The ACT has become the first Australian state or territory to make a formal declaration of a climate change emergency
, passing a motion proposed by ACT climate minister Shane Rattenbury.
The passage of the motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly follows similar declarations made in the UK
The text of the motion cited the extreme temperatures that were observed in the ACT over the last summer, which experienced its warmest summer on record
, and the impacts of bushfires and flooding in Queensland and Tasmania.
“Globally, nationally and locally, human induced climate change is contributing to record breaking temperatures, extreme weather events, and a range of negative social, environmental and economic outcomes,” the motion said.
“We are in a state of climate emergency that requires urgent actions across all levels of government”.
The motion condemned the federal Coalition government for its failure to act, and called on it to provide greater funding support for the states and territories to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
“[The assembly] condemns the federal government for its continued failure to enact effective climate change policy, and requests the federal government provide additional funding for states and territories to deal with worsening climate change risks and impacts,” the motion concluded.
The motion passed with the support of ACT Labor, who made amendments to include references to the work the ACT has done to tackle climate change.
The ACT will become the first jurisdiction to achieve a target for 100 per cent renewable electricity next year, when the last of a series of solar and wind farms contracted to supply the ACT come online.
The ACT has a target to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, which the switch to completely renewable electricity supplies will help achieve, along with a longer-term target of zero net emissions by 2045.
Before passage of the motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly, Rattenbury said that more work needed to be done to ensure the ACT was doing all that it could to tackle and prepare for climate change.
“The ACT has certainly made very good progress so far, in terms of things like out 100% renewable electricity target, we do have our long term goals, and we have our triple bottom line measures, but this is about putting a particular climate emphasis on it,” Rattenbury said.
'The climate emergency status means that the government needs to prioritise climate action. From now on, every time the government makes a decision we will ask ourselves: what does this decision mean for climate change, for emissions, and for the climate crisis we need to avert? If it is not consistent with reducing emissions, then we need to think again.
'As the recent student climate strikers made clear, we must act as though our house is on fire – because it is.”
ACT Labor and the ACT Greens have been in a formal power-sharing arrangement since 2008, when the Greens first held the balance of power in the ACT Legislative Assembly. The ACT is the only jurisdiction to have a currently appointed member of the Greens in its cabinet, with Shane Rattenbury serving as the Minister for Climate Change and Energy since 2016.
The ACT conducted a series of reverse auctions to purchase of renewable electricity from a series of solar and wind farms, contributing towards the ACT target of 100 per cent renewable electricity.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.