Renewed calls for federal coastal policy

By Angela Dorizas

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group (SCCG) has called on the Federal Government to provide strong direction and funding to local and state governments responding to the impacts of climate change.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee on the impacts of climate change on coastal communities, SCCG senior coastal projects officer Craig Morrison outlined three areas where councils required greater Commonwealth support.

Morrison called on the Government to facilitate and direct local and state governments in three areas: the provision of information on the impacts of climate change on coastal communities; the integration of climate change adaptation actions into planning; and the disclosure of climate change risks to coastal communities.

“Broadly it needs to be recognised that the impacts of climate change will vary significantly around the country, but effective management requires nationally consistent frameworks and actions to achieve an effective and co-ordinated response,” Morrison said before the hearing in Sydney.

Taking politics out of decision making

The SCCG called for consistency in the collection of climate change information in relation to data provision and modelling “to take politics out of adaptive responses and decision making".

“Importantly, local governments require authoritative information that is supported by all levels of government and defensible in the courts,” Morrison said, adding that the information would need to be available to all spheres of government.

“To achieve this requires the development of a national framework that allows for the integration of climate change research and data on potential impacts into local policy and adaptation actions.”

Morrison recommended that the Federal Government collect and apply “state-of-the-art” climate change information and projections at the local scale (including down-scaling), invest in the development of digital data source, and undertake local government training workshops and capacity building programs on GIS methods, climate projections and vulnerability assessment.

Commonwealth coastal policy

In relation to planning, the SCCG has called for “legislative and regulatory guidance” from both the Commonwealth and the states to ensure that climate change adaptation is both nationally consistent and carried out relative to each councils’ temporal and spatial contexts.

Morrison said this would require a Commonwealth coastal policy and potentially a Federal Coastal Management Act.

He recommended that the Federal Government work through the Local Government and Planning Ministers’ Council to prompt COAG into action, assist councils in trialling planning tools, expand the Local Government Adaptations Pathways Program, and identify the most vulnerable areas, sub-populations or assets.

Alerting communities of climate change threat

The SCCG has urged the Government to be open and transparent about the impacts of climate change on local communities.

Morrison said there were significant gaps in knowledge within and between coastal communities about the impact of climate change and the strategies to manage it.

“Within coastal environments it is not possible to remove all likely risk to life, property and the environment that results from naturally occurring coastal processes,” he said.

“The uncertainty associated with the timing and intensity of extreme events is likely to increase with the impacts of climate change.”

He urged the Federal Government work with state and local governments to identify processes for consistent disclosure of potential climate change impacts and frameworks for the integration of community concerns and suggestions into coastal plans, projects and policies.

Related Story: Partnerships key to climate change adaptation

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