Sustainability

Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

  • 1.  Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 18 December 2012 17:05
    Hi Sustainability COP Colleagues,

    The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) has received funds to report on good examples of climate change adaptation practice by Australian local councils. I will be attending a meeting about this initiative with NCCARF's deputy director in early January.

    Many councils have implemented 'no regrets' adaptation actions that, by strengthening capacity to deal with existing floods, bushfires, droughts, storms etc., are worthwhile  - even if the climate changes more slowly than projected or not at all (improbable!)

    However I am particulary keen to hear about 'low regrets' adaptation actions that local councils have implemented.  These are actions based on the future, rather than the past or current climate, which might involve some degree of regret if the climate changes more slowly than projected. One example of a 'low regrets' adaptation action is designing and building infrastructure or buildings to cope with the severe extreme weather events expected in the future. Another example is prohibiting or conditioning developments in areas that are currently 'safe', but are projected to become vulnerable to flooding, bushfires, coastal erosion etc. in the future. I suspect that very few local councils have implemented 'low regrets' adaptation actions.

    If your Council, or another council you are aware of, has implemented a 'low regrets' adaptation action, or plans to do so shortly, I would be very grateful to hear about it from you in the next week or two.

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    Dr Stephen Lees
    National Director Sustainability
    IPWEA
    stephen.lees@ipwea.org.au
    (m) 0412 264 187

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  • 2.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 19 December 2012 23:25
    Hi Sustainability COP Colleagues,

    As a result of comments received about my message - seeking details of climate change adaptation actions -  I would like to clarify
    what is meant by 'no-regrets', 'low-regrets' and 'high-regrets' adaptation actions. A useful source of definitions by the World Bank can be found at:
     
    http://climatechange.worldbank.org/content/adaptation-guidance-notes-key-words-and-definitions

    The following may help clarify their meanings:

    'no regrets' adaptation actions are those that would be justified under all plausible future climatic scenarios, including no climate change - e.g. strengthening current local emergency response capabilites

    'low regrets' adaptation actions are those involving a moderate additional investment to increase the capacity to cope with future climate risks, where this is a low-cost option compared to having to increase capacity at a later date to cope with climate change - e.g. installing a larger diameter drain than is currently warranted to anticipation of climate change increasing rainfall intensities

    'high-regrets' adaptation actions are those involving decisions about large-scale planning and investments with high irreversibility, where considerable consequences and investments are at stake and there are long lasting implications. For such decisions, uncertainties about future climate projections mean that the decisions made could turn out to be 'high regrets' - e.g. building an item of major infrastructure with a 100-year expected life to cope with projected climatic conditions in 2112.
     .
    As mentioned in my message, I am very keen to hear about councils that have implemented 'low regrets' adaptation actions; or 'high regrets' actions, if there are any.

    Dr Stephen Lees
    National Director Sustainability
    IPWEA
    stephen.lees@ipwea.org.au
    (m) 0412 264 187

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  • 3.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 21 April 2013 22:22
    Stephen,

    Chris's recent post got me thinking that you had some good ideas in this early post.
    I notice not much has happened to inform members on your progress (in the last 4 - 5 months).
    Perhaps an update might be in order - or is the issue dead!

    Regards

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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Management
    Pittwater Council
    MONA VALE NSW

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  • 4.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 22 April 2013 20:37
      |   view attached
    Hi Darron,

    Thanks for your suggestion. An update on what IPWEA has been doing in regards to sustainability would be timely. The attached file provides a snapshot of the various actions in progress.

    We have been busy developing an IPWEA Sustainability Strategy and now have a number of initiatives underway to help build capacity, enhance our networks, engage with other partners and hopefully provide some leadership to the sector. This work is being undertaken with the support and assistance of ACELG.

    ***

    You specifically asked about a blog I posted last December seeking examples of good climate change adaptation initiatives by local councils. What did it turn up?

    The blog generated two responses from academics, but unfortunately none from local government / public works professionals. Paul Bateson from the University of Canberra provided a link to the IKEN forum website with Australian adaptation examples. IKEN is the Innovation and Knowledge Exchange Network run by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG). The second response was from Associate Professor Heather Zeppel of the University of Southern Queensland. She included a copy of a recently published paper by her on local adaptation responses in climate change planning in coastal Queensland (which may now be out of date because of subsequent planning changes introduced by the Queensland Government). I know that many local councils have now assessed their climate change risks, but it seems that it is still 'early days' for climate change adaptation.

    I hope you and others find this update and our initiatives of interest.

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    Dr Stephen Lees
    National Director Sustainability
    IPWEA
    stephen.lees@ipwea.org.au
    (m) 0412 264 187

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  • 5.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 24 April 2013 00:59
    Stephen
    Thanks for this information and I am glad to see we are firing up discussion again on this very important topic.
    I am aware of IKEN and do follow it casually.

