What is climate change?

    Climate is different to weather. Climate refers to longer term average conditions (30 years or longer) and consistent changes to this average climate are climate change. 

    Climate change (also called global warming) that we talk about here represents both the changes observed through data collection by scientists, and the future changes projected (with high confidence) to occur into the future. 

    The consequences of climate change projected over coming decades are wide ranging and potentially catastrophic for society and biodiversity.

    For some easy to read resources and videos to explain climate change please see the Climate Council website: www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/what-is-climate-change-what-can-we-do/ 

    What is the 'climate emergency'?

    The 'emergency' element relates to the urgency with which we need to take action on climate change and the catastrophic scale of the issue.   

    City of Darebin in Victoria has developed some helpful information for councils and communities on how to respond to the climate emergency. This is from their “Framework for Effective Local Government Climate Emergency Response”:

    Climate emergency is understood in two ways:

    The climate emergency situation refers to catastrophic changes to the world’s climate caused by human activity and resulting in a loss of a safe climate, which threatens all life on earth. This aspect of the climate emergency is extensively documented. The science tells us that the earth has warmed, and is continuing to warm, and as a result we face serious consequences for the atmosphere, for weather systems, for human ability to produce food, and indeed for all people and species.

    The climate emergency response refers to a specific approach to tackling climate change, which seeks to mobilise and take action at a scale and speed that will restore a safe climate, with the least possible loss and damage during the transition back to a safe climate.

    The target is to provide maximum protection globally for all species and all people.

    You can find more information on the climate emergency on the Climate Emergency Declaration website: climateemergencydeclaration.org/framework-and-resource-to-help-councils-with-their-climate-emergency-response/

    What is the Declaration of Climate and Biodiversity Emergency?

    In May 2019 Fremantle Council unanimously supported a letter from the Fremantle Youth Network and declared that the world is in a state of climate and biodiversity emergency. 

    The declaration states that the City of Fremantle is committed to working towards a safe climate for all, allowing both communities and the environment to flourish in the present day and into the future.  

    As of August 2020, around 1,765 jurisdictions in 30 countries have declared a climate emergency[1]. In Western Australia, 40 local governments have signed the WALGA Climate Change Declaration, representing 65% of WA’s population[2]

    How will climate change impact Fremantle?

    The CSIRO states that: "Our climate is changing and this will affect most of us in some way during our lifetimes. Changes that are currently occurring include rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, sea level rise and ocean acidification." Projections for southern Australia include an increase in the average temperature and more hot extremes, reduction in winter rainfall and harsher fire weather.

    Fremantle has already been experiencing climate change impacts and the kinds of impacts we can expect more of include: 

    • Drier, hotter, longer summers 
    • Exacerbated urban heat island effect
    • Increased severe weather, including heatwaves and storms 
    • Increased coastal erosion and subsequent damage to coastal infrastructure 
    • Ocean acidification 
    • Increased inundation in low-lying coastal areas, such as the historic West End
    • Increased need to water open space for public use, with reduced availability of water and more frequent droughts
    • Negative health impacts from more intense periods of hot weather 
    • Social and financial inequality exacerbated; and 
    • Increase food insecurity. 

    More information on the CSIRO projections: www.csiro.au/en/Research/OandA/Areas/Assessing-our-climate/State-of-the-Climate-2018/Future-climate

    What needs to be done to stop climate change?

    In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported with high confidence that human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with some areas 2-3 times this average.  Impacts on human and natural systems have already been observed. 

    They also state that the future risks "would be reduced by the upscaling and acceleration of far-reaching, multilevel and cross-sectoral climate mitigation and by both incremental and transformational adaptation".  The IPCC has 195 Member countries. 

    A report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in November 2019 stated that global emissions must be cut by 7.6 percent every year for next decade to meet the 1.5°C Paris target. 

    The world is on track for a 3.2°C temperature rise by around 2050, which will have catastrophic consequences for both human society and global ecosystems. 

    The global community needs to come together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in order to halt global warming and limit the impacts of climate change by:

    • Rapidly draw down greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Transition economies away from a reliance on fossil fuels for energy needs.
    • Powering our societies with renewable energy. 
    • Invest in sustainable transport such as trains, light rail, and buses powered by renewable electricity; bikes and walking. 
    • Create biophilic (“nature loving”) cities that work with not against nature; preserving and enhancing our native bushland while cooling urban spaces.
    • Halt all new gas and oil exploration and extraction, and roll back existing industries.
    • Halt all land clearing, and work to rehabilitate native vegetation and areas of marginal farmland.

    How is the City of Fremantle responding to climate change?

    The City of Fremantle has long been committed to taking action against climate change, leading by example through reducing the emission generated from the City’s operations. 

    In addition, the City has been working to create an urban environment and local community that is prepared and resilient to the impacts of climate change. 

    Strategic commitment

    Several City strategic documents outline the commitment and approach taken to achieve this, including:

    Climate action

    The below actions are a snapshot of the work done by the City to minimize its carbon footprint and provide support to the community to do the same.

    Carbon neutral status

    • The City of Fremantle became the first carbon-neutral local government in Western Australia in 2009. 
    • The City currently maintains carbon neutral status for its operations through the purchase of accredited local and international offsets in addition to an ongoing program of emissions reductions.

