A petition calling for the Australian House of Representatives to declare a climate change emergency is closing in on 200,000 signatures, surging past the previous record for signatures received by an electronic petition.
The e-petition, which is available for signature on the Parliament House website, had collected more than 188,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
“The overwhelming majority of climate scientists around the world have concluded that the climate is changing at unprecedented rates due to anthropogenic causes. The result of these changes will be catastrophic for future generations, and so we must act now to minimise both human and environmental destruction,” the text of the petition says.
“We therefore ask the House to immediately act and declare a climate emergency in Australia. And introduce legislation that will with immediacy and haste reduce the causes of anthropogenic climate change.”
The petition has succeeded in setting a new record for the number of signatures received by an electronic petition, despite the parliament house website encountering issues that may have prevented some from adding their name. According to officials, the issues have now been resolved.
The federal parliament is not bound to act upon the petition but may seek to publish a response on the petition website.
We’ve been watching with interest over the weekend as an e-Petition calling on the House to declare a climate emergency has grown in leaps and bounds. More than 159,000 people have signed the petition, making it the largest e-petition to the House, ever. https://t.co/yEYhkyZjqA pic.twitter.com/jXBvyfXxOD
— Australian House of Representatives (@AboutTheHouse) September 30, 2019
Given the coalition government’s track record on climate policy, and Scott Morrison’s recent snub of the United Nations climate action summit in New York, the likelihood of a formal climate change emergency declaration being passed through the house of representatives is exceedingly low.
Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson has previously called on his former party to allow a conscious vote on a climate emergency declaration, saying the issue should not be controversial.
“MPs and senators should have a conscience vote on the emergency declaration so that individual members of parliament can be held personally accountable by their constituents, their children and their grandchildren, indeed by all future generations, for the stance they took on the greatest economic, social, political and moral challenge of this century,” Hewson said at the time.
The petition would win the support of at least some of the lower-house crossbench, including new MP for Warringah, independent Zali Steggal who used her maiden speech in the parliament to call for an emergency declaration.
“The United Kingdom is continuing to lead the way recently passing a motion in the House of Commons which recognised a climate change emergency. We can and must respond with the same determination and urgency. Two-thirds of Australians see global warming as a significant and pressing problem. It is time to reflect on this with bipartisanship,” Steggall said in her first speech in July.
The previous record for an e-petition was set in March last year, by a petition calling on the government to remove the GST on sanitary items, which received support from just over 100,000 people.
According to a tracker of climate emergency declarations, more than 1,000 jurisdictions worldwide have now passed formal declarations through their legislative bodies.
For the most part, these declarations have been made by sub-national governments, through the legislatures of state parliaments or by local councils.
This list includes almost 60 declarations in Australia, with the legislative assembly in the ACT, and the upper house of the South Australian parliaments both passing formal motions declaring a climate change emergency.
The major city councils of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide have all made their own climate emergency declarations.
The latest declaration has been made by the Glen Innes council, which sits within the Federal electorate of New England, represented by Barnaby Joyce.
“For us to delay the declaration of a climate emergency now would be an insult to all those people who are facing the ravages of fire and drought and to all those who have been on the fire front and to all those who have shown their concern for our future survival,” Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks said.
More than 450 declarations have been made across local councils in Canada, and another 350 climate emergency declarations have been made by British local councils.
The petition calling on federal parliament to make a climate emergency declaration will be open until 16 October.