Coming ready or not: can Australia's infrastructure handle climate change?

29 Oct 2012

This report argues that Australia will face significant human and economic costs because its infrastructure is poorly equipped to handle more frequent extreme weather events and other consequences of climate change.

Key findings include:

  • Government policy is fragmented. Australia lacks a nationally coordinated approach to manage climate risks to major infrastructure, with much of the burden of policy implementation left to local councils – the least resourced and most decentralised level of government. Information on likely climate impacts is also fragmented and dispersed.
  • The business response is uneven. Some organisations understand and manage their exposure to climate risks, but most infrastructure owners and operators are focused on maintaining their assets to standards based on historic climate settings that are today relics of the past. Unfortunately, laggards face no or little penalty, while early movers are hampered by fragmented information, and inappropriate and inconsistent regulation.
  • Infrastructure is highly interdependent, but action on adaptation is isolated at the organisational level. Despite some examples of collaboration, preparation for climate change tends to focus on organisation-level risk management. The implications of climate impacts on interdependent systems and communities remain under-explored.
  • Concern about climate change has fallen among those sectors most exposed. CSIRO reports that companies reporting they have carried out vulnerability assessments slipped from 60 to 47 per cent between 2008 and 2010. There is also emerging resistance to adaptive decisions at the community level. This is particularly the case with state coastal climate change planning in retreat and local planning decisions inconsistent and often poorly communicated and implemented.
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