    Energy efficiency  

    • New City buildings built to a high environmental standard . 
    • Advocacy to state government to improve planning and finance mechanisms to make buildings energy efficient.   
    • Installing LED lights in City car parks. 
    • Installation of the Cogen system for heating pools at the Fremantle Leisure Centre.

    Renewable energy 

    • Installing solar PV systems on council buildings.  
    • Working towards powering the City’s buildings with 100% renewable electricity by 2025.

    Zero emissions transport  

    • Improve active and public transport through implementation of the Fremantle Bike Plan and Integrated Transport Strategy. 
    • Reviewing fleet policy to provide a pathway to upgrade to low-emissions vehicles.  
    • Encourage and facilitate use of electric vehicles by installing publicly accessibly car charging points.  
    • Support for car share network through the City’s car share policy
    • Running trials for electric vehicles including scooter sharing for staff and electric rubbish trucks.

    Consumption and waste minimisation  

    • Roll out of FOGO three bin system.
    • Investigating how to provide FOGO for businesses.
    • Encouraging waste and consumption reduction in the community .  
    • Maximising reuse of building waste from new buildings.

    Fossil Fuel Divestment  

    • Wherever possible within the limitations of the Local Government Act, the City actively invests with fossil-free financial institutions.  
    • Create awareness about divestment and related campaigns.  

    Adaption and resilience  

    • Through implementation of the Urban Forest Plan, increase tree canopy coverage to reduce the heat island effect and provide habitat for wildlife.
    • Support urban food production through community garden and verge policies.
    • Support building standards to cope with a changing climate.   
    • Work with state government agencies and the private sector to stabilize coastal areas impacted by increasingly damaging storm events and subsequent erosion.

    Engaging the community  

    • Hosting community tree planting events and waterwise gardening workshops.
    • Hosting home sustainability courses.
    • Running engagement processes to provide information and a forum for discussion on the impacts of climate change and actions the City and individuals can take.


    The City has partnered with several organisations committed to fighting for action on climate change. These partnerships ensure the City of Fremantle is up to date with the most recent research, technology and innovations. 

    • Cities Power Partnership - Australia’s largest local government climate network, fostering connection and innovation in climate solutions.
    • Climate Emergency Australia - Group of “climate declaration” councils, including City of Fremantle, formed in 2020 to advocate to state and federal governments for serious and rapid action on climate change.
    • Climate Clever - This local start-up helps schools, households and soon businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and their utilities bills at the same time. If you’re a Fremantle resident or school, you can get 50% off the annual subscription fee. 
    • City Switch - Helping organisations to have more efficient buildings, making great savings in carbon emissions. 
    • Biophilic Cities Network - We partnered with Biophilic Cities in 2018. The organisation connects scholars and advocates from across the globe to build an understanding of the value and contribution of nature in cities to the lives of urban residents.
    • Your Move - A free program that provides information and support to help schools, workplaces and communities use low-carbon, active transport methods to get around. 
    • Garage Sale Trail - The City of Fremantle is supporting Garage Sale Trail in November 2020. Sign up to host a garage sale and make some extra cash and reduce your waste footprint by selling your no longer wanted clothes and household goods instead of sending them to landfill.


    • Advocating to the Western Australian state government for renewable energy and emissions reduction targets, including a clear pathway for achieving a zero-carbon economy. 
    • Advocating to the Western Australian state government for the rapid upgrade of streetlighting to low-energy LEDs.
    • Advocating for easier and cheaper installation costs for solar on multi-dwelling developments.

    What can I do about climate change?

    Climate change is a large-scale problem that requires a transformational shift in how we do things as a global society.

    Adequately addressing the issue requires strong climate change action, leadership, coordination and funding at all levels of government, coupled with responsible actions by businesses and individuals... everyone! 

    We haven't managed to achieve this yet but individuals do have the collective power to push for change. You can show that urgent action matters by:

    Addressing the issue and advocating for change 

    • Talk to your friends and family about climate change and why it concerns you.
    • Tell the City what concerns you and what you would like to learn more about in our Climate Emergency engagement on My Say Freo. Initial engagement is open until 18 October 2020.
    • Contact your local member of parliament and let them know you want them to do all they can to stop climate change now. The Climate Council has some good advice on how to do this.

    Getting involved

    • Being part of a team makes a hard job easier. There are many local, national and international groups you can join to help campaign for action on climate change, whether its protecting local ecosystems or advocating for renewable energy, green jobs and better public transport options. These groups are a starting point but there are many more:
      Conservation Council of WA is the state’s environmental umbrella organisation, representing over one hundred smaller conservation and environment group.
      Local Landcare and Coastcare groups or “Friends of …” groups – see Friends of Freo to find one for your local patch. 


    • Ask if your bank or super fund invests in fossil fuel projects – if they do, look for one that doesn’t. 

    Reducing your carbon emissions 

    • Download the Climate Clever app to reduce your household impact – Fremantle residents can save 50% on the subscription.
    • Leave the car at home and use public transport, walking and cycling to get around, and get to know your neighbourhood better.
    • If you're a home owner, install renewables such as rooftop solar.
    • Use your FOGO bin if you have one, learn what can be recycled and look at ways you can reduce your waste.
    • Embrace a low meat, vegetarian or vegan diet to reduce the amount of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) generated from your food choices.
    • Request a free street tree and help shade your street, reducing cooling needs. Call 1300 MY FREO (1300 693 736) or make a service request at Fremantle.wa.gov.au