of any real commitment to being part of the solution to the biggest threat that humanity has had to face: catastrophic global warming.

When a government declares war, everyone knows what it means. Australia and its allies experienced how it works during the Second World War: within days the whole country reorients itself and it’s resources with people doing new jobs and getting behind the call.

Declaring a climate emergency is about getting everyone on the same page. It’s about responsible leaders telling everyone where we are at, putting an end to ‘business-as-usual’ and getting to work in the spirit of togetherness in order to combat the threat.

In today’s Sustainable Hour we play an important video statement by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has 4.4 million followers on Twitter. She explains:

“At the current emission rate, our remaining CO2 budget for 1,5 degrees will be completely gone within 7 years. Long before we will even have a chance to deliver on our 2030 or 2050 targets. But I am telling you, there is hope. Because the people have not yet been made aware. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. Nor can we treat something like a crisis unless we understand the emergency. So let’s make this our main priority. Let’s unite and spread awareness. Once we become aware, then we can act. Then change will come. This is the solution. We are the hope. We, the people.”

This Saturday was a special moment for those of us who have pushed relentlessly for this to become a tool to change the way we deal with the carbon emissions crisis. With the United Nations now behind this campaign, we can’t go any higher. Now it is about making good use of this moment and the new possibilities that open up because of it.

What if the massive but fragmented climate action movement actually came together around this call for governnments to tell their populations the truth urgently, that we are in a climate emergency and need to act accordingly? What if the climate movement would speak with one voice for the same thing, ahead of anything else? Could that be our next big ambition as climate campaigners, now that we have the United Nations taking the lead call?

That option starts right here: Spread this message far and wide. Start your meetings with playing Guterres’ short video clip. Send it to people who matter and make decisions. Include a quote in your email signature. Quote Guterres in anything you write or distribute. Add hashtags in your social media posts.

The hashtag of the five-year long campaign has been #ClimateEmergencyDeclaration since the start. Greta Thunberg introduced #FaceTheClimateEmergency. Each municipality, country and professional group has their own unique hashtag, such as #GeelongDeclares #AustraliaDeclares #DoctorsDeclare #ArchitectsDeclare #BusinessDeclares, and so on. The United Nations used #TogetherForOurPlanet for the Climate Ambition Summit 2020.

Mik’s visualisation from 2016 of what reaching the petition’s goal could look like on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 2016, The Sustainable Hour started calling out to the world that we need our government to declare a climate emergency to spur real action to avoid catastrophic global warming.

This was a petition campaign started by just a handful of activists – Philip Sutton and David Spratt, Jane Morton, Margaret Hender and Mik Aidt, with Adrian Whitehead and Bryony Edwards joining in soon after.

Three years down the track, 404,538 Australians signed an online petition on the Australian Parliament’s website, asking the government to declare a climate emergency.

In March 2020 – half a year ago – Adam Bandt and the independent member Zali Steggall proposed a Climate Emergency Declaration Bill to the Parliament. Unfortunately, on 2 December 2020 it was rejected by a narrow majority of parliamentarians.

But the story doesn’t end there. On the contrary, this is still just the beginning. With the United Nations’ adoptation of the campaign, the issue of whether to declare or not to declare has the potential to become a central election issue next time the Australian people will elect who is going to govern their country – something which political experts say could happen as early as October 2021.

As Adam Bandt points out in The Sustainable Hour, just three more Labor, Greens or independent members of the House of Representatives would defeat the current fossil government.

However, as long as Labor still supports the development of new gas projects and public subsidies for new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure, electing a Labor government is not going to get us where science says we need to go.

It is time for more radical change, both in politics and in our personal actions. It is time for a clean energy revolution, a drawdown revolution, or in short: a climate revolution.

The new story begins right here as we enter 2021.

So remember, as Greta reminds us, no one is too small to make a difference. Join us and Prince Charles in the Coalition of the Willing. Use the New Years’ break to figure out what your role will be in this – and make a power-resolution – or declaration! – for 2021 and the decade we enter about how you will be the difference.

“More and more countries have committed to net zero emissions. The business community is getting on board the sustainability train. We see cities striving to become greener and more livable. We see young people taking on responsibility – and demanding it of others. Mindsets are shifting. Climate action is the barometer of leadership in today’s world. It is what people and planet need at this time.”
~ Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millenia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceeded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that…

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore climate change are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How utterly disgusting, disrespectful and unfair is that?

