A climate emergency by any other name

As an update to our story in our 11 January issue, it appears there is a nuance as to whether a motion at the December meeting of Kiama Council declared a climate emergency for our LGA.

“We haven’t declared a climate emergency, but have acknowledged there is a climate emergency in Australia,” says Mayor Mark Honey, reiterating what he told The Bugle in January.

“We were cautious not to use those words six weeks ago because of the negative reaction it could have caused. I think people are now more aware of the danger that is being faced.”

However Councillor Kathy Rice, who proposed the motion with Councillor Andrew Sloan, says we have declared a climate emergency.

“It [action on climate change] is something that is already being done by Council’s actions. It just needed to be recognised through a formal motion.”

The language of the motion was carefully chosen to avoid being alarming, after reviewing the words used by some other councils in declaring a climate emergency.

After a preamble, it said: ‘[Council] Publicly declare that climate change worries the community and poses a serious risk to the environment, human populations and enterprise. It should be treated as an emergency that requires action by all levels of government’.

Cllr Rice was pleased with the support of the councillors on the night, with no questions being asked about the declaration aspect of the motion.

She says declaring a climate emergency doesn’t specify councils to do anything in particular, but to progress in a way that takes into account their particular financial and logistical constraints and community support.

“We are already doing so much in this direction, but it isn’t being highlighted.”

As part of the motion, Cllr Rice asked for a report outlining Council’s progress towards its Cities Power Partnership pledges, and for a timeline to be established for setting the Municipality’s emissions target.

“I also want to see any policies or business papers coming before Council to reference how the action is assisting Council towards a more sustainable future.”

Cllr Rice has since been involved in listing Kiama as one of the 88 Australian councils that have declared a climate emergency, representative of 31 per cent of the national population.

She notes that both the NSW and Australian Local Government Associations have made declarations.

The councillors we spoke to about the motion, Matt Brown, Neil Reilly and Mark Way, said they realised it was declaring a climate emergency.

“I didn’t vote for it because I wanted it to go further,” says Cllr Way.

“In retrospect, I wish I had.

“I’m going to try to get extra bushfire measures through the next Council meeting.”

Cllr Brown says, “I was more focused on the action involved afterwards as the actual declaration isn’t that meaningful.”

Cllr Reilly believes there is no doubt the world is in a climate change emergency and has been for decades.

“It is a good thing to acknowledge that locally even though it has no legal ramification.

“We must do what we can to mitigate the damage or learn to manage.”

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