With climate adaptation already at the core of business focus on infrastructure and built environments, decarbonising transport and energy systems, and planning resilient cities, Arup supports the Government’s focus on embedding climate risk management in the business-as-usual of government, industries, communities and individuals.

We commend the National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper for providing a strong policy framework, within which different levels of government, business organisations like ours and communities can contribute from their particular capabilities and experiences to building a comprehensive, integrated and responsive program of priority adaptation actions. Our submission in response to this issues paper seeks to engage with the Government’s policy framework and contribute constructively to its objectives.

Vision and objectives

Development of collaboration and institutional support 

The Issues Paper noted that stakeholders in early consultation on the Plan supported more extensive government/private sector collaboration, particularly in sharing data holdings of the respective sectors.

Arup strongly supports this view and hopes the Plan will ensure all parties have access to comprehensive, consistent data, so everyone works from the same information, which is critical to collaboration.  An example of an excellence in this regard is the NSW and Australian Regional Climate Modelling (NARCLiM) collaboration.

Information and data should be available at sufficient scale for identifying and scoping adaptation actions. The Government should have a role in creating and supporting a framework for delivering information to the appropriate levels. 

We look to the National Adaptation Plan to establish a framework for understanding and measuring adaptation progress, to identify what measures and approaches are working, and what isn’t working. 

Because systemic resilience, in particular, tends to be lost without clearly defined roles and responsibilities at each level of governance, we believe the Plan should create frameworks that define roles and expectations and, so, enhance collaboration. 

Arup recommends as a model Pathways to Infrastructure Resilience, a research project by Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure NSW that addresses many of Arup’s key concerns, particularly in the areas of whole-of-system collaboration, coordination and assignment of roles.

Overcoming barriers to financing and investment

Currently there are major barriers to private sector investment in adaptation measures, which the Plan could significantly assist in overcoming by creating a framework for promoting investment across and between sectors.

The Plan would assist by giving clear guidance on investment priorities for adaptation and how adaptation should be incorporated into investment decision-making. 

A consistent approach to prioritising risks and opportunities will help align financing opportunities and funding sources. This needs to be supported by comprehensive, consistent data available to all parties (see Collaboration above).

Long-term challenges needing early attention

Arup believes there are a number of challenges and difficult choices the National Adaptation Plan should create a framework for addressing, because they are clearly visible in our future, even if they are not yet immediately pressing.

Transformational adaptation – actions requiring significant changes that go beyond adjusting existing practices – is one looming challenge. An extreme example of transformational adaptation is managed retreat, where relocating a community under severe climate risk (say, repeated severe flooding) becomes a necessary choice. 

Transformational adaptation requires difficult choices, trade-offs, and the national government will need to play a leading role in identifying and enabling significant trade-off decisions. 

The planning framework for trade-off decision-making should include the role of insurance in supporting the communities negatively affected by decisions and adequate government support for insurance markets to minimise social disruption in such cases.

The Issues Paper properly considers engaging First Nations’ values, knowledge and practices in adaptation planning. Arup appreciates that meaningful engagement is ongoing and looks forward to seeing how that influences the Plan. Climate impacts on First Nations communities and their specific adaptation needs will also need to be considered.

This also raises the matter of climate justice, and a just transition process. The Issues Paper acknowledges that groups who are disproportionately affected by climate change should be assisted by adaptation processes. Arup hopes also that the Plan will address equity implications for communities negatively affected by climate adaptation measures.

The National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper is available here.