In February 2008, the Australian Government commissioned a strategic review of all climate change programs (the Wilkins review69) ‘to determine whether existing climate change programs are efficient, effective and complementary to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS)—so that climate change can be addressed at least cost to the economy’.70 The review recommended, among other things, a reduction in the number of federal programs and a clarification of roles of the Australian and state and territory governments. More specifically, it suggested a rationalisation of activities, with the Australian Government to focus on mitigation measures and the states and territories to concentrate on adaptation via the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Adaptation Framework, which aims to build our capacity to manage climate change impacts and reduce vulnerability in key sectors and regions. However, in the three years since the release of the Wilkins review, it has become clear that a thorough rationalisation of activities along these lines is unlikely to be practicable, given the important role of state and territory governments in areas such as promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, land use planning and public transport.
In responding to this element of the Wilkins review, the Australian Government emphasised the importance of COAG in engaging the states and territories. Examples of cooperation and coordination cited included finalising the expanded national Renewable Energy Target scheme, developing the COAG Energy Efficiency Strategy, adopting the National Adaptation Framework in 2007, reviewing existing climate change programs and developing new initiatives.70
Local government, as the tier of government closest to the community, has a particularly important role in engaging businesses and community groups in identifying key vulnerabilities to climate change (and potential opportunities); setting priorities; and developing and implementing adaptation strategies that take full account of local conditions, resource availability and community capacity to deal with change. As Professor Garnaut notes:
The appropriate adaptation response will always depend on a range of local circumstances. Therefore, unlike the mitigation effort, adaptation is best seen as a local, bottom-up response. Garnaut,13 p. 363
Local government actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change have been assisted in Australia and internationally by Cities for Climate Protection® (CCP®)—an international campaign initiated by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), which ‘provides a framework for local governments to integrate climate protection policies with actions that address immediate municipal concerns’.71 Between 1998–99 and 2007–08, Australian councils participating in the CCP Australia campaign reported a total abatement of 18 million tonnes of CO2-e.72 In 2009, as part of the rationalisation of programs following the Wilkins review, Australian Government funding of around $1.5 million per year for the CCP® program was halted on the basis that it was not complementary to the CPRS. The decision, which was strongly criticised by local government and the Australian Greens party, attracted limited media attention (e.g. see Cubby73). Under its present title, CCP—Integrated Action®, the campaign continues to assist local governments and their communities with action to mitigate climate change (CCP-Mitigate®) and to adapt to climate change (CCP-Adapt®).
In the final analysis, although action by all tiers of government will be needed to adapt to climate change, ‘adaptation is a shared responsibility—governments, business and the community all have a stake and a role in responding to climate change impacts’.74