The City Council overwhelmingly voted Wednesday afternoon to approve a resolution pushed by activists, adding bulk to a growing list of legislation aimed at cutting emissions in an economy that ranks among the top 20 in the world.
It’s largely symbolic, and does not even require the mayor’s signature. But it codifies recognition of a threat that became real for many New Yorkers in 2012, when Superstorm Sandy shut down subways and power across large swaths of the city and flooded waterfront neighborhoods.
It also marks a victory for the nascent Extinction Rebellion, a grassroots activist movement pushing legislators across the developed world to come to grips with the crisis posed by surging emissions.
Four countries ― the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and France ― have declared climate emergencies, though the nations still give a combined $11 billion in fossil fuel subsidies each year, according to the U.K. outlet Climate Home News.
More than 650 municipalities in 15 countries have declared climate emergencies, including Sydney in Australia and London in the U.K.
At least 17 U.S. cities are already on board. Hoboken, New Jersey, a commuter city in New York’s metropolitan area, declared a climate emergency in 2017. Oakland followed suit last October. San Francisco joined them in February.
In perhaps the most poignant example, Chico, the small Northern California city devastated by last year’s deadly Camp fire, declared an emergency in April.
“I was disappointed to see California was leading and Hoboken beat New York City, which is really embarrassing,” Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat from the Upper East Side, told HuffPost.
New York’s declaration comes two months after the City Council passed a landmark bill to cut emissions from large buildings, the Big Apple’s biggest energy users and largest source of climate pollution. The measure, coupled with a handful of other bills to bolster renewable energy in the city, was dubbed New York’s version of a Green New Deal.
At the state level, New York lawmakers earlier this month passed one of the country’s most aggressive bills to cut economywide emissions down to net zero by 2050.
“Resolutions don’t have much power other than consensus building,” Kallos said. “The more of these that pass, the harder it is for people like [President Donald] Trump to deny what’s happened.”