City council changes mind on climate emergency

Five months after knocking back a plea to declare a “climate emergency”, Adelaide City Council has now endorsed a view that climate change is a “national emergency” that poses a serious risk to city ratepayers.

Aug 28, 2019, updated Aug 28, 2019
Area councillor Robert Simms (front right) rallied the city council to declare a "climate emergency" in March, but he was unsuccessful. Photo: Supplied

Area councillor Robert Simms (front right) rallied the city council to declare a "climate emergency" in March, but he was unsuccessful. Photo: Supplied

The decision followed a motion put forward at last night’s council meeting by area councillor Robert Simms on behalf of Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor, calling on the council to recognise that “climate change poses a serious risk to the people or Adelaide, and it should be treated as a national emergency”.

In March, InDaily reported Simms was unsuccessful at convincing his colleagues to support a similar motion declaring a “climate emergency” in the city, following criticism that his proposal fell beyond the council’s remit.

At the time, Simms was accused of “insulting” councillors by “twisting” the motion in a way that compelled them to vote for it.

But councillors last night were more receptive to the idea following a climate change presentation last week by the council’s audit committee and Minter Ellison, which warned of a looming impact on property values and insurance premiums.

“Already the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Brisbane have declared climate emergencies and they’re working with all tiers of government in combatting climate change,” Verschoor told the chamber.

“Climate-related risks – both financial and material – impact how we manage our infrastructure, our economy and how we ensure that our city promotes our resilience into the future.

“As such, I have asked councillor Simms tonight to present a motion without notice on behalf to take further action towards preparing for the impacts of climate change.”

Simms said the motion would “cement Adelaide’s place in a leader in climate change action”.

He praised Verschoor “for showing leadership on climate change” and noted the 36 other councils across Australia – including the Town of Gawler and Adelaide Hills Council – that had passed similar motions.

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But Simms failed to win the support of Jessy Khera – the only councillor to vote against last night’s motion – who told InDaily after the meeting that voters would “react with disgust when they see councils engage in this type of activism”.

Councillor Alexander Hyde, although supportive of the motion, denied that it meant the council was declaring a “climate emergency”.

“What it does have is teeth and it allows the Lord Mayor to go to the august Capital City Lord Mayor’s committee and discuss this in some depth,” he said.

According to latest figures from the state’s Environment Protection Authority, the number of days reaching over 40 degrees in Adelaide has more than doubled in the past 10 years, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting maximum daily temperatures for South Australia will rise by between 1 and 2.1 degrees by 2050.

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