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February 2017: Adam Bandt receives a box with the first collection of handwritten signatures – 18,000 alltogether – to the petition calling on the Australian Parliament to declare a climate emergency and act accordingly.

→ Mirage News – 2 December 2020:
Climate emergency declaration put to both houses: Liberals oppose, Labor split
“The Liberals and Labor have combined forces to block a Climate Emergency declaration in Australia, on the day our closest neighbours have declared a climate emergency at their Labour Prime Minister’s request.”

→ Sydney Morning Herald – 15 October 2019:
‘Grand symbolic gesture’: Attempt to declare a climate emergency fails in Parliament
“Federal Parliament has voted down an attempt to declare a “climate emergency”, with the Morrison government blocking a “grand symbolic gesture” from the Greens, Labor and the crossbench.”

The war on climate

“Politicians acknowledge the climate crisis but don’t govern in ways to fight it… If our current leaders believe we face a climate emergency, then they need to act and speak like it’s a damn emergency. We need them to name it, speak continually about it and rally us at every turn. Because that’s what you do in a crisis.”
~ Seth Klein

“Here are my four markers for when you know that a government has shifted into emergency mode:

It spends what it takes to win;

It creates new economic institutions to get the job done;

It shifts from voluntary and incentive-based policies to mandatory measures;

It tells the truth about the severity of the crisis and communicates a sense of urgency about
the measures necessary to combat it.

During the Second World War, the Canadian government did all those things. Likewise, in response to the pandemic, the Trudeau government has passed all four markers. But with respect to the climate emergency – thus far at least – our current federal and provincial governments are failing on all four counts.”
~ Seth Klein, author of ‘A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency’

→ Below2c – 15 December 2020:
We Must Treat The War on Climate Like WWII

→ Covering Climate Now – 16 December 2020:
As 2020 Ends, It’s Time for News Outlets to Declare a “Climate Emergency”
Let 2021 be the year that we declare, in accordance with science, that humanity is facing a climate emergency—an emergency we promise to illuminate and, we hope, help humanity overcome.

Petition: Journalists declare

“President-elect Joe Biden must swiftly move once in office to “avert the climate emergency” with a series of actions to ensure the nation invests in “a just, clean, distributed, and democratic energy system that works for all.”

That’s the demand Wednesday from over 380 groups who’ve sent Biden a draft executive order (pdf) that details how, exercising executive authority, he can rein in greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard the environment while boosting jobs and community wellbeing.”

→ – 16 December 2010:
Groups Provide Biden With Draft Climate Emergency Order to Help Put Out ‘Fire Fanned by Trump’
“The president-elect “must take bold action the moment he steps into the Oval Office, without punting to a dysfunctional Congress”.”

→ Climate Action – 18 December 2020:
PWC: World needs to cut carbon intensity five times faster to hit the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target

Compare banks: who is the worst hypocrite?

In December 2015, numerous banks published media releases that they would now comply with the Paris Agreement, including several of Australia’s major banks. As it turns out, that was all greenwash and climate-criminal theatre. Market Forces recently crunched the numbers, and this is the reality they found:

ANZ: $10,843 million loaned to fossil fuels globally since 2016

Commonwealth Bank: $12,059 million loaned to fossil fuels globally since 2016

National Australia Bank (NAB): $7,274 million loaned to fossil fuels globally since 2016

Westpac: $5,396 million loaned to fossil fuels globally since 2016

→ See more on

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This video on Twitter

The Usual Suspects: oil and gas majors star in Australian tax heist

Angus Taylor’s rescue package for the oil industry is a testament to governments getting gamed by large corporations. The latest Tax Office transparency data shows oil and gas juggernauts are Australia’s biggest tax cheats, again, yet now they are crying for public subsidies – and getting them – to prop up their oil refineries. Michael West reports on the good and the bad in multinational tax dodging land.
→

→ News Corp – 14 December 2020:
Australian oil refineries given $83m boost
The few remaining Australian oil refineries have received a boost, with the government injecting tens of millions of dollars into keeping them afloat.

→ 9News – 13 December 2020:
UN pressure to declare ‘climate emergency’ as Australia’s lack of ambition sees Scott Morrison snubbed at world summit
“The United Nations wants countries to declare a “climate emergency” to lift the sense of urgency in combating global warming.” (Video report)

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‘Scott Morrison, declare a Climate Emergency!’
Your online action toolkit

On 15 December 2020, Australian Parents for Climate Action published an online toolkit to urge PM Scott Morrison to declare a climate emergency. They wrote in a newsletter:

“Today we are giving you an online toolkit to demand that PM Scott Morrison declare a climate emergency!

