On the 27th of September 2021, at 10.38pm, after substantial debate, Boroondara Councillors passed a Climate Emergency Declaration motion 7 to 4.

Councillors who voted in favour: Mayor Thompson, Cr Gault, Cr Addis, Cr Hollingsworth, Cr Biggar, Cr Franco, Cr Gilles

Councillors who opposed the motion: Cr Parke, Cr Watson, Cr Sinfield, Cr Stavrou

Lighter Footprints would like to thank the Mayor and Councillors who supported the motion, and the very many community members and groups who worked for years to get to this point. However, a Climate Emergency Declaration, although an important milestone, is only as good as the decisions and actions that follow, helping to move Boroondara towards fast climate action.

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the draft Climate Action Plan

Lighter Footprints would like to thank all Councillors for supporting the new Climate Action Plan. Having united support as the plan is implemented is key to its success.

How did we get here?

Setting up Climate Emergency in Boroondara

In October 2019 a small group of volunteers who had been involved in the Kooyong Votes Climate campaign began a petition calling on the City of Boroondara to declare a climate emergency and mobilise the required resources to take effective climate action.  A grand total of 3,913 signatures were collected on the petition.  All signatures were collected in person within the municipality, with regular petitioning on Saturday mornings at the Camberwell, Glenferrie and Kew shopping centres.

From early 2020, members of the group began meeting with their individual Councillors to put the case for a declaration.  Meetings were also held with Council officers to discuss Council’s proposed community consultation process for a new Climate Action Plan, and to assert the important role an emergency declaration could play in providing a context for this process.

First attempt at a Climate Emergency motion at Boroondara Council

The petition was presented to a full Council meeting on 25 May 2020. At that meeting the Kooyong Climate Change Alliance, of which Lighter Footprints is a member, made a deputation to Council and was ably represented by Dr Fiona Bruce, a member of Doctors for the Environment and school striker Alice Caldwell.  Councillor Jane Addis bravely moved a motion that Council declare a climate emergency. The motion was seconded by Councillor Coral Ross. The vote was lost 7-3 with Councillor Hollingsworth being the other supporting Councillor. It was an acrimonious and sometimes brutal meeting which put on display the tensions within Council. A number of us who watched the meeting online were dismayed by the behaviour on show.

Vote Climate for the Boroondara Council elections

With Council elections coming up in October 2020 the Kooyong Climate Change Alliance turned its attention to ensuring our community could make an informed vote. Candidate climate surveys were conducted and candidate scorecards distributed. A number of candidates surveyed said they would support Council declaring a climate emergency. Lighter Footprints ran an online Ward based election forum where the candidates’ climate views were explored. The election resulted in 5 new Councillors being elected and a more climate friendly Council to work with.

Climate Action Plan Development

In late 2019 Boroondara Council had voted to develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP) which would replace the expiring Our Low Carbon Future Strategy. Community consultation on the new plan was conducted throughout 2020 and 2021. The Kooyong Climate Change Alliance lobbied Councillors for improvements to the draft plan and to follow through on their pre-election support for a Climate Emergency Declaration. You can read more about the consultation process and plan here.

A Climate Emergency is Declared

At their meeting on Monday 27 September, 2021 Boroondara Council declared a climate emergency and adopted a new Climate Action Plan which includes a community emissions reduction target of 60% by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2035.This is a major step forward for Boroondara and for which the Council deserves wholehearted congratulations.

However, it’s not all good news.  In the first place, the emergency declaration was somewhat qualified in a way that suggests the Council wants to avoid being pushed to do more than it has already decided is enough.  The full text of the motion is as follows:

That Council resolve to:

  1. Acknowledge the community’s strong support for Council to act on climate change and to now declare a Climate Emergency.
  2. Note that all actions that flow from this declaration are included in the Climate Action Plan and the Climate Action Plan Implementation Plan 2021-2023 and any subsequent versions of these Plans adopted by Council.
  3. Note funding for any actions arising as a consequence of the Climate Emergency declaration will be limited to and aligned with Council decisions taken in respect of budget allocations to implement an adopted Climate Action Plan and Climate Action Implementation Plan.

