Climate emergency

Notice of motion

Moved by Councillor Charles Jago, City of Canada Bay Council, 17 September 2019. Seconded by Councillor Julia Little; passed unanimously.


  1. Council recognises that we are in a state of climate emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government, including local councils and that by taking urgent action it is still possible to prevent the most catastrophic outcomes.
  2. Building on actions in Council’s Strategic and Operational Plans, and its 2014 Greenhouse Action Plan, Council programs will continue to initiate and promote actions to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, and implement climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
  3. Council staff prepare a report on updated targets for reduction in consumption of electricity, natural gas, water, vehicle fuel, paper and waste in Council operations, with details of current and possible Council programs in those areas generating greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Council staff provide a briefing on possible programs related to emissions reductions or other climate-related areas targeted at the community in the Canada Bay LGA.
  5. Council calls on state and federal governments to contribute additional funding to support local government programs dealing with climate change, and to accelerate action at state and federal levels to reduce all types of emissions.


According to the NSW Government, councils have responsibility for a broad range of functions that are likely to be affected by climate change, such as public infrastructure, local emergency responses, building regulation and planning, public health and environmental management.1

The NSW Local Government Association notes that “climate change has the potential to damage council assets, cause serious disruptions to the delivery of council services, generate unbudgeted financial impacts and affect the wellbeing of the community, particularly those vulnerable to weather extremes.”2

Human induced climate change stands in the first rank of threats to humans, civilisation and other species. Its impacts have already started, with extreme weather events including floods, droughts and bushfires, the destruction of ecosystems which sustain human, animal and plant life, and impacts on food supplies, water availability and health. Currently existing global policies – business as usual – are expected to lead to a global temperature increase of between 3 and 4 degrees, with catastrophic effects.3 In contrast, 200 countries including Australia agreed in the 2016 Paris Accord to pursue policies to achieve “well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees”.

It is still possible to restore a safe climate and prevent most of the anticipated long-term climate impacts – but only if societies across the world adopt an emergency mode of action that can enable the restructuring of the physical economy at the necessary scale and speed. Chapter 8 of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spells out some of the key risks and opportunities in cities.4

While the costs of runaway climate change will be incalculable, the costs of action on climate are mild, and falling. Key analysts on taking action on climate, for example Ross Garnaut,5 have reinforced the economic benefits of early action on preventing climate change. Beyond Zero Emissions in 2010 calculated6 the cost of changing from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy at approximately $8 per household per week. Since then, renewables have become the cheapest type of energy,7 with the cost of solar falling 80% in the last decade,8 and 60% in the last 4 years.9 Cost-effective action by Council can reduce its own carbon emissions, in many cases making financial savings at the same time.

Council is currently reviewing its usage targets, including updating the Greenhouse Action Plan, which will influence emissions including: electricity, natural gas, water, vehicle fuel, paper and waste. In addition, Council’s access to community data on energy usage patterns will allow it to contribute in targeted ways to reduced community emissions at lower cost.

All levels of government need to work together to make the changes necessary to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are kept below catastrophic levels.