Louise Mitchell, education manager and facilitator at the Australian Emergency Management Institute, National Security Capability Development Division, Attorney-General's Department
In March 2008, COAG referred to climate change as one of the greatest economic and environmental challenges of our age. The projections for Australia of the impacts of climate change include:
(Department of Climate Change, 2009).
The Australian Government has recognised the need to act on climate change and the Department of Climate Change (DCC) is tackling the issues facing the Australian community along three fronts (Figure 1):
Other government departments, such as Attorney-General’s are looking at how the work in on these three fronts fits with their specific areas of interest. The focus of the July 2009 Workshop was climate change adaptation in emergency management.
Figure 1. THE THREE PILLARS: The Australian Government’s approach to meeting the challenge of climate change. Department of Climate Change, 2008
The predicted impacts of climate change will have serious consequences for Australian communities. The emergency management function will continue to be essential and “emergency management measures based on historic experience will not be adequate in a changing climate. The emergency management sector, including communities, will increasingly need information on emerging climate scenarios to enable climate change to be factored into the management of current and future disaster risks, and to inform preparation and response and recovery efforts. Some impacts from climate change are unavoidable, but implementation of appropriate adaptation strategies will lead to improvements in disaster resilience and reduction in disaster risk” (Attorney-General’s Department, 12 March 2009).
The adaptation agenda is very new in Australia and it has been informed by initial national risk assessments conducted by Department of Climate Change and CSIRO (CSIRO, 2006) and by the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC, 2007). Further research in the Australian context specific to emergency management is planned through the National Adaptation Research Plan (NARP) for Disaster Management and Emergency Services (http://www.nccarf.edu.au/national-adaptation-research-plan-emergency-management) which is one of the projects of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). The NCCARF was established by the Australian government Department of Climate Change in late 2007. It is responsible for leading the Australian research community to generate biophysical, social and economic information needed to manage the effects of climate change. The facility is hosted by Griffith University (and seven others) in partnership with the Queensland Government.
The background to the July 2009 AGD workshop includes:
The context of emergency management functions for the purpose of this workshop were necessarily broader than emergency response activity .
Local, State and Territory and Australian Government agencies, NGOs, community and industry representatives came to the workshop to provide input into the Action Plan, including:
1Emergency management functions include disaster mitigation (for example, land-use planning, building codes, building levees), preparedness actions (for example, communications, whole of community and householder education, engagement and action), immediate response and relief activities and immediate and longer term community recovery. Treatment options emerging from the emergency risk management process are another way to conceptualise emergency management functions. These functions are carried out by a wide range of government (local, state and federal), non-government organisations, private industry and individuals and communities working in partnership.
The workshop participants considered and made suggestions for possible future national action in the following four areas:
Discussion included coordination issues, governance in emergency management, strategic communication at all levels, knowledge management, and the complex issues around land-use planning. Recent initiatives at the jurisdictional and agency level were shared and these will be included in a discussion paper to be released December 2009.
It is important to note that while the workshop focussed on adaptation, the importance of climate change mitigation measures (reducing carbon emissions) for all emergency services and other emergency management related agencies and jurisdictions was also emphasised (as in Thompson, 2008). Climate change mitigation and adaptation should not be seen as dichotomous.
The outcomes of the workshop included:
The action plan resulting from the July 2009 workshop and broader jurisdictional consultation will be presented to the MCPEM-EM members for its approval at its meeting in November 2009. Once endorsed it will be publicly available.
The discussion paper will be available through the EMA website late 2009.
The Climate Change Action Plan workshop considered the adaptation challenges to emergency management through a lens of increasing risks associated with the effects of climate change. While the projections regarding climate change will not alter emergency management philosophy, they will influence our response to mitigation, and to continuous improvement in preparedness, response and recovery (including planning, coordination and communication and multi-agency & whole-of-nation responses). Climate change research being conducted will further enable an understanding of the increasing risks to communities which if not mitigated will require significantly greater response and community recovery capability. The management of the risks will require values based community engagement. It will also require political and administrative actions and processes that will enable the engagement (with the various emergency management functions) of many areas of land use planning and mitigation in order to instill awareness and action pertaining to the implications of extreme events.
Attorney-General’s Department, Draft AEMC Climate Change Action Plan, Canberra, 2009.
Carnie, J. A., Emergency Management Role of Public Health, 15 July 2009, viewed 24 August 2009, http://www.health.vic.gov.au/agedcare/downloads/seminar_jul09/john_carnie.pdf.
CSIRO, 2006, Climate change scenarios for initial assessment of risk in accordance with risk management guidance.
CSIRO, 2005, Climate Change is Real Fact Sheet, viewed 24 August 2009, http://www.csiro.au/resources/psrs.html
Department of Climate Change, Climate Change Adaptation Framework, 3 March 2009, viewed 24 August 2009, http://www.climatechange.gov.au/impacts/about.html
Department of Climate Change, Climate Change potential impacts and costs – National Fact Sheet, , 7 April 2009, viewed 23 September 2009, http://www.climatechange.gov.au/impacts/publications/fs-national.html
Department of Climate Change, Projections, 11 Dec 2008, viewed 24 August 2009, http://www.climatechange.gov.au/impacts/projections/index.html
PMSEIC Independent Working Group 2007, Climate Change in Australia : Regional Impacts and Adaptation – Managing the Risk for Australia, Report Prepared for the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, Canberra, June 2007.
Thompson, K, 4 February 2008, Climate change creating major challenges for fire services, viewed 24 August 2009, http://www.nswfb.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=779