National Climate Emergency Summit

Posted by Sally Newell on April 10, 2020

As one of the last possible gatherings of the climate movement in 2020, February’s National Climate Emergency Summit was particularly memorable. Grossly overbooked (needing a new overflow venue as well as livestream overflow), the Summit brought together leaders from many sectors. The NCES created momentum and forged new pathways to rapidly escalate climate action throughout Australia.

When you have leaders like Carmel Lawrence, Zali Stegall, Clover Moore and Peter Garrett amplifying the messages from science trumpeted out by international heavyweight Michael Mann (who could forget his notable presentation to US Congress on the emerging climate threat in 1988), local government Climate Emergency Declaration collaborating as did the school strikers, all informed by sector heads from emergency services, defence, social services and environmental groups, you blend together a powerful force for change.

National Climate Emergency Summit

The Summit culminated in reading out a new Safe Climate Declaration. You can sign on to the Safe Climate Declaration here.

Check out NCES programspeakers and events here. Official plenary videos and breakout session podcasts are available here.

The Summit included leaders and delegates from many sectors including health, emergency services, social services, defence, youth, industry innovators and local government joined community members to unpack what a climate emergency transition could look like at local, national, and global levels.

National Climate Emergency Summit

Demand was so high, that with the waiting list moving past 300, the NCES opened up the Capitol Theatre for satellite and extra breakout sessions. Organisers reported that across three levels around 2000 tickets were sold. 

National Climate Emergency Summit

Of particular note is the emphasis on practical outcomes. Mike Cannon Brookes has just offered another 100 day challenge – donating $12 million dollars for real leadership for fire stricken communities, with 5B & Tesla putting solar and batteries into 100 vital locations in one hundred days in a new initiative, Resilient Energy Collective: “In three weeks we’ve come together, found the technology, adapted it, put it on trucks and right now it’s operating, generating electricity.” A key theme across many delegates was how do we proceed given that the Feds are missing in action, and thoughts naturally flow to business, civil society and other levels of government. 

Mike Cannon Brookes 100 day challenge

Press interest in the National Climate Emergency Summit has been high, with many articles in the lead up. The aims of the Summit were presented by Michael Mann, Ian Dunlop and Peter Garrett in a presser before sessions started on Friday. Check out more in this Guardian article here.

National Climate Emergency Summit presser

Special workshops were held for the health sector, over 100 Climate emergency Councillors and staff, and School Strikers, collaborating on pooling resources and action pathways, reporting back at the final plenary session where Ian Dunlop and Carmen Lawrence also presented the NCES Safe Climate Declaration (catch EMCA’s Live here).

NCES Final Plenary

Following an official welcome to country where we were reminded that Bunjil, the Eagle, requires our responsibility and care for our mother, the earth, the Summit was introduced by Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt, on the first day, 14th February.

National Climate Emergency Summit

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann and Breakthrough’s David Spratt presented The New Climate Reality Check – outlining the current state of play of the climate emergency.

Micheal Mann and David Spratt

Michael Mann presented disturbing evidence of the fossil fuelled climate damage to US Congress in 1988. His headline presentation reminded us that we are on the verge of irreparable climate breakdown, and we need to pull all the levers we can to stop this runaway train.

National Climate Emergency Summit Michael Mann

David Spratt, co-author of Climate Code Red, focussed us on the task of responding to the climate crisis. It is late, and the house is on fire, but if we work across sectors to halt fossil damage and start to draw down carbon, we may yet avoid the “complete chaos” or “incompatible with an organised civilisation” pathways we are headed down with the current incremental approaches.

National Climate Emergency Summit David Spratt

Lenore Taylor presented Stand Up Leadership, Climate Politics in the Age of Emergency, with Peter Garrett, Zali Steggall, Paul Gilding and School Striker Sydney organiser, Jean Hinchliffe. 

National Climate Emergency Summit

National Climate Emergency Summit

After lunch we listened to Wake Up Call, with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Minister Shane Rattenbury, Cr Trent McCarthy
and impassioned presentation from Mayor Carol Sparks where fire swept through Glenn Innes only two weeks after their Emergency Declaration, ruining the township, the beloved bush and killing probably over 1.25 billion animals. Carol lost her own home. Our government is not protecting us – it is time to rise up and act. EMCA Live here.

