Congressional Resolution Declares Climate Emergency
For Immediate Release, July 9, 2019
WASHINGTON— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) unveiled a concurrent resolution today to declare the climate crisis an emergency warranting a “massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse and address” its consequences.
“With an unhinged climate denier in the White House, it’s on Congress to steer us away from climate suicide,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This resolution is a sane recognition that science says we need a massive transition away from the production and consumption of dirty fossil fuels.”
The resolution follows the world’s hottest June on record and comes a day after Trump’s speech touting his environmental policies — a speech that entirely neglected to mention the climate crisis.
Months before the 116th Congress opened, a series of scientific reports warned of the dire consequences of inaction on the climate emergency.
In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that policymakers must take “unprecedented action” to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. In November the Fourth National Climate Assessment reported that the United States is already feeling the health and economic costs of climate change and that those harms will intensify without “immediate and substantial” cuts to greenhouse gas pollution.
The resolution notes that a federal, large-scale mobilization has ample precedent in the nation’s history, pointing to accomplishments like the Interstate Highway System, the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the New Deal.
“Mounting a World War II style mobilization against the climate emergency will have lifesaving and economic benefits that far exceed its costs,” Snape said. “Responding to the climate crisis with any less urgency would spell disaster for current and future Americans, and for the planet.”
The Virus and
Climate “emergency” declarations
Local climate policies that are already on the books in the US are poised to cut down greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels), according to a December report from Bloomberg Philanthropies. When South Portland, Maine adopted a resolution declaring a climate emergency in October, it included a vow to cut its greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2030.
Sixty-eight cities, towns, and counties have issued their own emergencies in the US. Sixty of those were made in 2019, and include major cities like Miami and Austin.
2019 was the year of ‘climate emergency’ declarations – The Verge
A rapidly changing climate drovehundreds of governments around the world to declare states of emergencyin 2019. While the declarations are largely symbolic gestures, they have in some cases become jumping-off points for real action. It’s the culmination of coordinated efforts by activists pushing governments to take action that is as dramatic as the threats posed by the climate crisis.
“The Climate Emergency movement reached a tipping point”
“This year, the Climate Emergency movement reached a tipping point, and thousands of average people began getting involved in climate politics and advocating for change,” Laura Berry, director of research and publications at The Climate Mobilization wrote toThe Vergein an email. Her Brooklyn-based advocacy group has been behind a campaign to push for emergency declarations across the globe. Berry’s organization has worked alongside grassroots groups to push for local declarations and has lobbied Congress, too. She says the global climate emergency movement has exploded in growth this year as campaigns from both her group and other efforts have taken hold.
In the final year ofthe hottest decade on record, climate emergency declarations have grown in scale from individual cities to an entire continent sounding the alarm.In May 2019, the UK became the first national government to declare a climate emergency, days after similar declarations from Scotland and Wales.”By November, the European Parliament had done the same. That month, more than11,000 scientistsjointly declared that Earth is “clearly and unequivocally” facing a climate emergency, too. Oxford Dictionaries made “climate emergency” itsword of the year.
Today,about800 million peoplelive in places that have declared global warming an emergency— that’s one in ten of all people on the planet. It’s a big change in the three years since Darebin, Australia declared the first local emergency in 2016. On January 1st, 2019, The Climate Mobilization recorded just 233 declarations worldwide compared to the 1,288 today. For the most part, those declarations aren’t binding and rarely include any specific changes in policy, but in some cases,they have bolstered more concrete efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
800 million people live in places that have declared global warming an emergency
New York City became the world’slargest city to declareclimate emergency in June 2019. That declaration “calls for an immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate” without much detail on how it would do that. But it came on the heels of the city council passing a package of climate bills it dubbedits own Green New Deal,which most notablycommits the city to making its buildings more energy-efficient in order to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
“If we want to stop climate catastrophe, we have to tell the truth,” Ash Sanders, a member of the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion, said in astatementwhen New York City made its declaration.“We have ten years to transform our consumer behavior, our economy, and our culture to preserve life on earth.By declaring a climate emergency, the city is taking a major step in that process,” Sanders said.
These declarations can also give municipalities a way to declare their priorities especially when their preferences clash with policy decisions made at higher levels. In the US — the second biggest greenhouse gas polluter in the world — cities, counties, and states have stepped up their efforts on climate change while President Trump has rolled back environmental protections.Local climate policies that are already on the books in the US are poised to cut down greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels), according to aDecember reportfrom Bloomberg Philanthropies. When South Portland, Maine adopted aresolution declaring a climate emergency in October, it included a vow to cut its greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2030.
