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Development of a Framework for Local Governments to Enhance Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change

Anisuzzaman, M. (2014) Development of a Framework for Local Governments to Enhance Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Climate change presents a fundamental challenge for Local Government functions, including land use and development, coastal management, community health and safety, waste disposal and recycling, and emergency management. Local Government Authorities (LGAs) have a vital role to play in identifying, planning and implementing effective and timely adaptation actions that can reduce the vulnerabilities of their systems and services. Many LGAs in Australia, with support from the Commonwealth Government, undertook climate change risk assessments and developed adaptation plans during 2008-2010. However, it appears that many of these plans have not been taken to the implementation stage. Studies suggest that this is predominantly because local governments face a range of barriers that prevent them from implementing adaptation responses. This research aimed to address some of these issues.

There were four main aims: firstly to identify the barriers for local governments to implement Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) measures; secondly to examine the existing capacity of LGAs to implement CCA and identify the opportunities to improve their adaptive capacity; thirdly to understand the comparative advantages and disadvantages of responding to adaptation individually and in collaboration with other LGAs; and finally to identify and present the key elements of a framework that local governments can use to incorporate CCA into their mainstream planning and operations.

The research was based on a qualitative study, which involved review of a large body of literature, to identify the best practices of local governments in relation to responding to the impacts of climate change; collection of information, through a questionnaire survey, from local governments in Australia, about status, challenges and opportunities to incorporate climate change adaptation in mainstream planning and operations; analysis of the responses using content analysis; stakeholder workshops to discuss and identify the key elements of the framework; and trialling the draft framework to validate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the framework in LGAs.

Barriers that inhibit LGAs from implementing their adaptation plans have been identified. These include a lack of understanding of climate change risks and the need for adaptation; lack of capacity to develop and implement adaptation measures; limitations posed by the existing governance systems; and a lack of ability to determine the local impacts of climate change. The investigation of the existing capacity of local governments suggests that there is a need to implement well-structured and on-going awareness and capacity development programs for both council staff and the community, which should be specifically tailored for target groups to appropriately convey the messages. The research suggests that while there are both advantages and disadvantages in implementing adaptation measures individually and in partnerships, it is often more effective to work in collaboration, as it can provide economies-of-scale, benefit from an increased knowledge base, and present a stronger voice to influence policy development. Finally, the key elements of a framework have been presented to help LGAs improve their adaptive capacity to climate change. These include guidelines on six major areas of LGA activities – communications, governance, planning, networking, funding and implementation. The framework has been validated for its effectiveness and usability in a local government context and is expected to be suitable for use by LGAs in Australia as well as other countries with similar socio-political structures.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Jennings, Philip
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