Declaring a Climate Emergency – What does this mean?

“Humans are like frogs in a saucepan of water being gradually heated to boiling. Each month brings us more frightening news on the effects of global warming, but because the changes are gradual, there’s never a clear signal that it’s time to jump – time to step up to stronger action.”
– Source

Upon hearing the term ‘climate emergency’, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about – or alternatively, you may say something along the lines of ‘finally, it’s about time we took action!’.

Over the last few decades, we have seen a steady rise in extreme weather events and biodiversity loss that has further accelerated the levels of climate change and global warming. However, due to the gradual nature of the situation, climate issues have largely been swept under the rug by decision makers – until recently.

At the time of writing, eight councils around New Zealand have declared a climate emergency, joining more than 650 jurisdictions and local governments throughout the world that represent over 119 million citizens.

“All of us are fully aware how wrong it is to falsely yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. But we are also aware of how wrong it is to sit silently while a fire begins to spread…”

– Richard Alley, Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University

Whilst it is easy to get caught up in the risks that a climate emergency poses, there is still time to make a difference if we all do our part to protect the planet.

In this article, we take a closer look at:

  • What is a ‘climate emergency’?
  • Which councils around New Zealand have declared a climate emergency.
  • What actions we can take as consumers to do our part in lessening the impacts of climate change?

So what exactly is a ‘Climate Emergency’?

A climate emergency is “a call to action for council to take seriously its role in climate change, to work with our partners on how we resolve this and to make sure that all policies we set and all budgets we set are set with a climate change lens in mind”

By declaring a climate emergency, local government bodies are drawing a line in the sand and signalling that now is the time for immediate action to protect our planet and livelihood for future generations.

This is a global movement which originated in Australia in 2016. Over the last 3 years, people and groups from all areas of society have come together to mobilize resources and implement broad sweeping environmental actions to combat the effects of global warming.

“We know what needs to be achieved – right now – and we already have the technology to do it. We must face up to climate facts, go into emergency mode, and throw everything we’ve got at restoring a safe climate.”
– Source

More information about the climate emergency declaration can be found here.

Which councils around New Zealand have declared a climate emergency?

What actions we can take as consumers to do our part in lessening the impacts of climate change?

Here are ten ways that you can get involved and help on an individual level:

  1. If your council has not yet declared a climate emergency, get in touch with them and let your voice be heard.
  2. Share this movement with your friends and family on social media to spread the word – here is a toolbox full of great content to use.
  3. Before purchasing something, ask the question ‘where has this come from and what impact does it have on the planet?’ – select more sustainable consumption choices where possible.
  4. If you absolutely need to consume things that are damaging to the environment (such as petrol), try to reduce the amount that you use. If possible, consider using public transport or biking to work.
  5. Plant trees – our government is committed to supporting the planting of 1 billion trees over the next 10 years. But this can’t be done without the help of volunteers.
  6. When buying products that have plastic packaging, make sure that they are either PET or recycled PET (rPET).
  7. When you’re done with the plastic packaging, remember to recycle it properly – too much plastic currently goes to landfill instead of being recycled.
  8. Compost your food scraps instead of throwing them in the bin – not only does this help to reduce waste, but it also creates a nutrient-rich compost that your garden will love.
  9. If you’re a big fan of disposable fashion and like to buy new clothes all the time, try wearing the same clothes for longer – textile production is responsible for a great deal of pollution, so extending the life of your garments is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
  10. Next time you buy a new appliance (such as a refrigerator or washing machine), make energy efficiency a top priority in your decision process. You’ll be helping the environment and also reducing your power bill at the same time!

Check out this page for more ways to take action.

Let’s create a world that our grandchildren will be proud to inherit!

Whilst the state of our environment and climate is far from perfect, there is still time to change the trajectory of our future if we all do our part.

“Climate change is the environmental challenge of this generation, and it is imperative that we act before it’s too late.”
– John Delaney

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