    Two very interesting initiatives that I have recently come across, that you should be aware of (but possibly are not?) are;
    1 Earthworker (Union based initiative in Vic (http://earthworkercooperative.com/). Have a look at this.
    2 Design Gov initiative by the Feds (www.design.gov.au) which mentions "Wicked Problems" (that are not easily defined or resolved) including Climate Change.
    My recommendation is you at least keep an eye on this and perhaps tap into it.

    Regards and keep the info coming.

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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Management
    Pittwater Council
    MONA VALE NSW

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  • 6.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 25 April 2013 20:45
    Darren

    Am I missing something here? Two major HWS suppliers, and others, have been producing, refining and supplying solar hot water systems for perhaps 20 years. I have been installing them for at least 10. Are you advocating that a new firm enters the market at this late stage. I see your touted firm as a means for trade unions to use government funds (read the taxed earnings of future generations) for their own ends.

    The other site you posted is also a waste of taxpayer funds. The best way that the government can support business is to reduce both red and green tape, and they won't do that.

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    William Peach
    Self Employed - NQ

    Gordonvale QLD

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  • 7.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 30 April 2013 00:16
    Stephen
    Thanks for the impromptu report.

    All I can say for a 2 day a week involvement, you might have too much on your plate.
    I suggest a focus, and focus on something different - to help engineers in Councils come up with their own solutions.
    Leave all the other bodies to do their thing - keep an eye on it but come up with your (IPWEA's) manageable, innovative plan.
    I would suggest you focus on helping councils (engineers) to come up with "adaptation plans" that add value and do not "break the bank".
    You would realise Councils (particularly in NSW, but everywhere) are struggling with their own "sustainability" (viability). A recent NSW Treasury report gave a very telling, poor financial longevity scorecard to most councils in NSW. This is now leading into detailed and precise discussion on Council amalgamation (to help solve a number of problems, not the least being their financial viablity).
    There is just not enough money to do what needs to be done with the current council assets /rating/funding/renewal/backlog etc.
    We need to work out how we stay in the black while we include provisions for new "wicked" phenomenon.
    Wicked problems (APS definition includes climate change amongst these) need innovative solutions.
    Lets get our innovation hats on (as IPWEA) and come up with our own useful, managable approach.
    This will help Councils and council engineers (and ultimately our customers - the community) and drive greater involvement in IPWEA.

    Regards

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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Management
    Pittwater Council
    MONA VALE NSW

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  • 8.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 01 May 2013 02:44
    Hi Darron,

    Thanks for your suggestions and your interest in these matters.  There certainly is a great deal that can be done in regard to sustainability and IPWEA.  With only two days per week, the key challenge for me is always to focus on initiatives that will be of most help to members in their professional work.

    I am also very conscious that most members in local government are very time constrained. As a result, matters that do not appear to be urgent or pressing risk being set aside.  For various reasons (including the breaking of the Millennium drought in eastern Australia, slow progress on international abatement efforts, the acrimonious Carbon Tax debate, changes in many state governments, flurry of recent adaptation research) the impetus for climate change adaptation planning unfortunately appears to have waned.

    Local councils in New South Wales and Queensland (and possibly elsewhere) that were formerly required to develop local climate change adaptation plans no longer have to do so.  Despite this, the climate continues to change (not withstanding the recent La Nina event) and local councils need to consider and account for climate change whenever they make decisions with long lasting legacies. 

    Rather than developing stand-alone climate change adaptation plans, which risk being ignored, a better approach is to 'mainstream' climate change and sustainability issues by incorporating its consideration into all council activities where the time scales involved warrant that. Some recently completed adaptation planning studies, both locally and overseas, suggest how that might be done. The key challenge, of course, is how we deal with the considerable uncertainties about exactly what the climate will be in the future. Fortunately innovative adaptation strategies and decision-making methods able to cope with the uncertainty about future climate are now emerging.  

    I will continue to monitor developments in this field and inform members about the most useful through the IPWEA website and other forums.  A major IPWEA conference is being considered for next year focusing on sustaining local government infrastructure in the face of a changing climate and other challenges, such as financial sustainability. In pursuing those initiatives I will keep in mind your remarks and welcome further suggestions and comments from this forum.
     
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    Dr Stephen Lees
    National Director Sustainability
    IPWEA
    stephen.lees@ipwea.org.au
    (m) 0412 264 187

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  • 9.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 02 May 2013 17:01
    Stephen
    I think we are moving in the right direction.
    Your suggested IPWEA conference (future) got me thinking - Keep thinking innovation!
    Tie financial viability and climate change together! We need to get the climate change sceptics on board.
    We need to talk about this financial problem (as a focus). Poor asset management has been (and still is) a major contributor to this (financial shortfalls and problems).
    Huge dollar values for backlog (and renewal) are also of concern.
    One way to reduce this concern (backlog) is having "proper" disposal policy - very rare for most councils.
    Disposal is a key component od Good Asset Management Practice ('GAMP') but is not often practiced (as it is politically difficult to achieve).
    Generally disposal is thought about where the service the asset was providing is no longer needed or relevant.
    Get rid of the asset off the books - gets rid of the depreciation and future work on this and any backlog attributed to it.
    Do this on a big enough scale and reduce backlog and we improve future financial sustainability.
    But hey hang on, what about the services it provides - we need to decide (with the community) is this service (or a different service) now required. Good so far, we are taking the community into our confidence.

