Statutory frameworks, institutions and policy processes for climate adaptation

Media type: 
Karen Hussey
Richard Price
Jamie Pittock
Jules Livingstone
Steve Dovers
Doug Fisher
Steve Hatfield-Dodds
Australian National University
Queensland University of Technology

Executive summary

Funded under the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, this study addresses two objectives:

  1. To assess the extent to which existing statutory frameworks, associated institutions and policy processes support or impede national adaptation planning and practice, and 
  2. To make a significant contribution to the development and implementation of a strategic national policy framework.

The rationale for conducting this study was two-fold. First, that significant climate change is unavoidable and that it is in Australia’s national interest to adapt to those changes. Climate impacts are many and varied, direct and indirect, hard to predict and quantify generally but particularly at the local scale, and impacts will inevitably affect all sectors and jurisdictions. For this reason, it is a complex policy problem. The IPCC, for example, identifies ten key areas of impact for Australia including increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events such as droughts, bushfires and floods, higher peak temperatures for longer periods of time, and sea level rise. Despite the lack of hard economic data with respect to costs and benefits that might underpin formal business cases to determine precise levels of investment needed for adaptation, the case to adapt is compelling considering the projected effects to Australia’s economy, infrastructure, communities, environment and human life. 

Second, Australia’s capacity to adapt to climate change will rely on robust, efficient, transparent, fair and flexible institutions which build a resilient and enabling environment in which the necessary behavioural change can occur. While humans and our institutions have a remarkable capacity to adapt to all manner of change, this can occur at great cost to society as a whole or certain segments of it without the guiding hand of judicious policy intervention. 

This report synthesises our key findings against the two project objectives. In doing so, it focuses on (i) where institutional arrangements currently support or impede climate adaptation policy, and (ii) where revisions or new institutions may be required, and the potential for a strategic national policy framework to achieve those reforms.

Please cite this report as:

Hussey, K, Price, R, Pittock, J, Livingstone, J, Dovers, S, Fisher, D & Hatfield-Dodds, S 2013, Statutory frameworks, institutions and policy processes for climate adaptation: Do Australia’s existing statutory frameworks, associated institutions and policy processes support or impede national adaptation planning and practice?, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 193 pp.

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Banner image: Pelican Waters Bush Fire, 16 November 2006 © Thinboyfatter, Flickr Creative Commons