Partnerships key to climate change adaptation

By Angela Dorizas

Sydney coastal councils have called on the Commonwealth and states to partner with local government as it adapts to the impacts of climate change.

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group (SCCG) has developed a six step plan for climate change adaptation.

The recommendations, published in the new report Case Studies of Adaptive Capacity, were drawn from a two year research project funded by the Australian Government Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) and conducted by the CSIRO, WWF Australia and Sunshine Coast University.

SCCG senior coastal projects officer Craig Morrison said the overarching message of the report was a positive one.

“The report makes 46 recommended actions that local government can undertake at various timeframes to help adapt,” Morrison told GovernmentNews.

“The other key message coming out of the report is that for communities broadly to be resilient to climate change is going to require a lot of coordination and partnerships
with all levels of government.”

He said there was great potential for partnerships between the three spheres of government to be expanded and strengthened.

“From the Commonwealth perspective, they’ve funded five local government adaptation projects, but the only one in New South Wales is the one that’s happening in Sydney,” he said.

“While I think it’s a great project, it is still a Sydney Coastal Councils Group project for our 15 councils – it is not broadly across New South Wales.”

Councils have also called for greater Commonwealth funding for climate change adaptation programs and partnerships, along with planning guidance and technical information from the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

“Greater funding and technical guidance needs to be provided for all councils, not just coastal councils,” Morrison said.

Overcoming barriers within councils

The report, which included more than 30 interviews with council staff and councillors, identified a number of factors within councils that limited or prevented climate change adaptation.

Morrison said a key barrier for Sydney coastal councils was ageing stormwater and transport infrastructure.

“A lot of Sydney’s stormwater infrastructure is already at capacity or exceeding capacity and in some cases exceeding its expected lifespan,” he said.

“With sea level rise, extra rainfall, extra demand on use from increased population, that already stressed infrastructure is going to be overwhelmed.”

The report also found that limited budgets prevented councils from prioritising adaptation actions over the delivery of core services, such as roads, rates and rubbish.

Interviews with councils and their sustainability staff revealed that climate change adaptation and mitigation is confined to the environment division, hindering the success of adaptation programs.

“At the moment climate change is seen as an issue that the environment team or the sustainability team’s within councils are to address,” Morrison said.

“For councils to become more resilient and for their communities to become more resilient to climate change requires climate adaptation and mitigation to be seen as a whole of council responsibility and responses to be seen as delivered by all of council.”

This would require capacity building of councillors and senior staff.

Morrison said he hoped the report would provide a framework for councils to move forward in identifying and prioritising climate change adaptation actions.

Key recommendations for councils

  • Know your enemy – improve understanding of social and ecological vulnerability
  • Plan for change – build climate change into planning frameworks
  • Get smart – develop education and outreach programs
  • Act, watch and learn – monitor, evaluate and report
  • Put the house in order – develop internal and external arrangements
  • Money talks – enhance revenue streams to councils

For more info or to access the report visit the Sydney Coastal Councils Group website.

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