Why did City of Darwin declare a climate emergency?

    On 30 July 2019, the Lord Mayor declared a climate emergency after listening to community concerns that reflected the large bodies of scientific evidence from experts in Australia and globally that established the need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero to avoid the worse impacts of climate change.

    On top of this, the Lord Mayor recognised that the impacts of climate change in Darwin – which present risks to human health, natural ecosystems, infrastructure, and economic prosperity – are particularly pronounced and are projected to intensify. While historical emissions have already committed Darwin to a broad range of impacts, the severity and the speed of onset of these impacts will depend on our ability to achieve net-zero emissions and adapt to change. Herein lies the importance of our climate emergency response.

    What is the climate emergency?

    City of Darwin’s declaration of a climate emergency recognises that the impacts of climate change and the transition to net-zero emissions will be felt in every aspect of our lives. To deal with these impacts and to reduce emissions towards net-zero requires a response from every level of government in Australia and elsewhere. City of Darwin’s climate emergency response is a holistic organisational and community wide risk management process and is our way of stepping up to our responsibilities of rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

    Why is it the responsibility of City of Darwin to respond to the climate emergency?

    In Australia, the responsibilities to adapt to climate change and manage the associated net-zero transition are split between the federal, state/territory and local governments. All levels of government in Australia have differentiated yet complementary responsibilities in preparing Australia for the current and future impacts of climate change. Coordinated climate action across all levels of government is crucial to ensure Australia can manage the risks of climate impacts effectively.

    Resilience and adaptation 
    City of Darwin is the local government responsible for various essential community services and infrastructure in Darwin, including long-lived infrastructure and land, which have a combined value of more than $1 billion. Climate-related risks, which combine and multiply inside Darwin, will impact these essential community services and infrastructure. City of Darwin is therefore bestowed with the unique responsibility as the first level of government to deal with the potential negative impacts associated with climate change, but also to realise the major economic and health benefits of climate action.

    Net-zero transition
    Rapidly reducing global emissions to net-zero is crucial to minimising the negative impacts of climate change. Cities are responsible for seventy per cent (70%) of these global emissions and are therefore central to the global emissions reduction process. As a result, the net-zero transition in cities is being driven by global, national, and territorial policy and economic shifts. City of Darwin is subject to these shifts and must plan effectively for an orderly and smooth net-zero transition with minimal disruption.

    How is City of Darwin responding to the climate emergency?

    City of Darwin has initiated a holistic, evidence-based and planned climate emergency response with three complementary resources:

    1. The Discussion Paper describes the context of the climate emergency, identifies the key issues at hand and reviews the available pathways forward.

    2. The draft Strategy builds upon the Discussion Paper by presenting our strategic path forward to respond to our climate emergency.

    3. The Action Plan (forthcoming) will be informed by stakeholder engagement and community feedback and will describe the actions that will be undertaken to achieve the goals of our climate emergency response.

    What are the overarching goals of City of Darwin’s emergency response?

    1. Equitably enhance resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change 
    2. Achieve net-zero Council-controlled emissions by 2030 
    3. Support the Darwin community to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 
    4. Embrace emerging opportunities associated with a net-zero transition

    How are climate change impacts felt differently by different people?

    The impacts of climate change are not fair and people that experience poverty, inequality, disadvantage and frailty often bear the brunt of climate-related impacts. 

    Existing health conditions (e.g. chronic illness, conditions of age) and lack of financial resources to respond to impacts, including lack of insurance cover, compromise resilience to the impacts of climate change. Many individuals and communities with reduced resilience are already exposed to climate risks, and any increase in the occurrence of extreme events will only exacerbate the impacts.

    People that are commonly disproportionately vulnerable to climate-related risks (for various reasons) are those that are:

    • Elderly
    • Very young
    • Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent
    • With chronic illness
    • Homeless and rough sleeping
    • Socially isolated
    • Renting or living in multiplex dwellings
    • With poor English language proficiency
    • With limited means to care for themselves (e.g. residents in aged care, infants)
    • Agricultural, construction, and other outdoor workers.

    While these factors have been recognised to make people more vulnerable to the impacts of climate for a range of reasons, it is important to recognise that this does not provide a complete picture. People are differently vulnerable to different risks, and it is not always the same people who are vulnerable to different climate extremes. Identifying vulnerable people and designing education and intervention programs to reach them should take into account this dynamic nature of vulnerability.

    What has informed City of Darwin’s climate emergency response to date?

    City of Darwin’s climate emergency response reflects the community’s vision for Darwin by embodying previous community consultation activities such as the Living Darwin 2030 Community Report and the Place Score Census. In addition, in December 2019 the Lord Mayor hosted a Climate Emergency Roundtable and a Business Leaders’ Climate Roundtable, which allowed for a discussion with business leaders, government and the community about the priorities for City of Darwin in the development of our climate emergency response. The lessons from these activities, coupled with evidence-based best practices, reveal that City of Darwin’s climate emergency response needs to be a holistic response to reflect the broad impacts of climate change in Darwin.

    As a result, City of Darwin’s climate emergency response is a holistic organisational and community wide risk management process that is designed to leverage City of Darwin’s influence across multiple aspects of Darwin life.

    How can I provide feedback?

    We want to hear from the Darwin community. We encourage you to:

    • Read the draft Strategy which explains how City of Darwin is planning to respond to our climate emergency in partnership with our stakeholders and the Darwin community.

    • Read the Discussion Paper if you want to better understand the factors that comprise our climate emergency.

    You have until 12 February 2021 to provide your thoughts, ideas or concerns regarding our proposed path forward via our submissions portal on Engage Darwin.