Adapting to climate change

Between 2007 and 2013 the Australian Government invested $129 million in the National Climate Change Adaptation Program which is helping Australians to better understand and manage risks linked to the carbon pollution already in our atmosphere and to take advantage of potential opportunities.

The Australian Government is:

  • Investing $12.9 billion to secure Australia's water supply in the single largest investment in climate change adaptation: Water for the Future. Scientists predict climate change will reduce the amount of rainfall in parts of Australia—particularly in southern areas. Water for the Future focuses on four national priorities: taking action on climate change, using water wisely, securing our water supplies, and supporting healthy rivers and wetlands. Part of the funding is being provided for alternative water supplies in our major cities and to improve irrigation efficiency in areas such as the Murray Darling Basin.
  • Supporting Australian farmers as they adapt to climate change through Australia's Farming Futures program, which will improve the ability of primary producers to respond to climate change and manage their emissions.

The Australian Government's position paper, Adapting to climate change in Australia,  sets out the government's vision for adapting to the impacts of climate change and proposes practical steps to realise that vision.

It outlines the Australian Government's role in adaptation, which includes building community resilience and establishing the right conditions for people to adapt; taking climate change into account in the management of Commonwealth assets and programs; providing sound scientific information; and leading national reform.

The position paper identifies six national priority areas for action: water, coasts, infrastructure, natural ecosystems, natural disaster management, and agriculture.

It is important that Australia reduce its carbon pollution to minimise the severity of climate change. However, because some greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for about 100 years after they are first emitted, there will be some changes that cannot be avoided due to past and inevitable future global emissions.

Australia's coasts and climate change

The Australian Government’s position paper, Adapting to climate change in Australia,  recognises the coastal zone as a priority area for adaptation action. Coastal adaptation is also recognised as a national priority in the work of COAG’s Select Council on Climate Change. The Caring for our Coasts commitment is supporting our coastal communities prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change, including the national coastal risk assessment.

The first pass national risk assessment Climate change risks to Australia's coasts, outlines the extent of the risk to coastal ecosystems, infrastructure and settlements and that identifies key issues inportant in the development of a national coastal adaptation agenda.

Coasts and Climate Change Council, established in late 2009 to engage with communities and stakeholders and to advise the Australian Government on key issues released its advice to Minister Combet in December 2011.

Helping vulnerable countries adapt

The Australian Government’s International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative supports vulnerable countries, particularly in our region, to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

The initiative totals $328.2 million over five years (2008-2013), and a significant proportion of this funding is allocated to the Pacific.

The first phase of the initiative ($150 million, 2008-2011) included the:

Under the second phase of the initiative ($178.2 million, 2011-2014), the Department of the Environment manages the:

Other regional and bilateral programs are managed by AusAID.

Managing the risks for Australia

Scientists tell us that the carbon pollution we have already put in the atmosphere is causing unavoidable changes in our climate. These changes will have consequences in Australia such as more frequent and more extreme weather events including heatwaves, storms, cyclones and bushfires; a continued decline in rainfall in southern Australia; and higher temperatures leading to decreases in water supplies. Australia must take action now to prepare for these impacts. This includes changing the way buildings and infrastructure are designed, diversifying the water supplies in our cities and improving our water use, rethinking the way we develop vulnerable coastal areas, or planting more drought-tolerant crops.

The decisions governments make today about infrastructure, health, water management, agriculture, biodiversity and housing will have lasting consequences for our children and future generations. By considering the future climate when making these decisions Australia will be in a better position to deal with the unavoidable impacts of climate changes.

Making informed decisions

Quality scientific research into climate change is helping Australia gain more detailed information on the causes, nature and consequences of climate change. It is helping governments, businesses and communities develop effective strategies to reduce emissions and adapt to changes in our climate. Research will give Australia the knowledge to make the right decisions for our new low-carbon economy. Australian scientists are making an important contribution to building global understanding of the causes of climate change and its impacts.

The Australian Government is supporting a broad range of climate change science research activities through the $31 million Australian Climate Change Science Program. The research is helping us to better understand global and regional climate change and its potential impact on Australia's natural and managed systems.

The government is adopting a new National Framework for Climate Change Science to set climate change research priorities over the next decade and identify the people and infrastructure Australia needs to meet our future science requirements. We are also investing $387 million to further enhance our research in marine and climate science through the Marine and Climate Super Science Initiative, by funding high performance computing, new observing systems, and replacing key facilities.

Further information