And then there’s the CAP.  It contains many good things, but it lacks the detail needed to give confidence that the emissions targets will be delivered, and the community targets are described as ‘aspirational’ only.  Other notable problems include its weakness on the transition from gas and the lack of community involvement in the implementation and further development of the plan. The accompanying implementation plan for the next two years does little to address these issues.

Where to from here

Next Steps for the Climate Action Plan and the CED response – Here’s where you come in!

Council declares climate emergency – but where’s the money?

Perhaps the most important concern is Council’s budget for climate action.  Only $400,000 has been specifically allocated for implementation of the CAP actions in 2021-22, a paltry sum in the context of Council’s total operating budget of $255 million.  It is particularly telling that the previous year’s budget included more than twice as much for development of the CAP and implementation of emissions reductions projects ($985,000).

It is true that there are other initiatives in the budget with a positive climate impact, but however climate related expenditure is calculated, it is clear that the amount is not consistent with recognition that we are in a climate emergency.  Foreshadowed expenditure for the next three years (to 2024-25) increases marginally to $1 million per annum, but this modest improvement only reinforces the impression that Council is not serious about funding effective climate action.

We believe that climate funding (excluding transport related expenditure) of at least 2% of the budget would be appropriate i.e. a minimum of $5 million dollars per annum.

Tell Council to fund climate action properly!

The Council knows the current budget allowance for the climate is inadequate.  When Council approved the budget in June, officers were asked to submit a report later in the year as part of an amended budget ‘detailing opportunities to allocate additional funds of up to $1m in the current financial year for implementation of initiatives included in the adopted Climate Action Plan’.  It is expected that this report will be considered at Council’s meeting on 25 October.

An increase of $1 million for the CAP in 2021-22 would be a significant improvement, but is still not good enough.  This is where we come in.  We need to contact Councilors and tell them they should fund climate action properly.

The CAP Implementation Plan sets out what Council is planning to do in the next 2 years (it starts on page 46 here).  Some of the things you could suggest deserve more funding include:

  • Acceleration of the many programs that are to be ‘developed’; for example, rather than just develop the ‘fleet transition plan’, start the transition
  • Developing a program to encourage the community transition from gas and commencing implementation
  • Expanding community education, information and advice programs, including additional staff for community outreach, youth engagement and working with large emitters
  • Undertaking a study of community emissions to provide a baseline against which future emission reductions can be reliably assessed
  • Providing free household energy audits conditional on adoption of some of the recommendations, and giving preference to low income and vulnerable households

So please call, email or seek a meeting with your Councillor before 25 October to lobby for more money for the CAP.


For Climate campaigners who want a more detailed account of Council’s Climate Emergency debate!

The video of the meeting will soon be available to watch here. The following history is drawn from the notes used to create the Lighter Footprints live tweet string of the meeting. Apologies for any inaccuracies as this work is done on the fly.

Climate Action Plan Motion and Amendments 4, 5 and 6

The Mayor called for the Climate Action Plan to be put to the vote. Cr Gault moved amendments 4, 5 and 6 which included the Climate Emergency Declaration (CED). He noted the recent devastating IPCC report, referred to the accelerating pace of national and global climate impacts and said that this is the last decade that we can act. From the live tweet “we need to bring our community with us. A CED would help with this – a method to show that Council is serious. The costs are no different – I commend it.”

Cr Biggar said that we were living in “extraordinary times”, saying that we must respond to the UN Secretary General. “The alarms are deafening.” She spoke to the overwhelming community support that the CAP had received.

Cr Watson opposed the CED motion being worried about Council focus and budget.

Cr Stavrou noted that it had been a labour of love to work on the CAP, which he called balanced and responsive, was unhappy about last minute additions to the motion.

Next up was Cr Franco who spoke stongly in support. “Not passing CED signals lack of concern for environment”. Despite its importance, “really its only catch up” he said referring to his incredulity that despite making these sorts of recommendations when working on greenhouse gas policy in the 1990’s we would only finally passing this declaration in 2021, so many years later.

Counter Motion to split off the two motions

Cr Addiss spoke next, “very much” supporting the CAP, but also supporting the CED. “We need to save the living creatures on our planet. We will not survive unless we act.”

