Adaptation in Australia – can we remain hopeful?

Since returning from the biennial International Adaptation Futures conference, hosted in Fortaleza, Brazil in mid-May of this year, I have been reflecting on the state of play of climate change adaptation internationally.

Amongst the Australian delegates at the conference, we lamented our nation’s state of play, with the Australian Government budget, released during the conference, contrasting with the release of the US National Climate Assessment and the recent EU Climate Change policy mandating national adaptation plans. While there is much progressive action going on at an international scale, the ‘tennis match’ politicisation of climate change action, with nations moving forward (and backward) in conjunction with the associated funding, is ever apparent.  This led us to ponder where our national efforts sit in the adaptation cycle, and if we are, in fact, taking many steps backwards.

It can all get rather depressing, if you dwell on it too long. But I was heartened when I heard, time and again, the silver lining of our lack of national policy leadership (in contrast to other developed countries), which is leadership in action at the local level. I lost count of the number of delegates who mentioned to me that they look to Australia for leadership on local government adaptation. Australian delegates dominated case study sessions, sharing adaptation lessons learned at the local government and regional level. So, reflecting on the conference and sharing information with our clients and networks, I wonder whether anything has really changed with regard to Australian Government leadership on climate action, and will recent changes prevent further adaptation action where it matters?

It could be because at Net Balance we have the privilege of working in depth with a number of progressive councils in the adaptation space, just ‘getting on with it’ … or it could be that I’m an eternal optimist. I am however, drawn to the fact that, with little national leadership, our councils and regional alliances have been quietly working away. We have many lessons learned (good and bad) to further build the capacity of the sector, where the rubber hits the road. Because councils do just have to get on with it. It’s a risk issue. It’s an operations and service delivery issue. Adaptation is not a nice to have; it needs to become business as usual.

So as we hosted our Adaptation Futures knowledge sharing breakfast on 1 July with our local government, regional alliance, and a few state government representatives at our Net Balance Melbourne offices, seeing these inspiring ‘climate champions’ gather to network and share knowledge, I left with a great feeling. If we continue to share knowledge and build a community of practice, despite the lack of national leadership … there is hope.

Highlights of the conference and key points were shared the Adaptation Futures Knowledge Sharing Breakfast in Melbourne on 1 July. If you are interested in the summary presentation, would like a discussion about the content or any additional information, please email Alianne Rance or Fiona Silke.

 Alianne Rance is an Associate at Net Balance. Ali is based in Melbourne.