South Australia’s Approach to Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

South Australias Approach to Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

South Australia is taking strong action on climate change to build a stronger, low emissions economy and to help prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. The State reports progress against legislated targets biennially.

The agricultural sector generates significant greenhouse gases (GHG) mainly through methane and nitrous oxide. These gases have a much greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

South Australia’s Strategy

Climate change is the greatest global health threat of the 21st Century with direct and indirect impacts on human health. It threatens water, food and energy security; it is a driver of the spread of infectious diseases, vector borne diseases; impacts human health by triggering stressors such as heat, drought, flood and bushfires; causes population displacement; and reduces access to essential services.

The South Australian government is committed to building resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with an overarching goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The State has an established legislative framework and policy development process to support this.

Local governments play an important role in ensuring that climate adaptation is considered across all sectors of the community. This includes planning, infrastructure, natural resources, urban and rural land use, emergency services, social services, public health, and education.

To support this work, the State government has developed a range of tools and resources for councils. These include the APS Adaptation Planner, a new Climate Risk Management Framework, and a training package to enable the integration of climate change considerations into council decisions.

Further, the State government is working closely with local government to ensure that national policies and programs are implemented locally. This is being achieved through the Regional Climate Partnership Program, which brings together all levels of government, the private sector and communities to develop a climate action plan.

South Australia is a leader in responding to climate change, with an extensive range of initiatives and policies in place. These are outlined in the State’s Climate Change Actions, including the Directions for a Climate Smart South Australia and the Climate Change Action Plan.

An online survey of local government environmental health officers (EHOs) was conducted to explore EHOs’ engagement with the climate change agenda. Results from the survey and follow up phone interviews were analysed. EHOs who were not engaged in climate change/mitigation planning gave a number of reasons for this. These included not having time to consider climate change as a discrete task, being too busy with other priority tasks, and feeling that their role was covered by other specialists in the organisation.

Climate Change Adaptation Framework

A key challenge we face is how to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This involves adjusting our economic, social and environmental systems to moderate potential damages and to take advantage of opportunities. This will require us to invest in a range of activities at local, national and international scales. It will also require us to work together with key sectors of society – from businesses to individuals to communities, governments and the community at large – to ensure that climate adaptation considerations are incorporated into policies and programs across all sectors.

Adaptation actions can vary widely, depending on the specific circumstances of individual communities and organisations. They may include building flood defences, designing storm water management systems, planting drought-resistant crops and redesigning business operations and communication networks. The need for such actions will grow as the effects of climate change intensify.

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) plays a vital role in helping South Australia become more resilient to the impact of climate change. This is through directing state-wide policy, administering climate change legislation and providing secretariat support to the Premier’s Climate Change Council. DEWNR is also responsible for delivering a number of important climate change adaptation programs. In September 2015, DEWNR invited feedback from the community and businesses on a series of consultation papers to assist with the development of a new Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for South Australia.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to climate change adaptation, it is essential that best practice principles are applied. These principles should include a focus on cost-effective measures, minimising variations in policy between jurisdictions and only introducing additional measures where the benefits are clear.

A number of organisations have developed and implemented climate change adaptation frameworks to guide their work. For example, the Highways Agency has developed the Adaptation Framework Model to help them identify activities that could be affected by climate change and determine associated risks.

The UNFCCC has established a range of constituted bodies and work streams relevant to progressing climate change adaptation responses, including the Adaptation Committee and the Facilitative Working Group on Enhanced Resilience and Vulnerability. The Adaptation Committee provides the global voice on adaptation and works to drive coherence across UNFCCC efforts. It is also a forum to discuss and accelerate support for Least Developed Countries’ work on preparing national adaptation plans.

Adaptation Principles

The Strategy’s principles are based on the recognition that adaptation is best achieved through fact-based policy making. Australia needs a suite of national, integrated energy and climate change policies that are coherent and sufficient to meet its emission reduction targets (Hulburt 2002). This is why the South Australian Government will work with all levels of government to ensure the necessary national policy support is in place.

A key principle is the identification of a preferred pathway through options for each decision area. The preferred option identified is the one that can be delivered within a reasonable timeframe and is capable of achieving the desired outcome. It does not preclude other actions that contribute to future adaptation from continuing. A line through the option identifies a time period beyond which a different option may be required, depending on the latest evidence available.

The preferred pathways were developed through participatory processes. A local workshop was held in each of the catchments to develop a rich picture of the local environment, the function of the primary industries and ecosystem services. This was followed by a second workshop to produce draft pathways diagrams and subsequently reviewed in regional workshops. The pathways identified are a combination of measures that can be implemented now and in the longer term, with the emphasis on those which are cost-effective and fit for purpose in each context.

Locally based adaptation plans and initiatives are already in place to support communities, business and the environment build resilience and harness opportunities to adapt to climate change. They are described in the Department of Environment and Water’s Directions for a Climate Smart South Australia and the State’s Climate Change Action Plan.

PIRSA is leading the following actions to build climate resilience of landscapes, habitats and natural resources. This includes working with primary industries to develop new opportunities such as seaweed for animal feed, and investigating and supporting industry development of climate resilient crop varieties and land-use practices.

EPA is committed to the development of a Climate Change Action Plan for statewide implementation. The Action Plan will provide a framework for developing and progressing climate change initiatives in the community, business and the education sector. It will also include a strong focus on partnerships and investment to achieve local results.

Regional Approach

The South Australian Government works with communities and businesses to reduce risk, adapt to impacts, and take advantage of opportunities presented by climate change. It supports the development of regional and local adaptation plans and projects, and through its funding and policy settings encourages innovation in community and business actions.

Adaptation is a shared responsibility across all levels of government. Local governments play a critical role in identifying on the ground climate adaptation risks and needs, delivering services and managing public assets. They also have a direct role in engaging with communities and providing accurate climate information that supports private sector investment.

Regional climate partnerships are networks of councils, natural resource management bodies, regional development agencies and other organisations that work together on climate change adaptation. These partnerships are developing, supporting and implementing regional climate change adaptation plans that build resilience in communities, economies and natural and built environments to a changing climate. They are also working with their communities, industry and partners to develop and implement a range of activities, including planning and preparedness, mitigation actions and carbon farming initiatives.

A series of community engagement workshops were held around the state in metropolitan and regional locations over a six-week period using a variety of techniques. These included face-to-face meetings, online discussion forums and the opportunity to submit comments. The engagement process helped to raise awareness of the need for action, highlight existing efforts in the community and highlight key issues for consideration in a new Climate Change Strategy.

The discussions also identified the need to include a range of new and emerging activities and initiatives. These will be included in the revised draft Climate Change Strategy due for release in 2021.

The Government will continue to engage with primary producers, industry peak bodies and other stakeholders on a wide range of climate change adaptation and mitigation activities. This includes working with farmers to assist them in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing resilience and profitability to climate change through adoption of best practice agricultural practices, including carbon farming. The Government will also continue to promote energy efficiency, promote the use of renewables and low carbon technologies, and support local markets in a low carbon transition.