Knox City Council declares climate emergency

Cr Jude Dwight moved the motion to declare a climate emergency in the City of Knox. Picture: KNOX CITY COUNCIL

By Parker McKenzie

Knox City Council has officially declared a climate emergency replacing a previous motion in September only “recognising” the issue, despite strong opposition from two councillors,

Councillor Jude Dwight moved to officially and publically declare a climate emergency at Knox City Council’s meeting on Monday 25 July.

“In September last year when Council endorsed its climate response plan, the motion was amended to also recognise the state of climate emergency,” Cr Dwight said.

“In this last-minute amendment, the wording seemed appropriate and was considered sufficient for inclusion in the climate emergency declaration movement.”

She said disasters around the world prove action is needed now to mitigate future risks, costs and damages to residents of Knox by declaring a climate emergency.

Cr Darren Pearce said while he respects Cr Dwight’s position on the matter, he disagreed with declaring a climate emergency and absolutely opposed the motion.

“This is virtue signalling, it is social engineering. It is not the core business of Council and it will achieve nothing of substance at all, except potentially impact on future private property rights,” he said.

“How many of you are going to get into gas-guzzling SUVs after this meeting? Are you going to continue your caravan road trips?”

“I believe this is a classic case of gross hypocrisy. If we pass this tonight it is a classic case of the civic leadership of this council not leading by example in their own personal behaviours.”

Cr Cooper said she would speak against the motion and didn’t want “to get into the whole debate about climate change” because “there’ll be some who will speak against it and have equal basis of arguments.”

“On the 27 September last year, when the climate response plan came to council, I was more than happy to support that climate response plan,” she said.

“Through that process at no point did we ask our community if we wanted them if they wanted us sorry to declare a climate emergency on their behalf. The question was not asked, our community were not consulted.”

Director of City Strategy and Integrity Matt Kelleher was asked by Councillor Meagan Baker to explain the impact the motion would have if it was successfully moved.

Mr Kelleher said the motion would create more active language around how Knox City Council approaches a climate emergency.

“Council has publicly acknowledged that it recognizes we’re in a state of climate change and it’s adopted the CRP, the climate response plan,” he said.

“It’s really around recognition of the role that council plays in relation to climate change and how serious and urgent it’s treating it.”

Cr Nicole Seymour and Cr Yvonne Allred, who seconded the motion, also spoke in support of declaring a climate emergency.

Knox Mayor Susan Laukens said she would support the motion to reaffirm the council’s commitment to acting on climate change.

“It is real, it is happening and climate scientists have been warning us of extreme weather events,” she said.

“Our Local Government Act is requiring us to make significant action in climate change space and I totally agree…We need to be advocating and show leadership in this space.”

The motion was passed with seven counsellors for and only Cr Pearce and Cr Cooper opposing.