Australian Local Governments and their response to Climate Change

A new focus has been brought to bear on Australian local governments and their response to climate change. The Federal Government has legislated a 43% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050 – placing increased responsibilities on public and private sectors– including Councils – to initiate and align policies and actions plus exercise good governance and appropriate duty of care in relation to climate change.

David Broyd, Senior Consultant with Reinforcements Management Consulting, recently completed a broad scan of coastal, regional, metropolitan and rural Local Governments and their State counterparts to ascertain what is happening with climate change responsiveness in these jurisdictions. The focus of the research was on policies, planning and organisational governance.

The findings revealed significant diversity and inconsistency in the policy prioritisation, governance and risk management/duty of care responses adopted within the jurisdictions. There were also shortcomings in collaboration between local and state Governments and between councils to form what could be very beneficial alliances on a regional basis. This means that potentially significant  funding support is being foregone.

The Queensland Government has a state-wide target for 50% renewable energy by 2030. As part of its Climate Change response, the Queensland Government is partnering with LGAQ “to work with councils to plan for and better manage climate risks and build resilience”. The Queensland Government is also seeking to ensure “that climate risks are considered in planning and development decisions across Queensland, and that local governments are well positioned to support climate action within their local communities”. The LGAQ and the Queensland Government have partnered to fund and implement the Queensland Climate Resilient Councils (QCRC) program. This program places high emphasis on strong governance by councils and asserts that “all good leaders understand that strong leadership must be supported by strong governance”. The Queensland Government has invested $3.5 million into the program.

The State Government of Tasmania in partnership with the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) has placed emphasis on strong governance within Local Government for Climate Change responses.  Ten governance indicators were applied as follows:

  • strategic planning,
  • financial management,
  • public risk management,
  • asset management,
  • land use planning,
  • emergency management,
  • Green House Gas emissions,
  • climate risk management,
  • adaptation planning and
  • climate change policy.

The NSW Government has published the NSW Climate Change Adaptation Strategy which places strong emphasis on Governance with associated, significant funding support to local government. Programs are seeking to assist councils to develop an appropriate response to climate change and includes Governance aspects, processes, allocation of responsibilities and content. In Victoria, Local Government Climate Change Adaptation Roles and Responsibilities is currently under legislation and guidance documents for local government decision-makers are available. There are three fundamental messages based on established legal principles relating to good governance.

Our research certainly reveals that many Councils need to consider enhanced climate change responsiveness based on strong governance. This can be crucial for fulfilling responsibilities under national and state legislation and meeting good governance, legal and duty of care imperatives.

Compared to our counterparts elsewhere in the world, Australian local governments and their response to climate change are  slow to pick up on local climate change initiatives. A recent article in the newsletter of the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) based in the UK offers a number of case studies demonstrating lots of local action. 

If you would like to discuss this research and how your Council could consider improving its approach to Climate Change policymaking and governance, please do not hesitate to call David on 0419142350.


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