More and more cities exclaim state of "Climate Emergency"

Since the poles melt and sea levels rise, threatening cities start to sink. Extreme storms, heat waves, floods and droughts occur more frequently, agriculture is affected by climate change. Not only worldwide important metropoles like Los Angeles, Basel, London or Vancouver, but also different German cities already have claimed the state of "Climate Emergency": Kiel, Konstanz, Münster, Ludwigslust and Herford. What does this mean?

By its concept, "climate emergency" means that there is an acute and present threat to the climate and human life from climate change and its consequences. A government or administration declaring a climate emergency thus recognises that climate protection measures must be taken urgently. Environment, nature, life and property are threatened. The climate emergency includes the demand to mitigate and eliminate these dangers. It also means that these dangers cannot be averted by existing means, so that new, extraordinary measures must be taken. In addition, also illegitimate acts may be permitted within the framework of climate emergency if they serve to avert the dangers to climate. The term "climate emergency" is not a legal term and does not refer to emergency law.

Symbolic meaning of governments

Since 2018 and especially after protests and initiatives by climate protection and justice movements such as "Fridays for Future", climate emergency has been proclaimed in more and more cities. The state of emergency is not a "state of emergency" in the actual legal sense. The claiming has above all a symbolic effect. It is intended to show that the government takes climate change serious and is initiating measures to protect the climate. A target year is defined in which a city should be climate neutral.

So far, these cities have declared a climate emergency: On 20 February 2019, the Basel Cantonal Parliament adopted the "Resolution on the Proclamation of a Climate Emergency" and on 1st May 2019, the British Parliament declared a nationwide climate emergency in Great Britain. After this, Los Angeles and Vancouver were following - in Germany Konstanz (2nd May), Ludwigslust (16th May), Kiel and Herford (17th May), and Münster (22nd May) declared the emergency state so far.

What happens now?

Climate change is to be recognised and treated as a task of the highest priority with the aim of mitigating climate change. Working groups on the subject of climate protection are convened and are to develop climate protection measures, which means to govern more environmentally friendly and, for example, to reduce emissions. This in turn plays a role in the enactment of future legislation. In the area of mobility, more e-cars will be put on the roads and cycling will be encouraged. Other political and legal consequences which are conceivable are Co2-neutral laws and Co2 tax, stricter energy laws and the prohibition of plastic bags and reduction of plastics.