The cities of Sydney in New South Wales and Hobart in Tasmania have recently become the first in Australia to declare a climate emergency in an attempt to communicate the severity of the situation. Through this step, the cities also hope to draw the federal government’s attention towards the looming threat and propel it into taking substantial action.
Following the declaration, both cities have set specific goals towards emission reduction in line with the Paris Agreement to reach a net zero scenario by 2050. The declaration is the first step towards planning a restoration of natural climate and tackling with the 1.5 degree challenge in the coming years.
Although Australia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, it has failed to meet targets and timelines and greenhouse emissions have continued to rise over the past four years. The knowledge of a climate emergency will prompt action from citizens and institutions, including the federal government, alike at a purely symbolic level. At a deeper level, declaration in two cities will likely spur similar reactions from other cities in Australia and can prove to be successful in helping Australia meet its carbon reduction goals.
Australia is also particularly vulnerable to possible financial costs of climate change and projections suggest losses of A$159 billion a year as a result of sea level rise and drought-driven collapses in agricultural productivity.
However remarkable this step is, it is just the first. Merely declaring an emergency is not enough to solve the climate crisis, it has to be accompanied by strong plans of action as well as support by local communities. Other countries like the UK and Canada have failed to align new policies with their respective emergency declarations. Will subsequent plans in Australia reflect the declaration? Will it prove to be different than the rest and propel Australia towards a better future?