What is a Climate Emergency?

The Climate Mobilization is an international campaign to get governments to finally sit up and pay attention to the fact that we are facing a climate emergency.  The movement is calling for World-War-2-scale mobilization across society to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and aims to focus on cities first because city governments are more responsive to grassroots democratic organizing.

London, England; Hoboken, New Jersey; Berkeley, California and several other cities have already declared climate emergencies.  A motion to declare a climate emergency is currently under consideration in Vancouver.  A climate emergency declaration pairs a public announcement of the severity of our climate crisis with concrete plans to develop and implement an ambitious response.  In Toronto’s case, we have already done a lot of the necessary research while developing the TransformTO plan – so we will be able to move onto the implementation phase rapidly.


There is already some organizing on this issue in Toronto.  The group MobilizeTO is working to speed up the implementation of the TransformTO plan so that we go carbon neutral by 2025 and they are looking at incorporating a declaration of climate emergency into their demands.  Getting to carbon neutral in five years will be difficult — but we need ambitious targets to get meaningful action, because, so far, very few governments at any level have delivered on their climate targets.

Is it really an Emergency?

Last night, I was talking to my wife about the idea of a Climate Emergency and, while she agrees that we are facing a crisis, she worries that people will find the term emergency odd or inexplicable — insulated as we are here in Canada we don’t yet feel the urgency.  After all, it’s freezing cold outside right now.

The fact is, it is an emergency, but what we are facing is unlike any other crisis we have ever faced — the worst impacts of climate change are decades, maybe even centuries away, but the window in which we can act is closing rapidly.  By the time we feel the full impacts of climate change, it will be too late to act.  We must overcome our instinct to put things off until the last minute (though I admit I rarely finished an essay before midnight on the day it was due) and declare a climate emergency today.  Because it’s already well past midnight.

What’s the plan?

First and foremost, we need to get the word out — so tell your friends and family about the Climate Mobilization, about London and Vancouver’s motions and about TransformTO (which is currently being shamelessly underfunded by John Tory) so that we can start building awareness.  Next, we need to start approaching our councillors, asking them their opinion on London’s declaration and publicly sharing their responses.  Once we find one councilor who is willing to put forward a motion, we will have something to rally around and the organizing can begin in earnest.  While there are a lot of downsides to the new, smaller city council,Doug Ford has given a gift to grassroots campaigners because we now only have to gather about a dozen votes to make a climate emergency declaration a reality.  And those of us who understand the severity of the situation are willing to call and write and campaign outside their offices day after day after day until they understand it as well.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing more about TransformTo, the climate emergency movement and my own interactions with councilors.  But I can’t do this on my own, so please call up your councilor, get a response and let me know what they said by email (contact@climatepledgecollective.org) or on twitter using the hashtag #TOclimateemergency.


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