Wicklow County Council has become the first local authority in Ireland to declare "a biodiversity and climate-change emergency", recognising the need to respond more urgently to the threat of climate breakdown and the global decline of species.
The unanimous decision was taken this week by councillors after they were briefed by local students who participated in recent school strikes for climate action. It coincides with similar declarations made in the UK, Scottish and Welsh parliaments – and by cities such as London and Manchester.
The declaration of an emergency was one of the key demands put to governments by the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion and schools climate strikers in a series of protests over the past two months. There is no definition of what that means, though some protesters are demanding that countries become carbon neutral by 2020.
"It's an important step in acknowledging the major environmental problems we face, and I hope that other councils follow suit," said Social Democrats councillor Jennifer Whitmore. "We now need action and I look forward to working with my fellow councillors, the council and community of Wicklow to harness the current momentum to achieve positive results for our environment."
Several hundred schoolchildren, students, parents and members of the public gathered outside Wicklow County Buildings calling for the declaration to be adopted in advance of the motion being considered.
One of the organisers, Keith Scanlon, said Wicklow's five TDs needed to respond to the young people's challenge and to pledge their support in light of the decision.
“The emergency is clear – we are destroying our children’s future, their natural ecosystem, their climate, their mental wellbeing and their quality of life. The Wicklow community have made their voice heard. We have too much to lose and no time for inaction.”
The motion adopted calls on the council to draw up a climate action plan, to update its biodiversity plan,and to join the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.