New York became the largest city in the Americas to declare a climate emergency on Wednesday, after the city council overwhelmingly voted to approve the measure, according to HuffPost.
Although the vote doesn't entail any new policies, it carries important symbolic weight, according to the environmental group Extinction Rebellion.
By declaring a climate emergency, New York City signals that it understands the urgency of climate change, which threatens to unleash catastrophic environmental consequences in the decades ahead unless rapid action is taken by governments around the world.
"We are in the midst of a climate crisis," said Councilmember Ben Kallos, who introduced the resolution authored by partner organizations, in a statement before the vote. "New York must take bold steps in protecting its citizens, or we will suffer more sea level rise, more climate injustices, and more Hurricane Sandys. We must face the climate crisis head-on and look at the overall systemic issues that have put us here, as that is the only way to fully confront the issues.”
New York has taken bold steps at the state and city levels in recent months to combat climate change, and the state legislature recently unveiled the most ambitious climate action plan in the country.
With Wednesday's vote, New York City joins around 650 municipalities around the world that have similarly declared climate emergencies, including 17 other cities in the United States.
“New York City knows too well that we are in a climate crisis,” said Councilmember Costa Constantinides, chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, in a statement. “Declaring a climate emergency solidifies that New York City stands ready to fight the effects of this phenomenon. Such a move only reinforces the importance of the City Council’s Climate Mobilization Act, and will drive us to pass more meaningful legislation that gets real justice for communities shouldering environmental burdens for too long.”