New analysis: Australia backsliding in climate adaptation approach

The COP26 Presidency has stated Monday 8 November in Glasgow will focus on the theme of adaptation, to ensure all countries enhance their resilience in the face of unavoidable climate impacts. Despite updating its National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy ahead of Glasgow, Australia remains especially at risk and lagging significantly behind other countries in terms of its preparedness to climate change.

The Australia Institute’s submission to the National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Taskforce, launched today, highlights a peer-reviewed study of 54 national climate adaptation plans and strategies and finds Australia’s adaptation strategy from 2015 has the tied lowest ranking.

Key Findings of the submission:

  • Australia lacks a national climate change adaptation plan, unlike 71% of OECD nations. At least 106 countries have fulfilled their adaptation responsibilities to the Paris Agreement by adopting national climate adaptation plans or policies, including 27 of the 38 OECD member states.
  • The Australian government stripped emissions reductions from its 2021 National Climate Resilience & Adaptation Strategy
    • The consultation paper for the updated strategy forewarned “The new strategy will focus on climate adaptation and resilience only” despite the clear relationship between emissions reductions and climate impacts.
    • The words ‘climate change’ are also absent from the 26-page strategic direction of the newly established National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
  • One in two Australians believe that that the fossil fuel industry should primarily pay the costs of preparing for, adapting to, and responding to global warming impacts
    • A $12 per tonne levy on carbon content from fossil fuel exports would raise about $16 billion per year. 65% of Australians support a levy, with only 21% opposed.

“At the last COP in Madrid in December 2019, Australia was suffering unprecedented bushfires supercharged by climate change and yet the Australian Government refused to even mention the fires in the national statement,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director The Australia Institute.

“The Australian Government helped develop the framework for National Adaptation Plans at the United Nations climate conferences, yet it refuses to develop a comprehensive National Adaptation Plan, unlike 71% of OECD nations.

“Australia’s updated National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy (NCRAS) falls short of what is needed to respond to climate disasters, which already cost Australians $38 billion annually, and projected to increase to at least $73 billion by 2060.

“The Federal Government’s ad-hoc policies like a AU$10 billion insurance guarantee for Northern Australia run the risk of locking Australians into properties in disaster-prone areas. Australia needs a long-term and proactive approach to climate resilience,” Mr Merzian said.

“The latest IPCC report on climate science is devastating for Australia. It demonstrates that we need to be preparing for the unavoidable current and future impacts,” said Dr Johanna Nalau, adaptation scientist at Griffith University and report co-author.

“10 years ago, Australia was world-leading in adaptation science. At Griffith University, we hosted the world’s first National Climate Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) and pioneered the flagship Adaptation Futures Conference. Since NCCARF’s defunding, Australia has lost its leading role.

“We urgently need a strong national conversation centred on adaptation, with strong mitigation commitments, to move towards a truly resilient and well-adapted Australia,” Dr Nalau said.

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