Cr Sinfield also supported the CAP, but was unhappy with the CED as not being aligned with a central 3Rs remit.

Cr Gillies praised the lively CED debate, and said that a CED would engage the community. She praised Councillors and Officers for putting together a “well formed” and developed CAP: “..climate issues were at the highest category, a new heightened awareness. Our stewardship duty is important.”

At that point Cr Parke put forward a counter motion to remove Amendments 4, 5 & 6 to restore the original motion.

Passing the Climate Action Plan

After a lengthy recess the meeting was recalled, unanimously passed Cr Parkes Ammendment to remove 4, 5 & 6, and unanimously passed the Climate Action Plan.

Passing the Climate Emergency Declaration motion

Cr Gault then moved the new Climate Emergency Declaration motion, speaking to the passion and concern of the community.

Cr Hollingsworth spoke in support of the new CED motion, saying she is “representing the concerns of her ward and community” in supporting the CED, saying she has “listened and learnt” and is speaking on behalf of her residents. From the tweet: “the environment must be protected now and for the future. It is up to us to do what we can do to help heal and regenerate our environment.”

Cr Gault moved the motion. The Mayor declared it passed.  A division was called and after the individual votes were noted, the motion was passed at 10.38, 7 to 4.


The History of Climate Emergency Declarations

From climate change to Climate Emergency – a few snapshots

Melbourne climate writers David Spratt and Philip Sutton wrote Climate Code Red in 2008, on the back of the very worrying Potsdam Report.  Citing scientists such as James Hansen, the authors argued that the climate crisis was much worse than official reports presented, that there was little or no carbon budget left, and what was called for was a radical break from incremental change. The book argued that the goal is a safe climate future, that humanity has no right to bargain away lives or species, and what was needed was an emergency response, of the scale of a world war mobilisation. The idea of a climate emergency was beginning to take hold also in the UK with the work of Paul Gilding, and in the US, particularly through the work of Margaret Kelin Salamon and The Climate Mobilisation (TCM). You can follow David’s excellent updates here.

Breakthrough – the National Centre for Climate Restoration, an Australian think tank, held its first conference in the winter of 2014. A cold eyed view of the science was followed by sessions that helped to accelerate the rationale for and means for step change. Since then Breakthrough papers have added a national security frame and a better of urgency and risk to our understanding of the climate crisis.

Melbourne psychologist Jane Morton, supported by the Victorian climate movement, iterated and wrote Don’t Mention the Emergency?. This illustrated booklet presented the Climate Emergency message clearly, and in the context of an effective response. Jane challenged existing climate messaging orthodoxy (don’t scare the horses) using the high threat, high efficacy model that had produced results in the New York AIDS campaign and the Transport Accident Commissions’s much awarded ongoing work against drink driving. Her work has been foundational in accelerating the Climate Emergency movement.

Darebin – the first Climate Emergency Declaration in any jurisdiction

Climate emergency mobilisation was launched as a declaration and a series of petitions in May 2016 here. After a strong Council election #VoteClimate campaign, where many of the candidates had submitted climate emergency pledges, a much more progressive Darebin Council was returned. One of the very first acts of the new Council was to pass a declaration: “On 5 December 2016, Darebin Council unanimously voted to recognise we are in a state of climate emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government, including local councils.”

Here are some highlights from the Cedemia history page:

  • Steve Possett raised awareness and collected signatures for the national petition in an 8 week kayak trek down the coast of NSW in 2017 and 18,000 signatures were presented to Parliament.
  • TCM started mobilising in the US and Canada in 2017 after the Darebin and Yarra declarations.
  • CACE and Cedemia were set up to support local groups in creating pathways to declarations and to further resource local governments in creating implementation plans.
  • The 2018 IPCC Special Report was a wakeup call, Greta Thunberg ignited the school strike movement, and Extinction Rebellion was gathering pace.

By now 2035 jurisdictions covering one billion citizens in 35 countries have declared a climate emergency – you can keep up to date with this growing movement on the ICEF database here. Australian declarations cover 9 out of 25 million citizens. Subnational or national declarations have been made including Wales, Scotland, Gibraltar, Ireland, Canada, France and Argentina. You can learn more about the Climate Emergency movement history and timeline here, and on this map here.