Climate change risk adaptation program call for an industry wide approach

According to Gary Okely, General Manager Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) Risk Services, South Australia, with the increase in extreme weather events and natural disasters, councils need to be acting now to avert the potential for rising claims and escalating insurance related costs, down the track.

“There needs to be an industry wide approach to risk management, ensuring climate change risks are embedded in all councils’ strategic plans,” he said.

JLT Risk Services is in partnership with the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA) to manage its Mutual Liability Scheme (LGAMLS), which provides civil liability protection for all of South Australia’s 68 member councils.

In 2008 LGASA, through the LGAMLS, began a fully funded two year Local Government Climate Adaptation Program.

This program is the first ‘whole of industry’ assessment of climate change risks undertaken by any government sector in Australia.

It aims to give South Australian councils a framework to translate climate impacts into identified risks to their business operations, while developing realistic local and sector based adaptation measures, over the short and long term planning horizons.

“In accepting that climate change is a reality, we also accept that, in future, the resilience of Australian communities will be further challenged by shifting rainfall patterns, extreme weather events and changing climatic zones,” said Councillor John Ross, Chairman of LGAMLS.

“Against this backdrop, climate adaptation will continue to gather momentum as a priority for all levels of government in Australia – none more so than Local Government, which works most closely with the local communities it leads and serves.”

Starting with three pilot councils, the Climate Adaptation Program had been delivered to almost half of South Australian councils as at December 2009.

A broad range of risks have been covered, including extreme bushfire weather, reduced annual rainfall, extreme temperatures, extreme rainfall events and sea level rises, across the following seven key areas of Local Government activity:

  • development and planning
  • asset and infrastructure management
  • emergency management
  • sustainability and environmental management
  • community services and recreation facilities
  • health and wellbeing
  • council prosperity.

Gary Okely said that all of South Australia’s 68 councils will be included in the program by 2011.

“Climate change and risk adaptation are here and very much alive,” he said.

“Totally avoiding climate change is no longer an option for Australia. The outcomes from Copenhagen or future Government agreements on greenhouse gas reduction targets will only respond to the reduction of the serious future impacts of climate change.

“Local Government needs to take a unified approach to deliver to the other spheres of government.”

A report titled Local Government Climate Adaptation in South Australia will be released by LGASA later this month.

For further information contact Gary Okely on (08) 8235 6444.