The need to address climate change adaptation is growing internationally and not least of all in Australia. There has been a significant investment in adaptation research, risk assessment and planning in Australia, especially since 2007, with substantial support from government funding. This has led to a strong growth of adaptation knowledge and practical experience, which has confirmed that adaptation planning and decision-making introduce new and complex challenges. These arise from the need to address not only traditional climate variability but also increasing current climate risks, and even greater future risks. Additional complexities arise from the pervasiveness of climate impacts and responses across natural and human systems, sectors and scales, the need to consider a range of time horizons, and the levels of uncertainty often involved.
However the development of products to support adaptation practice and decision-making is currently highly fragmented in Australia, leading to some confusion amongst end-users and insufficient critical mass and continuity of resourcing to provide sustained product support and improvement. For public, private and community sector organisations grappling with adaptation decisions there is a significant support gap, and an urgent need for products that will provide better guidance and more confidence. There is currently no national strategy to achieve this. This Project has carried out both research and strategy development to address this need.
The Project concludes that the timing for a more coordinated strategic approach is right. There is potential to distil the learning from the investment of recent years. There is also a number of individual product initiatives under way or planned which, if positioned and enhanced within a more intentional overall strategy, could collectively make a significant difference.
The timing is also critical. Australia’s adaptation effort is at a watershed. On the one hand the recent growth in experience and research is supporting progress by early adopters and especially those who have benefited from government seed funding. On the other, this has not yet brought about systemic change. In a future with more constrained government funding and most organisations still at first base, the foundation built to date could easily be lost. There is an urgent need to develop and promulgate good practices and products to better support organisations and decision-makers.