From the Newsroom

Climate change impact report remains confidential

Geoff Helisma


Councillors have unanimously “noted” information regarding the exhibition of the draft Disaster Resilience Framework – submissions closed on February 28.

The decision, taken at the February 22 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, effectively reinforced acting general manager Laura Black’s advice that the associated document, the Climate Change Impact Assessment (CCIA), would not be placed on public exhibition because it was subject to a commercial in confidence agreement with the consultant.

“The CCIA is confidential science that needs to be articulated through the development of strategies, planning and reports that will inform business, community and other LGAs,” she wrote in her answer to the Independent’s enquiry in mid-February.

Previously, councillors unanimously decided at the November 21, 2021 CVC meeting, to put the CCIA on exhibition with the framework.

Instead, CVC exhibited the Physical Climate Risk Assessment Summary for Policymakers, which “is available on council’s website and presents key findings from the Clarence Valley CCIA”, the report to the February 22 CVC meeting stated, “without disclosing confidential information protected from public disclosure by the terms and references of the service agreement”.

At the meeting, Cr Greg Clancy questioned withholding the document from public scrutiny.

He “moved the officer’s recommendation” and said he “wanted to discuss it”.

“I’ve expressed concerns a few times … that the whole report [on] on the climate change risk assessment was not attached to the strategy when released [for exhibition],” he said.

Cr Clancy said it was “hard to get my head around it” and said, “We have well-educated people in the community who would be very interested – but we [CVC staff] think [the CCIA] would go above their heads.”

Mayor Ian Tiley spoke with the Independent after the meeting and said he didn’t “have the answer”, regarding the commercial in confidence agreement that prevented the CCIA’s exhibition.

“The matter that’s to do with the scientific report has been retained in confidential,” he said. “It’s a matter that should be open to public scrutiny.”

He said he was “really concerned about the very latest report that came out last week from the IPCC [The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]”.

“We have to take climate change adaptation far more seriously,” he said.

“In my view, this [CCIA] report should be in the public domain; it’s a matter that should be open to public scrutiny.”

The IPCC’s report outlines what Australia can expect in future years in the Australasia regional fact sheet.

The fact sheet states, regarding “Eastern Australia (EAU), [that there is] a projected decrease in mean cool season rainfall, but more extreme rainfall events (medium confidence); [and that] agricultural and ecological droughts are projected to increase at 2°C global warming and greater (medium confidence)”.