Local Government Planning

Local Government, like the State and Federal Government, have a responsibility to plan for and respond to Climate Change impacts.  This is delivered through two key approaches: Climate Change Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation.

Mitigation refers to reducing Councils carbon emissions, whereas Adaptation refers to adapting a new actual or forecast environment.

At a strategic level, Councils will have statement or objective within their Council Plan to manage the impacts of Climate Change.  Some Councils, have been able to go to the next step and develop specific Climate Adaptation Plans (and associated Climate Change risk assessment) which identify actions to manage Climate Change risks.  

Risk Assessment

A Climate Change risk assessment is based on the traditional risk assessment methodology, being a likelihood verses consequence assessment. The likelihood is established through an investigation into future climate scenarios. This work continues to develop as more sophisticated and accurate modelling enable us to predict what the type of climate we can expect under current emissions scenarios.

In the past, a consequence assessment has been direct (e.g. the impacts of a flooding event on a bridge). However, it is now recommended that the vulnerability an assessment be undertaken to determine consequence. This helps us to understand how sensitive the asset is to the impact and what adaptive capacity it has. 

Through this process, Councils are able to identify what the greatest risks are to their services and plan to manage these impacts.

Local Government Adaptation Plans

Climate adaptation involves adjusting to an actual or forecast future climate.  From this perspective, government authorities have been working in the adaptation spaces for a number of years.  There are many types of adaptation that can be followed.  Generally these are delivered through a framework that consists of two key parts: climate risk and vulnerability assessment and then climate adaption planning.  These are outlined below.

Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment

  • Initiate.  This first step is to start the process for planning.  It’s about identifying key stakeholders, seeking a commitment from the organisation and endorsing a plan for delivery.
  • Research and Modelling.  In this stage further details about climate change impacts and opportunities are explored through a more detailed risk and vulnerability assessment. 

Climate Adaptation Planning

  • Plan.  This is where all information generated in the first two steps is brought together.  The plan establishes a vision and sets adaptation goals and objectives to delivered, as well as monitoring and review process.
  •  Implement.  This is the process for implementing the actions that have been identified. 
  • Monitoring and Review.  This final step is to assess whether the goals and objectives previously set have been achieved, identify any problems and develop any solutions.

Local Government Planning Tools

There are a number of planning tools and decision frameworks that can be used in their current form, or if needed, be modified to assist local governments plan for climate change.

Many of the tools are specific to specific assets, such as CoastAdapt, which specifically assists local governments make better planning decisions around coastal assets, and their responses to sea level rise.

Others can assess multiple natural assets – many at the same time, over a range of different climate change predictions and/or timeframes. Some can help make better decisions to develop adaptation responses to climate change, some are used to determine landscape priorities for carbon sequestration options such as strategic revegetation programs. It is expected that as knowledge is improved and as current management practices are tested, new and more innovative tools will be developed.

More information on current decision-making tools that can be applied by local government can be found at http://www.swclimatechange.com.au/cb_pages/adaptation_tools.php