A climate emergency has been declared in South Yorkshire following floods earlier this month.
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region, discussed the issue at a meeting with council leaders from Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.
Extinction Rebellion said urgent action was clearly needed, but politicians seemed reluctant to act.
Protestors with an inflatable boat, mops and buckets lobbied the meeting.
Mr Jarvis expressed "sincere condolences" for the communities along the River Don which were flooded earlier this month.
"Communities in South Yorkshire have been devastated by the recent floods, and the recovery effort will require sustained investment over the longer term," he said.
"The stark reality is that extreme weather occurrences will only become more regular.
"Our current economic model is destroying our planet. That's why, today, the Sheffield City Region declared a climate and environmental emergency."
Nearly 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes, with Fishlake and Bentley near Doncaster worst hit. Many have still not been able to return home.
Lincolnshire, the East Midlands and now further south have also been flooded.
John Grant, from XR, said despite this politicians were "struggling" to understand the severity of the situation.
"I'd like people to try to understand the science about how serious this is, then we can have a plan that can take us to zero carbon as fast as possible," he said.
"Sadly it seems our politicians are really struggling to make these choices."
Nathan Strathdee, 19, of XR, said: "Our cities, towns and villages are submerged with water, leaving families stranded and people suffering.
"These floods are predicted to become more and more common as the climate crisis escalates, hitting the poorest hardest.
"It is vital that our authorities take real, immediate action to back their declarations up."
Many UK authorities - including Leeds and Scarborough - have declared climate emergencies in the last few years.
Sheffield, which made the announcement after legal nitrogen dioxide limits were breached in January 2010, and the council said Sheffield should be a "zero carbon economy" by 2023.
However, XR have said they are "not doing enough" to tackle the problems and just "paying lip service".
They say more people should be invited to represent their communities and make recommendations about climate change.
Sheffield City Region's Combined Authority Board will next meet on 27 January.