Sixty-eightcities, towns, and counties have issued their own emergencies in the US. Sixty of those were made in 2019, and include major cities like Miami and Austin.
Though the movement started with smaller governments, it’s caught on with bigger stakeholders, too.Nine nations — including Portugal, Argentina, Bangladesh, and Canada — also decided that the threat of climate change warranted an emergency declaration.
The EU became the biggest bloc yet to declare an emergency
WhentheEU became the biggest bloc yetto declare an emergency, it put pressure on leaders to raise the bar on their climate commitments.“We can take that resolution from the European Parliament and say ‘Look, you said this was an emergency, so now act like it’s an emergency,’” Jonathan Gaventa, a senior associate and board member of the environmental think tank E3G, toldThe Verge.Soon after the declaration, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen proposed theEU’s Green Deal, which puts the EU on the path to eliminate its greenhouse gases by 2050.
Meeting that 2050 goal globally is what scientists believe is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. It’s a tall order that would require a near complete transition away from the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.Without doing so, nearly all of the world’s coral reefs are expected to die off, an additional 61 million people will deal with extreme droughts across the world’s cities, and 70 percent of the world’s coastlines will shrink under rising sea levels.
2020 could be a big year for climate emergencies, too
With so much on the line, 2020 could be a big year for climate emergencies,too. Democratic presidential candidates in the US have put declaring a national climate emergency on their agenda as they hit the campaign trail for elections next year. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT)introduced a resolutionon it in July. Billionaire environmental philanthropist Tom Steyer has also said that he would make the declaration on the first day of his presidency if elected.
“This problem can’t really be solved in the real world without it being prioritized and telling the world we’re doing it right now on an expedited, urgent basis,” Steyer told The Verge in an interview.
‘Our house is on fire’: EU parliament declares climate emergency
The European parliament has declared a global “climate and environmental emergency” as it urged all EU countries to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The vote came as scientists warned that the world may have already crossed a series of climate tipping points, resulting in “a state of planetary emergency”.
Intended to demonstrate Europe’s green credentials days before a crucial UN climate conference in Madrid, the vote also ratchets up pressure on Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European commission, who declared this week that the EU would lead the fight against “the existential threat” of the climate crisis.
Although passed with a comfortable majority, with 429 votes in favour, 225 votes against and 19 abstentions – MEPs across the political spectrum warned against making symbolic gestures.
Environmental campaigners said the declaration was not backed by sufficient action. “Our house is on fire. The European parliament has seen the blaze, but it’s not enough to stand by and watch,” said Greenpeace’s EU climate policy adviser, Sebastian Mang, shortly before the vote.
In a separate vote on Thursday, MEPs backed a resolution stating that current EU climate targets were “not in line” with the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which calls for keeping global heating “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, but aiming to cap temperature rises at 1.5C.
Climate protesters outside the EU parliament in Brussels demand it declares a climate emergency. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPAMEPs backed a tougher target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, an improvement on the current 40% target, but derided by Green politicians and campaigners as inadequate.
Pascal Canfin, the French liberal MEP who drafted the climate emergency resolution, said: “The fact that Europe is the first continent to declare climate and environmental emergency, just before COP25, when the new commission takes office, and three weeks after Donald Trump confirmed the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement, is a strong message sent to citizens and the rest of the world.”
MEPs from the European parliament’s largest group, the centre-right European People’s party, were split over the “climate emergency” language. The group had wanted to declare “a climate urgency” instead, because the German word emergency, der Notstand, left some MEPs uneasy, because of its associations with a Nazi-era law.
The EPP’s environmental spokesman, Peter Liese, said the climate emergency was “a fake debate” that hid the real decisions needed to reduce emissions. “There is an urgency to act, but no state of emergency to declare. Emergency can also be interpreted as undermining fundamental rights, like freedom of press and democracy.”
However, scores of EPP MEPs joined Liberals, Socialists, Greens and the radical left in voting through the climate emergency resolution.
The Eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists group opposed the text, although individual British Tories either supported or abstained from the vote. “Ramping up the rhetoric does not get us away from the serious discussions that now need to take place,” said its Czech environment spokesman, Alexandr Vondra.
The Brexit party voted against both climate resolutions.
