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In front of a crowd yesterday the majority of councillors put up their hands to oppose the declaration.
Members of the public who could not fit in the council chambers looked in through windows.
Before voting, councillors heard two public submissions on the topic.
Nathan Surendran attempted to provide the council with reasons why they should vote in favour of declaring an emergency.
Denis Bartley offered a theological perspective as to why he believed there was a responsibility to vote for a declaration.
Cr Robert Guyton put the motion, seconded by Cr Lyndal Ludlow, to declare a climate emergency.
Debate on the motion focused heavily on the word ''emergency''. Several councillors voiced their concern over use of the word.
Council chairman Nicol Horrell said declaring a climate emergency would be a ''symbolic but empty gesture'' and ''we can't afford to devalue the word emergency''.
Others were concerned the word would prompt panic, to which Cr Guyton replied that among all the councils that had so far declared an emergency there were ''no reports of panic''.
Regarding the concern over the use of the word emergency, it was important to differentiate what was being proposed, which was a climate emergency, which was a ''very different from a state of emergency''.
A state of emergency, he said, required automatic response while a climate emergency declaration did not.
''There are no obligations fiscally or legally ... it's really up to the council and the public what we do about that''.
Cr Ludlow made the point that had the discussion taken place five years ago, the issue would be about debating whether climate change existed at all.
She said there was no denying there was urgency to deal with the issue and she was willing to overlook the semantics of the word emergency.
Crs Rodway, Currie, Guyton and Ludlow supported the motion, the rest voted against.
A second motion put forward by Cr Eric Roy stated council would ''commit to applying best practice and best science to its responsibilities and accords urgency to developing an action plan''.
This was then voted on with all but two councillors voting in favour.
Crs Guyton and Currie abstained.