Victoria’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday 8th February.
The Government should be congratulated on the document which more or less reflects what the Victorian Alliances have been advocating for over a number of years. It is really fantastic to see the positions we have felt to be important adopted by our state government.
The alignment of the state government’s planning with the Alliances’ ‘wish-list’ for sustainability action over the next few years is directly referenced in the plan with the role of the Alliances as the peak sustainability body for their municipalities recognised as improving the “coordination between state and local governments. Direct support for the work of the Greenhouse Alliances will increase their ability to support local governments in addressing climate change.
Things really are moving this year!
There are many new initiatives announced which present a huge implementation agenda for DELWP over the next three years and all the active Alliances are very keen to help. It feels like this has been a long time coming.
Now we have a plan the real work begins!
Below is a breakdown of the key elements the Alliances have pulled out of the plan that we feel are directly relevant to your and our work together:
- Unlike the previous Victorian Adaptation Plan, this plan explicitly links adaptation to emissions reduction and specifies that actions that coordinate emissions reduction and adaptation will be prioritised. (See ‘Complementarity’ principle, p17.)
- A preliminary description is made of respective roles and responsibilities for adaptation (p20-21). This includes strong rhetoric on partnership between levels of government, state government leadership and the need for support for local government. This is to be elaborated and built on by ‘A Partnership with Local Government’. ‘Local governments are primary partners in supporting the community to adapt, and the Government is committed to revitalising a strong and productive partnership with local government on climate change.’ (p.22)
- Section 4.2 (pp29-30) details this partnership, which is the Government’s response to councils’ and the greenhouse alliances’ advocacy for a Local Climate Action Plan over the past few years. A Partnership Agreement will be developed in 2017, and each council will be able to sign on directly. The agreement will address roles and responsibilities in a number of areas, including – importantly – land-use planning. The Government will identify ways to provide ‘targeted support for local government adaptation projects (from 2017), recognising the value of council projects that have previously been supported by the State Government’ (p29).
- The greenhouse alliances are acknowledged: ‘A closer relationship between the State Government and Greenhouse Alliances will improve coordination between state and local governments. Direct support for the work of the Greenhouse Alliances will increase their ability to support local governments in addressing climate change.’ (p30) Note that ‘direct support’ does not translate directly as ‘funding’, but we don’t want – and specifically advocated against – the usual black box of grants programs as the only way to support local projects. This section also details additional support for regional projects and planning that rural councils and alliances should consider (p30-31).
- $4.4 million of state funding is allocated for adaptation, but the plan doesn’t state how.
- Two essential initiatives to identify, manage and reduce risks across Government are announced: an audit of Government operations ‘to determine how well Government departments and agencies are currently equipped to address climate change’ and the establishment of a whole-of-government working group ‘to improve consideration of climate change in Government decisions’. These initiatives are huge and urgent, as current and planned major projects need to be assessed. It is important that these initiatives are undertaken in a methodical, comprehensive and transparent way.
- A vulnerability assessment for the state will be undertaken in 2017 (p27). New climate change data and information will be published, and the Government will develop guidance on how to use this data in consultation with local government, state departments and others (p28).
- Section 5.6.1 (p48-49) addresses how the Government will review land-use planning and building measures, set standards in consultation with councils and develop adaptation and risk mitigation strategies, beyond Plan Melbourne. The review of land-use planning policies and provisions may – and no doubt should – be established immediately in parallel with the audit of Government operations. This section also directly addresses the immediate risk: ‘Clear standards and due process will provide more certainty for local governments about liability for planning decisions.’ I think it would be worthwhile engaging with planning departments to understand this section as soon as possible.
- The Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation, already announced in the 2016 state budget, will ‘help identify strategies for government and the community to address climate change that meet the needs of everyone involved’ (p28). This centre was originally set up to research new energy technologies, so its mandate has been expanded. A new look VCCCAR?
- In 2017-2020, pilot Adaptation Action Plans (AAPs) (now legislated in the Climate Change Act) will be introduced for health and human services (pp34-35), the water cycle (p47) and agriculture (p46).
- An Emergency Management Climate Change Program, announced separately earlier this week, will be developed in 2017 along with other EM planning measures. Also: ‘The emergency management sector will collaborate effectively with councils (ongoing).’ (p30). This is very timely as the Heatwave Health package the CVGA is hosting on behalf of Councils and will be launching shortly directly addresses some of the key heatwave issues we’ve all been experiencing recently. The other Alliances are in direct communication with Craig Lapsley (EM Commissioner) and we should join that conversation.
- Section 5.3.1 (p40-42) addresses biodiversity and really just says that adaptation here will be covered by Victoria’s new biodiversity plan and related measures already announced and underway.
- A few cross-sector forums will be organised – on insurance risk, climate change and emergency management, and land-use planning and liabilities. These forums could actually be really useful, and I think we should make sure they happen – and offer to help organise and resource them.
- Support will be offered for ‘cooler, greener cities projects’ (p50).
- No new measures for transport are included; the plan simply lists what the Government is currently doing in this area, e.g. major projects such as the Western Distributor and the Melbourne Metro Tunnel (p51). We could try and ensure these projects are assessed by the whole-of-government audit and working group.
- Part 6 (p53) is a commitment to monitoring and evaluation, specifically to ‘develop a best-practice monitoring and evaluation framework for adaptation (2017)’. It includes WAGA’s ‘How Well Are We Adapting’ project as a case study. (Yay!) So there is strong indication that the Government will be calling on WAGA to help fulfill this commitment.
- One thing to note finally – Appendix 2 is the evaluation report for the first Victorian Adaptation Plan. It does not overly criticise implementation of that plan and actually says that the Climate Change Mentors Initiative was valuable although much of the work ‘was found to be intangible in nature’. Let us hope that the implementation of the current plan is not found to be similarly intangible.
For more information visit DEWLP website.