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Climate emergency declarations already cover 14% of the global population

A bicyclist passes as demonstrators hold a sign reading "Climate emergency now" during a protest in Mexico City, 2021. REUTERS/Luis Cortes
REUTERS/Luis Cortes
“Climate emergency now”
  • Amanda Shendruk
By Amanda Shendruk

Visual journalist

Published Last updated

US president Joe Biden is under pressure to declare a national climate emergency and free up federal resources to address the global temperature rise. The move would put the US in the company of 18 other nations, and the EU, that have made the dire declaration.

Already 14% of the world’s population is under some form of formal climate emergency acknowledgment, according to Cedamia, an organization started by environmental campaigners to track the declarations.

The first climate emergency was declared in 2016 by the city of Darebin, Australia. Now there are at least 2,248 governments around the globe, ranging from small cities to entire countries, that have passed binding motions declaring a climate emergency. The populations of those areas total more than 1 billion, meaning more than 1 in 10 people live in a designated emergency zone.

There is no shared definition of a climate emergency

For some jurisdictions, a climate emergency declaration is a legal acknowledgement of an immediate disaster and a way to access money for combatting the effects; for some it signifies commitments to reduce the impact of climate change; and for others it is a symbolic recognition of an existential threat.

Communities in 39 nations have acknowledged an emergency. In the last two weeks, the UK’s North Yorkshire County Council and Swindon Borough Council made climate emergency declarations, as did the city of Hiroshima in Japan.

But the world’s biggest emitters have not followed suit. Only 13% of the US population is under some form of climate emergency declaration, and no municipalities in China have made a similar call.

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