Sydney’s lord mayor has issued a scathing assessment of the federal government’s climate change record amid thwarted calls for the city’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display to be scrapped.
The Sydney foreshore fireworks will ring in 2020 despite the closure of popular vantage points, and political and community opposition.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has granted the fireworks display – seen by 1 billion people across the world – an exemption to the total fire ban.
A similar exemption for fireworks at Parramatta Park was not granted.
Temperatures around the state were expected to peak on Tuesday, with forecasts of more than 40C across western Sydney and in regional NSW.
Moore on Tuesday reiterated much of the event’s budget has already been allocated and the event generates $130m for the NSW economy. The council has donated $620,000 to bushfire and drought-affected communities.
“The compelling issue here is climate change,” she told reporters.
“Australia is burning – our national parks and our native animals are being decimated and our communities are being devastated. People have lost homes, people have died, firefighters have been killed defending communities.
“As the driest continent on earth we’re at the forefront of accelerating global warming. What is happening is a wake up call for our governments to start making effective contributions to reducing global emissions.”
The lord mayor said climate change action has been the council’s top priority since 2008 and pointed to its movement on emissions reduction.
“Cities around the world are doing their bit to address global warming – it’s our national governments that are failing us,” Moore said.
Federal energy minister Angus Taylor wrote an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday arguing that Australia’s emissions reduction performance was something for which to be proud.
However Moore said Taylor was “the minister responsible for addressing global warming, and he has failed”.
At 10am smoke haze had already settled on Sydney Harbour, which Moore said was a message to the government to “start getting their act together and start taking effective action on accelerating global warming”.
Fire danger ratings for Sydney, Newcastle and the state’s south – where several emergency-level blazes are burning – range from severe to extreme.
NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the death of expectant father Samuel McPaul on the Green Valley fire ground at Jingellic – where a “fire tornado” lifted and flipped his fire truck – would cast a pall over festivities.
McPaul is the third volunteer firefighter to die this bushfire season.
“Many of us have mixed feelings about this evening but the important thing we take out of this is that we’re resilient as a state,” Berejiklian said.
“We’re a state that’s optimistic about the future and I don’t want to take a second away from the deep sense of loss and tragedy many people are feeling.
“You can’t think about more difficult circumstances than that.
“But as a state, we always need to think about the future, and given the RFS has said it’s safe for the state to proceed or for the City of Sydney Council to proceed with those activities tonight, that’s what will happen.”
The NSW deputy premier, John Barilaro, had earlier called for Sydney foreshore fireworks to be scrapped and funds redirected to drought and bushfire relief, echoing calls from a petition signed by more than 275,000 people.
“If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then let’s not have two classes of citizens. We’re all in this crisis together,” he said on social media from his holiday in London.
While the harbour will have fireworks, revellers will be unable to use the forested Balls Head Reserve or Bradleys Head as vantage points due to the fire risk.
The city’s famous celebrations are expected to attract 1 million people to the harbour foreshore and generate $130m for the NSW economy.
The RFS has urged residents to shelve any private fireworks plans while police have encouraged revellers to take care in the heat and remain hydrated.
An estimated 3,000 police officers will be on duty around the harbour foreshore.
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