    Now bring in climate change considerations (little at a time).
    Lets assume sea levels will rise.
    Then look at assets that are close/on sea side (that will be affected) and decide;
    1 Should we dispose of them
    2 Do we do any work (maintenance, renwal) on them
    3 Do we ignore them
    4 Do we continue to operate them
    5 Shouldn't we save current expenditure and future expenditure and use this elsewhere

    We could "kill a few birds" with one stone.
    Just a thought in our (your and my) debate. We could proably do this via email a lot more quickly (as no one else seems to care!)


    Regards

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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Management
    Pittwater Council
    MONA VALE NSW

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  • 10.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 04 May 2013 02:33
    Hi Darron,

    I actually think the discussion is relevant and technical solutions and processes should be canvassed for bodies like the IPWEA to promote and put forward to the political arena who ultimatley make the final calls.

    I agree with you that the biggest challenge is the sceptics, but its the extremist views is what I think clouds the practical solutoins that could be simple. We need to accept that we can't solve climate change in 5-10 years nor 50 years. It should be about adopting policies that are financially feasible that will manage climate change rather then then thinking we can change it.

    The sceptics and public perception is that we are trying to spend money on reducing our 0.01% of the global impact. Until we turn the discussions around too to improving the communities safety and well being (which is our code we uphold as engineers) to cater for the risks associated with sea level rises, and greater fluctuations in weather patterns, we will forever be in a circle of opinions with no end result.

    Keep the discussion alive as its healthy and will hopefully get some results with time.

    Regards

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    Mark Ibrahim
    Director
    MI Design Group Pty Ltd - Ibrahim Stormwater Consultants
    CHERRYBROOK NSW

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  • 11.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 06 May 2013 02:50

    Hi Darron,

    Thanks for those further thoughts. We seem to be thinking on the same wavelength. 

    The IPWEA conference we are planning for next year won't focus exclusively on climate change. It is proposed to deal broadly with the challenges - and opportunities - of sustainably managing local infrastructure (including in a changing climate).  It will certainly include consideration of the future financial sustainability of local government infrastructure, along with related topics like levels of services and willingness/capacity to pay. So I expect there will be a lot of discussion at the conference also about asset management - a subject of particular relevance and interest to IPWEA members and its networks.

    It is still early days in our planning for the conference, and everyone's good ideas and suggestions are very welcome. A call for abstracts is likely to be issued in a few months. 

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    Dr Stephen Lees
    National Director Sustainability
    IPWEA
    stephen.lees@ipwea.org.au
    (m) 0412 264 187

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  • 12.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 07 May 2013 20:10
    Hi Darron

    Not replying and not caring are different!!

    I have been reading the discussion with interest. I agree with what both you and Stephen are saying and I am sure many others feel the same.

    My two cents worth.  I think we should focus on climate variability rather than climate change. The knockers will argue climate change may or may not be happening (to me there is no doubt) and you are asking people to accept something that is happening in a geological time scale when most people only really relate to a human time scale.

    Climate variability is not negotiable. Dorothea Mackellar had that right. And if we have infrastructure (both engineered and natural) that is climate resilient, don't we get the same outcome?

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    Catherine Kinsey
    Co-ordinator Stormwater and Structural Design
    Campbelltown City Council
    CAMPBELLTOWN NSW

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  • 13.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 08 May 2013 00:26

    Just after penning the above, I was sent the link below from another organisation.  Very apt.

    http://jonathanfprose.com/2013/04/24/resilience-lessons-from-katrina-and-sandy/

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    Catherine Kinsey
    Co-ordinator Stormwater and Structural Design
    Campbelltown City Council
    CAMPBELLTOWN NSW

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  • 14.  RE:Climate Change Adaptation Examples from Local Councils

    Posted 10 May 2013 18:58
    Catherine
    Thank you for this article and it does make a lot of sense.
    Resilience is a wonderful word and description, that most people (with some exceptions) will not be able to complain (winge/doubt) about. (Climate Change advocates please note!)

    Stephen
    Here is a great theme for your conference (nex year) - "How Resilient is LG Infrastructre (Planning)"

    Resilience applies across asset management whatever the risk/occurrence/uncertainty might be.

    Let's start a discussion on the "Reslience of Council Assets" (as we are not having much luck on actual adaptation examples - what is currently being done)

    Regards

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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Management
    Pittwater Council
    MONA VALE NSW

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