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Climate Change Adaptation and the Pivotal Role of Water: Proposed policy response for Australia?

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
4. Water policy and governance
Author(s): Maureen Papas
Maureen Papas
The University of Western Australia

Keyword(s): Climate change, climate action, federal system of government, national responsibility, Australia


Climate Change Adaptation and the Pivotal Role of Water: Proposed policy response for Australia?


By Maureen Papas

Honorary Fellow, The University of Western Australia, Faculty of Law, WA maureen.papas@uwa.edu.au


Abstract: The impact of climate change continues to dominate the world’s scientific and policy agenda. One fundamental concern is the adverse effect of climate change on water availability. This is especially true since the threat of future levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere are likely to contribute to more frequent and more extreme weather events in many regions, resulting in an unprecedented scale of devastation. Over the past few decades a clear, scientific consensus over climate change predictions has intensified, adding to a growing sense of urgency about the need to address the problem. Adapting to the unavoidable consequences of climate change is a necessity globally. While there are obstacles that hinder the planning and implementation of adaptation, there are also signs that Australia’s efforts are falling short of what is needed to mitigate to climate change. Yet, as one of the driest inhabited continents where temperatures are predicted to increase substantially in the future, Australia has a lot to gain from climate action. Some commentators have suggested that climate policy should be lead by the states, while many assert this approach would yield favourable outcomes among more progressive governments. This article argues that with the Paris Agreement coming into force and the federal government committed to a review of its climate change policy during 2017, Australia needs to have a credible plan to meet its international commitments. The paper concludes that there are merits to exploring a state-based approach. However, primary responsibility to deliver scalable climate policy rests with the federal government to ensure Australia’s future water security and sustainability. 

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