National Climate Emergency Summit - Clover Moore

Interest was keen for the session on Building the Business Coalition – with Ian Dunlop, Paul Gilding, Heidi Lee, Simon Holmes A Court – the business sector is critical in providing momentum, direction and financing our climate emergency transition.

National Climate Emergency Summit - Financial Sector

US Climate Emergency movement leader Margaret Klein Salamon, with communications experts Rebecca Huntley and Richie gave us a deep dive into framing the emergency threat and response – Live here. You can hear Margaret Klein Salamon in an extended presentation with others from Psychology for a Safe Climate here.

Margaret Klein Salamon

Community leaders Philip Sutton, Dominique La Fontaine, Adrian Whitehead, Alia Armistead ran Beyond the Declarations – what do you once you have declared – a solutions focussed session to shift gears into emergency mode.

Beyond the declarations

Imagine if students all across Australia started to call for their schools to declare a climate emergency. Young student strategists, Marco Bellemo, Kaity Thompson, Zel Whiting and Jean Hinchliffe worked with students to create a roadmap for getting schools to declare a climate emergency and advance serious action on climate. Save the date – the next mammoth School Strike is on May 15th, find out how you can support here.

National Climate Emergency Summit - School Strikers
National Climate Emergency Summit - School Strikers

The first day concluded with a much anticipated evening Hypothetical: This is Not a Drill, where the new Climate Commissioners forge a pathway forward – Zero by 2030. Featuring: Kerryn Phelps, Greg Mullins, Lidia Thorpe, Oliver Yates, Ian Dunlop, Carmen Lawrence, Paul Gilding, Cheryl Durrant, Hosted by Ali Moore. Check out the wonderful repartee and inspirational ideas here.

National Climate Emergency Summit
National Climate Emergency Summit - Hypothetical

Jane Caro introduced Saturday’s sessions, and Greg Mullins, Anika Molesworth, Michael Thomas, and Paddy Manning outlined sector analysis and responses to the climate crisis – Everybody’s Problem, Stories from the Frontlines, EMCA Live here.

National Climate Emergency Summit
Greg Mullins

Justice and rights were discussed in the context of emergency powers – how do we preserve civil rights and avoid discrimination and preserve an open, flexible and democratic society in the face of mounting climate impacts? Session participants: Nyadol Nyuon, Tim Costello, Philip Sutton, Nicole Rogers – Live here.

National Climate Emergency Summit
National Climate Emergency Summit

After lunch Brendan Condon, Oliver Yates, Vanessa Petrie, Thomas King, Qiao Nan Han presented big ideas on the urgent task of decarbonisation in How to Reverse Global Warming: Part One – EMCA Live here.

Reversing global warming

Miriam Lyons moderated The New New Deal – looking at the economics of a climate emergency response with Jon Altman, Katherine Wells, Philip Sutton, and Blair Palese. 

National Climate Emergency Summit - Economics

We were treated to masterful interviewing from Kerry O’Brien, hosting Peter Garrett, Zali Steggall, John Hewson in Democracy Reboot, Politics Fit for the Emergency Challenge. What did Garrett really think of Rudd, and was Rudd’s approach to Turnbull over carbon pricing a climate own goal? How do we move forward across political boundaries? Find out more in the Live here.

National Climate Emergency Summit Reboot
National Climate Emergency Summit Reboot

Breakouts continued with How To Reverse Global Warming Part Two – Drawdown and the Cooling Conundrum with Joe Herbertson, Kate Dooley, Peter MaCreadie and Tony Rinaudo, Live here.


How do we gain national momentum? Bryony Edwards, Zel Whiting, Jane Morton and Mik Aidt worked with delegates in Australia Declares, Creating the Foundations for a National Declaration.

National Climate Emergency Summit

The National Climate Emergency Summit has certainly brought delegates and leaders together, in sectors and across the broad spectrum of civil society to shape a way forward to repond to our climate crisis and preserve a liveable future.

National Climate Emergency Summit Final 

You can find more about the NCES programspeakers and event here. Official plenary videos and breakout session podcasts are available here.

National Climate Emergency Summit

Sign on to the Safe Climate Declaration here.

National Climate Emergency Summit end

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