There was wild cheering in the council chamber, and every councillor took a bow, as Armidale Regional Council declared a climate emergency at Wednesday's council meeting.
Greens councillor, Dorothy Robinson, had submitted the motion, which called on the council to "acknowledge our local and global communities are facing a climate emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government".
Council has voted to prepare a report by February 2020, with input from a working group of the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee and the community, on current initiatives and additional future actions that can be undertaken to reduce greenhouse emissions aiming, by 2030, for no additional contribution from our region to the global temperature rise.
It will also call on the community to adapt to current and anticipated climate change impacts and reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.
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"This is a really important motion because we're all concerned about the enormous harm that will be done if the global temperature rises by two degrees," Cr Robinson said.
The rise in global temperatures, she continued, would not stop even when we finally get down to zero net emissions - which NSW does not aim to achieve until 2050. Temperatures will still increase because of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.
We might even see faster temperature rises, Cr Robinson predicted, because of feedback mechanisms such as melting glaciers and polar ice. The heat these glaciers and ice caps now reflect into space would instead warm our planet. Methane released from permafrost and undersea ice is also a problem; it causes 86 times as much warming in the short-term as the same amount of carbon dioxide.
"This really is an emergency," Cr Robinson said, "because the only way to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees - which everybody considers safe, or maybe as safe as we might be able to get - is to take urgent action now."
Council also agreed to encourage other local councils (that have not already done so) to take similar action to reduce greenhouse emissions and protect the climate, and to lobby state and federal governments for urgent action to reduce greenhouse emissions.
"The current devastating drought and bush fires should be a wake-up call ... about what our future will be like with more extreme weather," Cr Robinson said.
Safeguarding the climate, though, could also create growth and jobs for our region, Cr Robinson argued, as well as avoiding the terrible impacts of extreme weather events.
New England and the Northern Tablelands, she pointed out, were two of the four renewable energy zones listed in the Australian Energy Market Operator's Integrated Systems Plan. Similarly, the New Scientist earlier this month reported that the US green economy - including renewable energy and environmental consultancy - has 10 times as many jobs as the fossil fuel industry.
Cr Bradley Widders seconded the motion. "This just makes common sense," he said. "Any debate on this really is a waste of time!"
He warned: "If our civilisation did not adapt to climate change, it will, as many have before, perish due to our lack of action."
The motion was unanimously carried.
The two councillors commended the community on their hard work in contributing to the debate.
Residents, Cr Robinson said, support urgent action on climate change, as the recent school strikes in Central Park show.
Two members of Sustainable Living Action Armidale's climate action group - Helen Webb and Kyle Wilmore - urged the council to adopt the motion at the 'Have Your Say' session before the debate.
Ms Webb, the group's convenor, and council's 2019 environmental citizen of the year, said: "We're running out of time; urgent action is needed."
Carbon dioxide has doubled in the last two years, and temperature increases parallel this alarming rise.
She wanted council to work with local community to mobilise and take action at a scale and speed that will restore a safe climate.
"Council has already had to refocus from outcomes identified in [their] Community Strategic Plan to adapting to the water crisis," she said. "Council is well placed to lead and work collaboratively with community towards our region's contribution to a safe climate."
Cr Gray proposed that the declaration be referred to the Project Zero30 board, its partnership with the University of New England that aims to reduce emissions in the Local Government Area to zero by 2030. The amendment was lost.