NSW lacks a Climate Adaptation Plan
While governments around the world are under increasing pressure to cut greenhouse emissions in order to limit climate change, they are also under pressure to cope with the already locked-in effects of a heating climate. This includes increased threats from flooding, severe drought, bushfires, coastal erosion and extreme heat.
After deciding in 2016 to create a statewide adaptation plan for public assets by the following year, the NSW Government failed to complete it. All other Australian states and territories have adaptation strategies.
This lack of action became the focus of a recent NSW Audit Office report which has been scathing about the government’s ability to cope with climate change.
The report assessed how effectively the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and NSW Treasury have supported state agencies to manage climate risks to their assets and services.
One of the many gaps identified by the Audit Office was the failure of the Land and Housing Corporation, which has $50 billion of social housing assets, to conduct a review. The report noted that the projected increase in heatwaves would make it more difficult to limit the risk of heatstroke and other poor outcomes for residents.
Another problem addressed by the Audit Office related to BASIX, the Building Sustainability Index, which is currently under review. However, Planning is not considering changes to BASIX relating to potential climate change impacts. According to the Audit Office NSW homes “are currently being built for the present, but not for a potential future climate.”
A further problem was the lack of support from Planning to local government. The report noted that the department’s 2018 guide for the preparation of Local Environment Plans (LEPs) for councils did not mention climate change.
“Of the143 council LEPs we examined in March 2020, all make reference to climate change, but this is only in relation to flood planning, reflecting guidance from the Department’s 2005 Floodplain Development Manual,” the Audit Office said.
Hopefully the Audit Office report will ensure urgent government action to fix its shortcomings on climate adaptation.