(MENAFN - The Conversation) Late on Monday night, the City of Sydney became the first state capital in Australia toofficially declare a climate emergency . With climate change considered a threat to human life, Sydney councillors unanimously supported a motion put forward by Lord Mayor Clover Moore to mobilise city resources to reduce carbon emissions and minimise the impact of future change.
The decision sees Sydney join a variety of local and national governments around the world, in a movement that is increasinglygaining momentum . In total, some 658 local governments around the world have made the same declaration, with the UK and Canada committing their national governments to the global movement in just thepast two months .
An official declaration of climate emergency puts a government on a 'wartime mobilisation' that places climate change at the centre ofpolicy and planning decisions .
UK becomes first country to declare a 'climate emergency'
While interpretations differ on what a 'climate emergency' means in practice, governments have established a range of measures to help meet the targets set by theParis climate agreement . Under this agreement, 197 countries have pledged to limit global temperature rise to less than 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, and ideally no more than 1.5℃.
With 2018 having broughtall manner of record-breaking climate extremes , and global average temperatures projected toreach 3.2℃ above the pre-industrial average based on current national pledges and targets for greenhouse emissions , Sydney's recognition of a national emergency is both highly appropriate and also a major turning-point for Australia.
Although asignatory to the Paris Agreement , Australia's greenhouse emissions haverisen over the past four yearssince the repeal of the carbon price. With Australian emissions most notably increasing aroundtransport , the United Nations climate discussionscurrently being held in Bonnhaveraised concerns over the nation's ability to meet its Paris commitments .
With the global cost of inaction on climate change projected to reach a staggeringUS$23 trillion a yearby the end of the century (equivalent to aroundfive 2008 global financial crises every year ), several nations are already ramping up their Paris Agreement commitments ahead of schedule. The UK recently announced its intention to becarbon-neutral by 2050 .
Australia is particularly vulnerable to the future financial costs of climate change, witheconomic modelssuggesting losses of A$159 billion a year through the impact of sea level rise and drought-driven collapses in agricultural productivity. The cost for each household has been put at about A$14,000.
Cutting cities' emissions does have economic benefits – and these ultimately outweigh the costs
After Sydney's declaration, 150 faith leaders on Tuesday signed an open letter endorsing the decision, and describing the climate issue as a moral challenge thattranscends religious belief . They have called for an urgent mobilisation to reach 100% renewable energy by the year 2030, and for an end to the approval of any new coal and gas projects, including Adani's controversialCarmichael coal mine in Queensland .
The recentcourt rulingagainst the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine in the New South Wales Hunter Valley – a decision made partly on climate grounds – could mark a crucial turning point in the fortunes of future mining projects.
Landmark Rocky Hill ruling could pave the way for more courts to choose climate over coal
As part of its emergency declaration, Sydney has also called on the federal government to establish a 'just transition authority' to support Australians currently employed in fossil fuel industries. This is an urgent issue and a crucial part of the transition to a low-emissions economy.
A major nationwide training program will be needed to help re-skill theestimated 8,000 people who work in fossil-fuelled electricity production , and to help fill the tens of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy-related fields.
With the scale of change required to decarbonise the global economy and hopefully avoid a 2℃ warmer world, the need to support communities across Australia and overseas will likely become an increasing challenge for governments around the world. Putting ourselves on an emergency footing could help provide precisely the impetus we need.
Greenhouse gas emissions