The role and coordination of different levels of government


An overarching Australian Government strategy—implemented via a range of policies, plans and programs—is essential if Australia is to succeed in mitigating climate change and addressing key areas of vulnerability through adaptation. However, in Australia’s federal system, it is also imperative that other Australian governments play their part in the national initiative and that their actions are coordinated effectively with those of the Australian Government.

Table 3.2 lists examples of key climate change policies and strategies established at state and territory level. In addition to seeking to mitigate climate change through means such as renewable energy targets, electricity feedback tariffs and energy efficiency programs, each jurisdiction’s policies and strategies focus on the need to identify vulnerabilities and opportunities associated with climate change and to implement appropriate adaptive actions.

Table 3.2 Examples of key state and territory climate change policies and strategies

State/territory Policy response or strategy Comment
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Weathering the Change—the ACT Climate Strategy 2007–2025  
Electricity Feed-in (Renewable Energy Premium) Act 2008  
New South Wales Greenhouse Plan  
Draft Climate Change Action Plan To replace Greenhouse Plan
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme (formerly the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme) Trading aspects to cease when a national emissions trading scheme commences
Renewable energy target  
Promotion of energy-efficient buildings Encourages adoption of National Australian Built Environment Rating System
Northern Territory (NT) Climate Change Policy A $34-million action plan that commits NT to becoming carbon neutral by 2018
Provides a plan for lowering land clearing rate and protecting coastal wetlands
Queensland ClimateSmart 2050 State climate change strategy
ClimateSmart Adaptation 2007–2012 Action plan for managing effects of climate change
Smart Energy Policy  
Renewable Energy Fund  
South Australia Tackling Climate Change—South Australia’s Greenhouse Strategy 2007–2020 Deals with a range of mitigation and adaptation actions
Electricity (Feed-in Schemes—Solar Systems) Amendment Act 2008 Bill to amend 2008 Act introduced in April 2011 to increase benefits while limiting total cost of scheme
Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme  
Draft Adaptation Framework A guide to government agencies, local government, nongovernment organisations, business and the community
Tasmania Framework for Action on Climate Change  
Community Grants Programs Micro-grants (up to $3000) and ClimateConnect grants (up to $30 000)
Victoria Taking Action for Victoria’s Future—Victorian Climate Change White Paper, 2010 Comprehensive framework that addresses mitigation and adaptation
Climate Change Act 2010 Deals with a range of matters, including providing for an emissions reduction target of 20% by 2020; establishing property rights in forestry, carbon sequestration and soil carbon; empowering the Environment Protection Authority to regulate emissions
Climate Change Adaptation Plan and community-based climate change preparedness programs Key adaptation actions under the white paper
Victorian Renewable Energy Target Scheme Sets annual statutory targets and issues renewable energy certificates
Western Australia Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy Under development
Low Emissions Energy Development Fund $30 million available to support development of technologies
Residential feed-in tariff scheme Provides eligible residential system owners with a subsidy rate of 40 cents per kilowatt-hour for energy exported to the electricity grid

Sources: Parliament of Australia,35 state and territory agency websites

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

(2011). Climate: The role and coordination of different levels of government. In: Australia state of the environment 2011, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65c70bc372