Climate adaptation for regional resilience and development

With the right strategies regional communities can build their resilience, begin the low carbon transition while also adapting to climate change.

With the right strategies regional communities can build their resilience, begin the low carbon transition while also adapting to climate change.

The Queensland Government through its Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has developed a climate adaptation strategy for Queensland .

As part of the strategy’s formulation, the Department called for public submissions on what it termed a directions statement.

climate change strategy (2)

Here is an edited version of   the submission made by the Institute for Resilient Regions at the University of Southern Queensland.

The Institute for Resilient Regions undertakes applied research helping regional communities build resilience and adapt successfully to change.

Regional resilience refers to the capacity of regional communities to deal with risk and adapt to change so as to preserve the core values and attributes of their region while exploiting new opportunities relevant to the future.

With an emphasis on people, culture, and innovation, our research is helping communities build their social and economic capital and well-being.

Climate change is a global challenge already impacting fundamentally the regional social and economic development of Queensland.

To that end, the Institute seeks to work with other stakeholders in assisting regional communities undertake the transition to law carbon economies while also simultaneously adapting to climate change.

Our essential argument is that these two major themes are best addressed practically at the level of the regional physical, economic and social system.  The aim should be to achieve ecological, social and economic resilience in all Queensland’s regions when dealing with the disturbance of climate change.

General Observations on the Directions Statement

The  Climate Adaptation Directions Statement would be clearer with the inclusion of a statement of underlying principles and key assumptions about climate adaptation and its importance.

  • What is being asked of Queenslanders to achieve through climate adaptation?
  • How is the transition to a low carbon economy in Queensland linked to climate adaptation?
  • How important is that transition in the climate adaptation strategy?
  • What will be the key markers of success in setting a direction for climate adaptation in Queensland?
  1. How should the Queensland Government engage and work with communities, local governments and economic sectors to facilitate planning for climate adaptation?

If the community is to be effectively engaged and involved in a successful climate adaptation strategy, it will require a:

  • Broad political consensus on the causes of climate change and appropriate responses by the people of Queensland;
  • Strong, consistent and clear government leadership presenting a vision and a practical strategy for achieving a climate resilient Queensland;
  • Extensive community involvement, ensuring that the responsibility for emissions mitigation and climate adaptation is shared fairly across Queensland’s society and economy;
  • Compelling science and evidence base for action, clearly and widely presented, including detailed analysis of various climate impact and adaptation scenarios at the regional level;
  • Culture of innovation and willingness to seek economically competitive and socially equitable ways to achieve adaptation;
  • Continuing public education and effective feedback from initiatives and programs comprising the strategy to ensure it evolves and remains relevant to the adaptation challenge;
  • Close integration and coordination of the efforts of different sectors, regions, and all levels of government;
  • Planning and development consistent with the aims of achieving climate resilience through adaptation;
  • Partnerships and collaboration, including with universities, research institutions, media, business and industry, NGOs, community and government;
  • Public and private investment in enabling infrastructure and technology;
  • Continuing research and development in climate adaptation for Queensland.

A climate adaptation strategy for our state should also take account of and align with The Queensland Plan with its 30-year vision for creating opportunity, promoting liveability and connected communities, fostering regional development and decentralisation, generating new skills for new types of economy, achieving world class environmental management and sustainable development, and delivering infrastructure fit for purpose and time.

  1. What infrastructure, assets, services and functions are most threatened by climate change?

Depending on the extent and pace of climate change, all elements of Queensland’s infrastructure and facilities are at risk.  Although the impacts of climate change are likely to be regionally variable in nature and scale, warming, drying and severe weather events will disturb Queensland’s:

  • Natural systems, ecosystems services, and biodiversity (including the protected estate)
  • Key regional economic sectors including agriculture, energy and resources and tourism;
  • Water supply, storage, allocation and management;
  • Transport networks and infrastructure including road, rail, and bridges;
  • Telecommunications, aviation and shipping;
  • Energy infrastructure, especially transmission networks;
  • Public and commercial buildings and housing – especially in tropical regions;
  • Coastal human settlements, ports and tourism facilities;
  • Urban design and infrastructure functionality;
  • Cultural heritage;
  • Health, education, and community services, especially aged care;
  • Emergency and disaster management services, especially severe weather response and fire management;
  • Regional development, population patterns and decentralisation;
  • Economic and social well-being and potential adaptive capacity.
  1. How can the Queensland Government support effective climate adaptation?