Over the weekend, UN Secretary General António Guterres urged world leaders to declare a climate emergency until carbon neutrality is reached — aiming for net zero emissions by 2050.

Otherwise, the UN warns, “we are headed for a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees this century — far beyond the 2015 Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below two degrees and pursuing 1.5 degrees.”

But still, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuses to commit to net zero emissions, despite 126 other countries having already made that commitment, including China, the world’s biggest emitter.

The Australian government has so far only committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 26–28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. At that rate, Australia wouldn’t hit net zero until the 23rd century!

That is not good enough. Our children’s future and safety is at stake. We need our PM Scott Morrison to lift his game now on climate.

Download our online tool kit and tell Scott Morrison to join with world leaders in declaring a climate emergency!

Post these Climate Emergency Social Media Tiles and tag the PM on Facebook (@scottmorrison4cook), Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (@scottmorrisonmp). Our online toolkit includes suggested captions.

We have to keep pushing our leaders for a climate-focused COVID-19 recovery. The UN’s Emissions Gap Report released last week states that “a low-carbon pandemic recovery could cut 25 per cent off the greenhouse emissions expected in 2030, based on policies in place before COVID-19. Such a recovery would far outstrip savings foreseen with the implementation of unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, and put the world close to the 2°C pathway.”

Which is why we need our Prime Minister to hear the voice of parents – and our young kids – demanding action on the climate emergencyBut for AP4CA to keep doing that, we need your help – will you sign onto our Climate Action Christmas and help us raise the funds to keep pushing the PM to act? 

We are only at 15 per cent of our fundraising target of $20,000. And with only 10 days until Christmas, we need you to sign up now to convert your family & friends’ Christmas shopping into climate action!

To take part in our Climate Action Christmas appeal, sign up here >> get your very own fundraising page >> then ask your friends and family to make your Christmas gift a donation to climate action.

Thank you for all that you do to help keep climate action on the agenda!
Suzie, Heidi & Gavin and the team at Australian Parents for Climate Action

Sign up to our Christmas appeal

P.S. The UN Environment Programme latest Emissions Gap Report is an excellent read to inform and inspire you on how to tackle climate action in your own life, in you community, and how governments can and need to act, and what ours is currently doing wrong.
You can download it here:

Climate Conversation Guide

Dreading the moment Uncle Joe brings up climate change at Christmas lunch? Fear not! The team at Climate for Change has put together a wonderful Climate Conversation Guide to help you have a more productive conversation about climate change. 

→ Check out the guide chock-full of really useful tips and tricks here (PDF)

Passing Gas: Why renewables are the future

The Climate Council’s new report has revealed the extent to which gas is driving climate change and putting Australians in harm’s way.  

The report ‘Passing Gas: Why Renewables are the Future’ explores the Government’s pledge to the gas industry and uncovers some unsavoury truths: that emissions from gas are under-reported, that the second biggest user of gas in Australia is the gas industry itself, that the international gas market is in crisis and Australia is dangerously exposed to job losses and price volatility.

Read the report

→ Sydney Morning Herald – 14 December 2020:
Ardern and Thunberg in spat over climate emergency declaration
“Wellington: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has strongly rebutted Greta Thunberg after the activist accused New Zealand of not doing enough to deliver on its climate action promises.”

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The Club of Rome: Declaring a Planetary Emergency

Declaring a planetary emergency provides a new compass for nations and injects the essential urgency into decision-making. The Planetary Emergency Plan 2.0, updated to include insights from the Covid-19 pandemic, makes the case that we are unequivocally in the midst of a planetary emergency. The plan provides ten commitments to protect the global commons and public goods, complemented by ten essential transformative actions to drive systems change and stabilise the Earth.

→ Download PDF document: Declaring a Planetary Emergency

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of petitions where you could add your name

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Live-streaming on pause


The Sustainable Hour is normally streamed live on the Internet every Wednesday from 11am to 12pm (Melbourne time), but due to the corona lockdown, the radio station has been closed.

» To listen to the program on your computer or phone, click here – or go to where you then click on ‘Listen Live’ on the right.

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One comment

  1. I think we need to also find a way to make Climate emergency a part of our daily conversation. not sure how. but something like, ‘Hi, How are you? Did you hear the UN has declared climate emergency and told all countries to declare? How is your climate emergency going?’

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