The latest IPCC 5 synthesis report confirms that the impact of climate change is present and highlights the risks for regions around the world including Australia. The findings call out the impacts (wildfire, sea level rise, extreme events) that we are facing and emphasize the need for appropriate policies and institutional arrangements to implement a low carbon economy. At the same time, Jeffrey Sachs as CEO of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network is promoting a strategy of decarbonizing cities. The discussion is certainly shifting from science to finding sustainable solutions on the ground.
One pathway that deserves more exploration is regional collaboration on climate change adaptation. While the focus must necessarily remain on mitigation, developing adaptation pathways for local and regional communities is now critical. Leading practice on a more regional approach can be found at different scales. While MC-4 is an example of an alliance developing across nations to share knowledge more locally, there are successful examples of local government councils grouping together particularly over the issue of coastal climate change. Regional collaboration provides a pathway that is greater than local considerations, but still close enough to be people and place.
One innovative recent example in Australia is Canberra Urban & Regional Futures (CURF), which is a collaborative platform to better connect leading research and practice at the regional level for climate change and sustainability. Such regional collaborative partnerships provide the opportunity to tackle issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries. In the case of CURF, partnerships involving the universities, governments and the regional community also allow such platforms to continue over the long term. One example of a recent CURF project is South East Coastal Adaptation (SECA) that developed seven key principles for coastal adaptation with several regional organizations and local councils, recently receiving the national planning award for ‘cutting edge research’. At the regional level this project focused on better connecting scientists, planners with cultural practitioners to increase understanding and communication on climate change adaptation with affected communities. For more information about the project, visit http://www.nccarf.edu.au/publications/SECA-Coastal-urban-climate-SE-Australia.
As we move from the science to action and solutions, regional collaboration provides a practical and meaningful pathway for many local councils struggling to find answers. Sharing knowledge and expertise within country and between nations at this scale and between similar climate regions (like MC-4) has enormous potential to contribute to innovative and lasting climate change adaptation.
About the Author: Professor Barabara Norman has over thirty years of experience in urban and regional planning in the public, private and academic sectors, with particular interest in urban and regional planning, sustainable coastal planning and climate change adaptation. She is the Foundation Chair of the Urban and Regional Planning Department at the University of Canberra. She holds a PhD from RMIT University (2010), a Master of Environmental Law from Australian National University and a Bachelor of Town and Regional Planning from Melbourne University. She is a Life Fellow of the Royal Australian Planning Institute and a Member of the Coasts and Climate Change Council. Barbara is also Co-Director of Canberra Urban and Regional Futures, a portal for research and education in the Canberra region on sustainability and climate change. She is widely published and presents at a range of conferences and forums, with a current focus on urbanization and climate change. To learn more about her work, visit www.curf.com.au.