The Queensland Government has to do more than support effective climate adaptation.  Recognising that at issue is a complex though necessary social, economic and behavioural transition, government should mobilise action for climate adaptation and lead from the front:

  • Working through COAG to achieve a national strategy for addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • ‘Walking the talk’ on adaptation, implementing whole of state and local government strategies for public sector climate adaptation;
  • Aligning planning and development policies and programs to be consistent with the goals of effective climate action and adaptation;
  • Partnering industries, local government and communities to develop regional climate adaptation strategies and programs;
  • Promoting and encourage economic diversification in regional economies, emphasising smart agriculture, new services industries, tourism, education, smart manufacturing, low carbon, biotech, cleantech and digital industries;
  • Ensuring building and infrastructure standards are sufficiently robust and resilient to provide facility and amenity in a warmer and drier climate punctuated by more severe weather events;
  • Encouraging investment in R&D and education and training in climate action and adaptation equipment, systems and technology;
  • Formulating and coordinating climate adaptation regional strategies across government agencies targeting the most vulnerable, remote and disadvantaged in personal and social health and wellbeing;
  • Developing world class emergency, disaster and hazard management services invested regionally;
  • Actively showcasing and recognising regional and local initiatives delivering on the climate adaptation strategy building stronger more resilient regions and communities;
  • Building economic opportunity and prosperity for Queenslanders from the climate action and adaptation process. 
  1. How should the Queensland Government work with regions to promote adaptation action?

Climate adaptation strategies should be developed at the regional level with relevant stakeholders including local government, industry sectors, businesses and community groups and Commonwealth supported initiatives like Regional Development Australia and the Natural Resource Management groups.

Core to its policy response, the Queensland Government should launch a regional climate adaptation strategy and program that would:

  • Integrate a Whole of Government approach ensuring policy and program alignment across the State Government and its government owned corporations;
  • Ensure State planning and policy frameworks align and concur with the achievement of the Queensland Government’s stated goals on climate action and adaptation;
  • Draw on the creative capacities of Queensland regions and communities by funding a rolling program of competitive grants for local government and community groups and matching investments for public-private projects advanced by the private sector;
  • Implement capacity building strategies specific to each region and report and be reviewed in alignment with government fiscal planning and projections;
  • Manage through a regional governance framework akin to the current regional health management boards ensuring local accountability and alignment with the broader state strategy;
  • Include not only all infrastructure, assets, services and functions likely to be affected by climate change, but also address development opportunities arising from investment in adaptation;
  • Emphasise the development of new technical standards, technologies, services, skills and knowledge facilitating efficient climate adaptation.
  1. What are the priority economic sectors with which the Queensland Government should build adaptation partnerships?

Those economic sectors that should be prioritised for adaptation partnerships constitute the core of the Queensland economy now and into the future.  Industries to be superseded by the low carbon economy or by emergent technologies and customs should not be prioritised. Priority partners should demonstrate eligibility by:

  • Reflecting vulnerability to climate change impacts and the need for adaptation;
  • Evidencing capacity for risk reduction and continuing capacity to deliver sustainable economic and/or social and ecological value;
  • Generating public awareness and knowledge of the value of climate action and adaptation;
  • Grounding action in as diverse a group of stakeholders as is practical, including value chains;
  • Integrating climate adaptation as part of organisational mission and business strategy;
  • Stimulating diffusion of new ideas by evidencing capacity for initiative, innovation and leadership; and
  • Profiling innovation for climate adaptation in measurable and reportable actions and outcomes;
  • Demonstrating a commitment to continuing learning, collaboration and development in climate action and adaptation.

Priority sectors should include those capable of contributing to sustainable development, enhanced resilience and increased adaptive capacity:

  • Cleaner energy – to facilitate the mitigation of carbon emissions from electricity generation, transmission and consumption and to provide regional development opportunities through energy systems disaggregation and localisation;
  • Agriculture – to ensure continuing farm productivity and adaptive capacity, new business opportunities through carbon sequestration, and long term food security;
  • Tourism – regional level adaptation strategies for facilities, natural attractions, travel and transport, and seasonal cycles;
  • Building and construction – to ensure products and service standards delivering an emission efficient and climate resilient built environment;
  • Education and training – to ensure curriculum, skills and qualifications are abreast of and delivering on climate adaptation;
  • Health and community services – to ensure equitable and timely strategies are in place to assist Queenslanders irrespective of where they live maintain good health and wellbeing in the face of climate change impacts;
  • Logistics and transport – to ensure efficient and reliable supply chain management accounting for variable climate, weather extremes, and changes to production and consumption;
  • Natural estate management – focussed on vulnerable and protected areas including Great Barrier Reef and regions most susceptible to natural systems impacts;
  • Utilities and essential services – to ensure water, energy, waste services and other civic functions are planned, developed and managed in the dynamic context of climate change;
  • Research and Development – to ensure Queensland benefits from new products and services in the 21st century economy – for example, new materials, digital manufacturing, biotechnology, personal health and well-being, education, renewable energy.

In view of the fact that much work has already be undertaken in climate adaptation strategy by local government especially, it is important the Queensland Government draws on the lessons of past experience, integrates insights from current best practice here and elsewhere, while setting a strategic direction that translates into tangible initiatives, implemented with the active collaboration of regional and local stakeholders.   To delay such an approach would be to deny potentially future Queenslanders the opportunities in amenity, facility and prosperity our current generation has enjoyed.

Author: Professor John Cole OAM

Professor Emeritus and founder of the Institute for Resilient Regions at the University of Southern Queensland and Honorary Professor, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland.

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