Speaking to the Guardian before the vote, the Swedish meteorologist-turned Green MEP Pär Holmgren said other political groups hadn’t grasped the urgency of the climate crisis. “You could sum it up by saying: for the moment we are heading for 3C, which is of course better than 4C, but it’s far from well below 2C, aiming at 1.5 degrees which we have promised to each other, to future generations.”
Separately, the Climate Action Network, a coalition of 1,700 NGOS, warned that member states would have to overachieve on the EU’s existing 2030 carbon target to keep on track with the Paris climate agreement.
The EU currently aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 against 1990 levels, a target the network has described as “shockingly insufficient”. To meet that target – declared inadequate by MEPs in the vote – EU member states have until the end of the year to submit plans to Brussels outlining their energy transformation over the next decade.
An assessment of the draft plans by the Climate Action Network said there was “insufficient ambition” to switch to renewables, make energy savings and phase out coal.
The report highlighted that progress had been made since countries submitted their original plans in 2018. Greece, Hungary and Slovakia have since agreed to phase out coal in their power sectors by 2030. That means coal will be concentrated in five EU member states in 2030: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Romania.
Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European commission, says the EU will lead the fight against “the existential threat” of the climate crisis. Photograph: Thierry Monasse/Getty ImagesOther countries were faulted for low ambition, notably Belgium, which has not put forward any new plans on renewable energy or energy savings because of the long-running political stalemate that has resulted in a caretaker government for nearly a year. France, Germany, and Sweden were among numerous countries criticised for not doing enough to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
The research highlighted that climate activists in Hungary and Romania had “no access to official information” about changes in government’s climate and energy plans.
“Member states have one month left to improve their plans,” Wendel Trio, the director of Climate Action Network Europe, said. “It is crystal clear that the quality of these plans will weigh a lot in the EU’s ability to act on climate change in the next decade. They must set clear pathways that will allow the bloc to increase its climate target, shift away from fossil fuels and speed up the pace towards fully energy efficient and renewables-based economies.”
The group did not assess the UK, which has submitted a draft national energy and climate plan to the European commission. The government has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and suggested that the UK could link to the EU’s emissions trading system, one of many politically-charged issues to be decided during the post-Brexit talks.
America faces an epic choice…
… in the coming year, and the results will define the country for a generation. These are perilous times. Over the last three years, much of what the Guardian holds dear has been threatened – democracy, civility, truth. This US administration is establishing new norms of behaviour. Anger and cruelty disfigure public discourse and lying is commonplace. Truth is being chased away. But with your help we can continue to put it center stage.
Rampant disinformation, partisan news sources and social media’s tsunami of fake news is no basis on which to inform the American public in 2020. The need for a robust, independent press has never been greater, and with your support we can continue to provide fact-based reporting that offers public scrutiny and oversight. Our journalism is free and open for all, but it’s made possible thanks to the support we receive from readers like you across America in all 50 states.
Our journalism relies on our readers’ generosity – your financial support has meant we can keep investigating, disentangling and interrogating. It has protected our independence, which has never been so critical. We are so grateful.
We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.
Paris climate agreement – About 666 results for Paris climate agreement
Denmark’s new government raises climate change to highest priority
In a deal with other left parties, the Social Democrats agreed to raise the country’s climate targets and place the green transition at the heart of policy
Southern California Edison (SCE) has notified the public that they are considering turning off power to some areas of southern Santa Barbara County this week due to a fast-moving weather event. Power has not yet been turned off for these areas. The outage may impact an unincorporated area west of Goleta between Gaviota State Park and Jalama Beach County Park as well as parts of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. If you live or work in or near this area, you should make preparations for a possible multiple day power outage. Call SCE at 1-800-611-1911 or visit www.sce.com for more info on this potential outage. Additional info: ReadySBC.org
Southern California Edison (SCE) ha notificado al público que están considerando apagar la electricidad en algunas áreas del condado de Santa Bárbara esta semana. La electricidad no se ha apagado en estas áreas en este momento. El apagón puede afectar un área no incorporada al oeste de Goleta entre Gaviota State Park y Jalama Beach County Park, así como partes de Montecito, Summerland y Carpinteria. Si vive o trabaja en esta área o cerca de ella, debe prepararse para un posible corte de energía de varios días. Llame a SCE al 1-800-611-1911 o visite www.sce.com para obtener más información sobre este posible apagón. Información adicional: ReadySBC.org/es
Climate Action Plan 2020 and Beyond – ADOPTED