While we work to limit future climate change through our Powering Australia plan, we are also increasing Australia’s capacity to adapt to the climate crisis. Adapting to climate change is adjusting to current or expected climate change and its effects.
Even with strong global action to reduce emissions, the impacts of climate change will continue to increase over the coming decades due to past emissions of greenhouse gasses. Therefore, practical action is needed to adapt to climate change to protect individuals, communities, organisations and natural systems. This means we must anticipate, manage and invest in adapting to the resulting climate risks and impacts to Australia.
For climate adaptation to be successful it should:
- be place-based, community-led and values-driven so that adaption is tailored to the specific areas and communities that will be impacted
- involve everyone because different levels of government, households, businesses and community organisations all have different but complementary roles in an effective whole-of-nation response
- be underpinned by science and analysis to inform decision-making, help prioritise areas for adaptation, and choose the best responses.
In Australia, climate adaptation action takes many forms and can include:
- supporting Australia’s natural environment to withstand and overcome the impacts of climate change through protection and management of species and resources
- upgrading buildings, supply chains and transport systems to better withstand heatwaves and extreme weather events
- developing strategies to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of Australians in the face of increasing disasters, extreme temperatures and severe weather events.
Roles and responsibilities
Everyone has a role to play in adapting to our changing climate. Governments, businesses, communities and households each have different but complementary roles.
The Roles and Responsibilities for Climate Change Adaptation in Australia were agreed to by the then Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG’s) Select Council on Climate Change in 2012.
These roles and responsibilities for different levels of government are broadly set out below.
- Provide leadership on national adaptation reform.
- Manage Australian Government assets and programs, including embedding climate change impacts into existing risk management frameworks and working with all governments to manage climate risks to nationally significant public assets.
- Provide and manage national science and information that is high quality and includes national and regional climate projections to allow Australia to effectively adapt.
- Maintain a strong, flexible economy and a well-targeted social safety net to ensure resources are available to respond to climate change and climate change does not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups.
State and territory governments
- Deliver adaptation responses in their areas of policy and regulation. This includes service delivery and infrastructure. For example, emergency services, health system, the natural environment, planning and transport.
- Provide local and regional science and information through collaboration with all governments to develop and implement a consistent approach.
- Working with the Australian Government to implement national adaptation priorities and monitoring and evaluation arrangements.
- Encouraging climate resilience and adaptive capacity.
- Deliver adaptation responses that align to state and Australian Government legislation to promote adaptation as required including the application of relevant codes, such as the Building Code of Australia.
- Provide information about relevant climate change risks and contribute appropriate resources to prepare, prevent, respond and recover from detrimental climatic impacts.
- Inform other levels of government about the on-the-ground needs of local and regional communities.
- Manage risks and impacts to public assets owned and managed by local governments and to local government service delivery.
- Help build the adaptive capacity of individuals, groups and businesses, in particular vulnerable communities.
- Provide accurate climate information for private parties to adapt.
- Ensure that regulatory arrangements and policy settings do not distort private incentives and market signals and facilitate climate change adaptation.
- Provide public goods and services and manage public assets.
National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy
Released in October 2021, the National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy 2021 – 2025 includes three objectives to drive Australian Government action to fulfil its 2012 COAG Roles and Responsibilities.
The Strategy was informed by engagement across all levels of government, key stakeholders in industry and academia, and community groups.
The Australian Government will continue to work with stakeholders across Australia to strengthen partnerships, support investment and deliver local results.
Engaging in climate adaptation with First Nations people
The Australian Government is committed to partnering with First Nations people to achieve improved climate adaptation outcomes.
The 2022-23 Budget allocated $15.9 million over 4 years to engage with First Nations people on climate adaptation and mitigation, including establishing the Torres Strait Climate Centre of Excellence.
The Centre will be Torres Strait-led with on-ground traditional knowledge embedded to establish the Centre as a national showcase of excellence in driving integrated climate resilience development. The Centre will:
- demonstrate contemporary and culturally appropriate approaches to climate adaptation and governance
- undertake community education, engagement and policy review
- coordinate climate research
- develop local adaptation and resilience capacity building
- create links with the First Nations Community Microgrid program.
Climate risks and opportunities
The Australian Government is working to identify and manage our climate risks. The 2023 - 2024 Budget allocated $28 million over 2 years to deliver Australia’s first National Climate Risk Assessment, and National Adaptation Plan to provide the analysis necessary to guide decisions and investment to manage and adapt to significant national climate risks.
The Climate Risk and Opportunity Management Program
This Program aims to develop the capabilities and systems needed for the Australian Public Service (APS) to identify, manage and disclose the physical and transitional climate risks and opportunities across Australian Government agencies, policies, programs, operations, assets and services.
The Program includes an APS Climate Risk and Opportunity Strategy, a New Climate Risk Management Framework, a Climate Risk Learning and Development package, access to a Support and Capability Building Service and an interactive Climate Risk Digital Tool.
National Climate Risk Assessment
The National Climate Risk Assessment will deliver a shared national framework to inform Australia’s national priorities for climate adaptation and resilience actions and enable consistent monitoring of climate risk across all Australian jurisdictions.
For more information, see National Climate Risk Assessment.
National Adaptation Plan
The National Adaptation Plan will be the first truly national plan in Australia and will provide a basis for fulfilling the Australian Government’s role of providing national strategic leadership on climate adaptation.
The adaptation plan will use the risk assessment to build an agreed, nationally consistent pathway that prioritises Australia’s adaptation actions and opportunities. It will provide guidance on the national response, including how we adapt to the risks, scale up our adaptation efforts and build our national resilience to climate impacts.
National Adaptation Policy Office
The National Adaptation Policy Office (NAPO) has been established in the Department to coordinate work on climate adaptation across all governments and provide a central point of contact and information for businesses and communities.
NAPO works with stakeholders across Australia to fulfil the Australian Government’s 2012 COAG Roles and Responsibilities and ensure our actions complement and reinforce each other.
Interjurisdictional Climate Change Adaptation Working Group
The Australia Government chairs the Interjurisdictional Climate Change Adaptation Working Group (AWG). The AWG is comprised of representatives from each Australian jurisdiction and the Australian Local Government Association.
State and territory climate action
Australian state, territory and local governments are taking significant steps in advancing adaptation, including information services, climate modelling, projections and scenarios. All states and territories have progressed adaptation plans, either as part of a broader climate strategy or a standalone adaptation strategy or plan. These include:
- ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25, ACT Nature Conservation Strategy and Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City
- Northern Territory Climate Change Response: Towards 2050
- NSW Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (2022)
- Queensland Climate Action Plan that includes the Queensland Climate Adaptation Strategy 2017-2030
- South Australia’s regional climate adaptation plans and Urban Greening Strategy
- Tasmania's Climate Change Action Plan 2023-2025
- Victoria’s Building Climate Resilience, system-based adaptation plans for Victoria’s built environment, education and training, health and human services, natural environment, primary production, transport, and water cycle systems, and regional adaptation strategies
- The Western Australian Climate Policy
To contact the National Adaptation Policy Office please email email@example.com
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