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Labor 'Will Declare A Climate Emergency' After Thousands Sign Petition

Labor will today move a motion to declare a climate emergency, in step with the UK and Canadian parliaments, and hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Labor MP Mark Butler told the caucus he will lodge a motion for parliament to declare a climate emergency, later tweeting that "the future is at stake".

It comes after more than 344,00 people signed a parliamentary petition calling for the declaration.

The Guardian reports Butler was asked to declare to lodge the motion after the e-petition became the largest parliamentary petition ever; it dwarfs the next largest petition by several hundred thousand signatures.

"The overwhelming majority of climate scientists around the world have concluded that the climate is changing at unprecedented rates due to anthropogenic causes," the petition, which is credited to Noah Bell, reads.

"The result of these changes will be catastrophic for future generations, and so we must act now to minimise both human and environmental destruction.

"We therefore ask the House to immediately act and declare a climate emergency in Australia."

Australians are calling for a climate emergency declaration. Photo: AAP.

Unlike Change.org, there is no 'target' for parliamentary e-petitions. Once approved by the petition committee, they are given four weeks to attract signatures before automatically closing.

An MP -- usually the petition committee chair, but sometimes a petition starter's local MP -- will then read out the petition in parliament on the next sitting Monday. Finally, it will go to the relevant minister, who will then have 90 days to respond.

Bell's petition closes October 16, meaning the earliest it will be read out in parliament is October 21.

Butler reportedly said Labor should be "leading this debate".

However, the Greens have been running their own petition to make the declaration, which federal MP Adam Bandt told 10 daily last month had been signed by more than 50,000 people.

Declaring a climate emergency is a vital first step, Bandt said, because it acknowledges a key issue currently being ignored or downplayed by many areas of government.

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Greens member for Melbourne Adam Bandt launching the Greens climate policy in Melbourne, Thursday, March 28, 2019. Photo: AAP.

"Having parliament declare a climate emergency is grabbing the government by the shoulders and shaking them until they wake up," Bandt said.

"It's significant because it becomes the guiding star for other actions of this parliament and this government.

"Once we accept we have a very short period of time to address the climate crisis, then a number of other things will hopefully follow, including legislation changes and increased emissions reduction cuts."

READ MORE: 'Climate Doomers' Think It's Too Late Even If The World Listens To Greta

Last month, the South Australia upper house became the first legislative body to declare a climate emergency. The Greens, and now Labor, are pushing for the federal government to follow suit.

Bandt criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison for "going to look at a Maccas drive thru" in Chicago instead of attending the United Nation's Climate Summit in New York in September.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison admiring a McDonald's drive-thru at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in Chicago, United States, Sunday, September 23, 2019. Photo: AAP.

"The big take home from the summit that Morrison skipped was that when you take into account all the targets everyone has set, including Australia, we're on track for 3.4 degrees of global warming, we're not going to hit the two degree target," Bandt said.

"Even though Morrison says it's fine, we're going to meet our Paris Agreement targets -- which I don't think is true -- it's not enough."

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Global efforts to reduce emissions need to be tripled to meet the two degree goal and increased five-fold to meet the 1.5 degree goal, the UN warned this week.

However, when Morrison spoke at the UN general assembly in New York just days after skipping the climate summit, he accused activists of spreading "completely false" information about Australia's action on climate change.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers the Australian National Statement to the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States, Wednesday, September 25, 2019. Photo: AAP.

"Oftentimes the criticisms that have been made about Australia are completely false," he told reporters in New York.

"Where do they get their information from? Who knows? Maybe they read it, maybe they read it."

READ MORE: Scott Morrison Calls Out Australia's Climate Critics During UN Address

While he told the UN that Australia would beat its 2020 Kyoto targets, the prime minister stopped short of repeating the claim he regularly makes that the country will easily meet its 2030 pledge.

Earlier, Morrison was more bullish, saying Australia "won't just meet our 2030 commitments, I suspect we will hopefully be able to do better than that". Yet environment department figures show Australia's emissions have risen since 2014.

Under the Paris agreement, all countries are expected to update their pledges to cut emissions at the 2020 climate conference in Glasgow.

But Morrison indicated that at this stage, Australia is unlikely to do so "We have our commitments, and we're sticking to those commitments," he said.

With AAP.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au