1486 governments have declared
The climate emergency
United Nations Urges Countries to Make Rapid Transition to Clean Energy Economies to Meet Paris Climate Agreement Goals
In recent years, at least 749 municipalities in 16 different countries representing over 138 million people have declared a climate emergency. These declarations vary as some require specific policy changes, while others remain symbolic gestures, but all recognize the growing and catastrophic risks associated with climate change.
Environmental activists are targeting local governments in this campaign to build a global grassroots movement to achieve the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"Cities and local governments have historically been the spark for progress, from minimum wage to civil rights," says Climate Mobilization, an environmental group that tracks climate emergency declarations through its website. "Local victories inspire other communities to follow and create a mandate for much-needed national mobilizations.
Every government that joins the movement, no matter how small, adds to the momentum and helps inspire others. Since 2016, efforts have been launched, especially from the major municipalities that have the power to influence the global status quo.
These are seven countries and influential cities that have declared climate emergencies
Hoboken, New Jersey, United States, became the third city in the world and the first city in the United States to declare a climate emergency in 2017. The city's announcement set the stage for other governments around the world to make similar commitments, and showed that ordinary people can encourage policymakers to step up and address climate change.
In its announcement, Hoboken covered issues such as sea level rise, superstorms, renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable employment and more.
"By denying, minimizing and failing to respond robustly to the global climate emergency, our federal and state government officials have put the people of Hoboken at risk," the city council members wrote in the unanimously supported statement.
No country has recognized the climate crisis as uniformly as Canada. Across the country, 438 municipalities have declared climate emergencies, making it the leader of the global movement at the local level.
The Ottawa declaration is especially significant because it is the nation's capital. City representatives said the effects of climate change were already evident.
"Last year's tornadoes, and before that this year's floods in West Carleton, Cumberland and Britannia. There's definitely a connection and I think when you look at almost every scientific journal and every report that's been published about climate change, these are not coincidences," said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson at the time of the statement. "They are actually serious challenges to the well-being of the planet".
A few months after the Ottawa declaration, the Canadian House of Commons voted to approve a national climate emergency declaration, but the vote has not yet been confirmed by the federal branch.
The effort to get the world to declare a climate emergency gained great momentum following the protests of the Extinction Rebellion protests in the United Kingdom.
After weeks of marches and protests, the Extinction Rebellion team pushed the UK to become the first country to formally declare a climate emergency.
"We have no time to lose," Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told parliament, reported by The Independent. "We are living through a climate crisis that will get dangerously out of control unless we take swift and dramatic action now".
A week after the UK's announcement, Ireland became the second country to announce a climate emergency.
Like its neighbor, Ireland's announcement is largely symbolic. It does not lead to new political commitments, and environmentalists were quick to criticize the measure as empty.
"Declaring an emergency means absolutely nothing unless there is action to back it up," Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Green Party, told RTE. "That means the government has to do things it doesn't want to do".
However, recognizing the climate crisis is a strong step in the right direction and could encourage legislators to pass concrete laws in the future.
Emergency declarations have often included bold political commitments. When Sydney joined the movement in June, lawmakers announced their intention to implement a carbon tax and help workers transition from the fossil fuel industry to sustainable jobs.
Sydney's statement came at a time when Australia's federal government began to move in the opposite direction. During the national elections, voters rejected a federal carbon tax and lawmakers have approved new coal mines.
Despite these setbacks, Sydney's leaders hope to build a grassroots environmental movement.
"Cities must show leadership, especially when you don't get that leadership from the national government," Sydney's Mayor Clover Moore said at the time.
The success of Extinction Rebellion inspired activists around the world and soon began to gain members worldwide.
In New York, the local chapter of the movement began agitating for a climate statement soon after the UK joined.
Legislators accepted the demands and declared an emergency on June 26.
"We are in the midst of a climate crisis," said Councilman Ben Kallos, who introduced the resolution written by the partner organizations, in a statement before the vote. "New York must take bold steps to protect its citizens, or we will suffer more sea level rise, more climate injustice and more Sandys hurricanes. We must address the climate crisis and look at the broader systemic issues that have put us here, as that is the only way to fully address them".
In addition to the announcement, New York has one of the most ambitious climate action plans in the world.
The momentum just seems to be building. Paris became the last major city to declare a climate emergency in Paris.
City lawmakers said they will create a "climate academy" to educate the public about the consequences of climate change, and are exploring ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As this is also the birthplace of the Paris climate agreement, this commitment is especially symbolic and could stimulate further announcements in the coming weeks and months.