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ROLE OF GOVERNMENTS IN

MITIGATING CLIMATE CHANGE


CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLICY

SINEAD LIU
Lecturer: Kimberley Reis

1.0

Introduction

Because climate change is possibly the biggest risk to Australias environment, economy and society, it must be
addressed immediately. In order for successful mitigation and adaptation solutions to be considered, there needs to be
active communication between governments and the community. If this does not occur, then Australia will have to
ensure the negative impacts of climate change (Weber, 2010). Climate change is also a significant problem that
addresses current planning issues and additionally displays new difficulties for the global community (Bhullar, 2013).
Climate change is defined as an adjustment in the atmosphere's condition that perseveres for an amplified timeframe
either because of common unpredictability or as a consequence of human movement (IPCC, 2007). Furthermore,
climate change includes various uncertainties, as we cannot anticipate the full degree of its impacts and cannot allude
to an issue that mankind has confronted previously. Therefore, climate change is seen to be a vital concern
(Kenchington et al. 2012; Gurran et al. 2012) that needs to be addressed immediately (Althaus, Bridgman and Davis,
2012). The following essay will address the powers granted to the three levels of government in Australia and what
should be done in each level for more successful climate change mitigation before looking at ways to improve the
policy cycle through the innovative use of local solutions with respect to climate change.
2.0

Key Climate Change Issues in Queensland

There are a variety of key climate change problems that Queensland is currently facing including sea level rise, an
increase in storm frequency and intensity, coastal erosion, and rising temperatures (IPCC, 2013; Baum et al. 2010). Sea
level rise is a significant issue to Queenslands local infrastructure, due to the fact that the majority of people live near
Queenslands coastline, and the estimated sea level rise of 1.1 m by 2100 will cause a flood of important coastal
infrastructure, such as transport, significant built environments and services as well as local agricultural land (Jenkins,
2011; Department of Climate Change, 2009). Rising temperatures are a significant issue for climate change in
Queensland and is estimated to increase between 1 and 2.5C even if immediate mitigation occurs. Rising
temperatures can also cause a rise in bushfires which will therefore have serious effects on Queenslands natural
resources in addition to the loss of food production impacting the states agriculture (Department of Environment and
Resource Management, 2011; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, 2014). Furthermore,
rising temperatures can cause the frequency of droughts to increase. Increased storm surges and frequency is a clear
impact of climate change, which will no doubt contribute to Queenslands coastal erosion (Pittock, 2009; Department
of Environment, 2012). Mitigation strategies will therefore be crucial in adapting to dangerous weather events such as
floods and storm surges, as disaster planning will be an important aspect of adapting to climate change (Weber, 2010).
Finally, in order to combat the above environmental issues, existing infrastructure and built environments are needed
to arise in order to endure the negative impacts of climate change, which will adapt to such concerns including sea
level change, increased storm surges, rising temperatures, and coastal erosion (Gurran et al. 2012; Australian Academy
of Science, 2015).
3.0

Powers Granted to Each Level of Government

The three levels of governments in Australia all have different roles and responsibilities in mitigating climate change
(Australian Government, 2011), which will be explained in more depth in the following sections.
3.1

Commonwealth (National) Government

As stated by Section 51 of the Australian Constitution, the Commonwealth Government shall, subject to this
Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect
to: (xxix) external affairs (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010, p. 15). This will therefore allow the Commonwealth to
implement worldwide agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the United Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC). The Commonwealth Government also has the power to regulate national assets and activities. An
example of this is the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), which is in charge of starting, creating and observing

the usage of national changes as well as help advance adaptation measures (Council of Australian Governments, 2007).
The Commonwealth Government is presently in charge of all national science and data, giving regional and national
atmospheric projections to guarantee that viable climate change adaptation measures are taken (Australian
Government, 2011; Australian Government 2010), while at the same time teaming up with state governments to
deliver high quality national adaptation research and public good services such as environmental protection,
community health, emergency management and national security (Australian Government 2011, p. 6). They also have
a responsibility for driving national change in order to guarantee that Australia is well equipped to manage climate
change risks (Australia Government, 2011). This will involve working together with the state government in executing
national and local needs of national significance and guaranteeing that market mechanisms are used in an operational
and efficient way to encourage climate change adaptation (Australian Government, 2010).
3.2

Queensland (State) Government

The State Government mainly deals with the negative aspects of climate change and administrations through the
advancement of strategies (Department of Climate Change, 2010) and has the most power in climate change
mitigation. They are also required to work in close cohesion with the Commonwealth Government in order to calculate
local climate predictions. By knowing this, the Commonwealth can start planning early for climate change impacts
(Queensland Government, 2014; Steele and Gleeson, 2009). Furthermore, state-run divisions and agencies can
implement climate change adaptation solutions on plans giving them additional impact as well as tractability in these
areas (Howes et al. 2013). The State Government also has the power to distribute a wide variety of services including
managing legislation as well as a number of assets and infrastructure, both at the state and national level (Queensland
Government, 2014). Finally, the goal of the Queensland Government should be to make sure that regulatory and
market frameworks are put in place so that effective adaptation plans can be delivered, which is attained by working in
close cohesion with the national and other state governments in a way that will develop and implement a constant
method of predicting regional climate change data in addition to climate change impact modelling and reporting
(Department of Environment, 2012; Queensland Government, 2014).
3.3

Local Governments

Local governments in Queensland play a crucial role in land use planning and consideration of the natural
environment, settlement patterns and economic actions (Local Government Act, 2009, p. 24). Local governments
need to act immediately at a local level to apply climate change adaptation solutions for fighting against its negative
impacts (Local Government Association of Queensland, 2007). They are additionally in charge of educating the state
and national government about mitigating climate change at a local level, and to correspond with nearby communities
to oversee the dangers and effects of climate change, guaranteeing that important approaches will consider climate
change adaptation impacts, and that building flexibility is encouraged in conjunction with future models and
projections (Local Government Association of Queensland, 2007, p. 7), which will allow them to recoup from negative
climate change impacts. Moreover, local governments may have the power to work closely in cohesion with other
nearby councils which permits them to address issues that may be out of their own jurisdiction (Local Government
Act, 2009, p. 13) and can best recognise their individual neighbourhood concerns, while the forces permit them to
address concerns that could require a more extensive solution (Coastal Councils, 2010) Finally, local governments have
an important role to play in climate change and disaster management however Howes et al., 2013, p. 23 states that
they have limited capacity to deal with major disasters without the support of state agencies.

4.0

Governments Roles and Responsibilities

Currently, all levels of government in Australia are having trouble with the successful mitigation of climate change due
to the fact that previous climate change legislation are being annulled and cancelled (Steele and Fleeson, 2009).
Incompetent plans and decision making has additionally hindered legislative development on this issue, with neoliberal

thoughts outweighing everything else (Steele and Fleeson, 2009). In order to mitigate this problem, governments
should be looking toward the long-term advantages of power policy making as opposed to the difficulties they may be
confronted with (Steele and Fleeson, 2009).
4.1

Commonwealth (National) Governments Role

The Commonwealth Government should lead Australia in enabling it to adapt to the climate change impacts affecting
national security by assisting states and territories in coming up with climate change adaptation strategies (Australian
Government, 2011). The Commonwealth should also provide a flexible economy that will enable state and local
governments to implement climate change mitigation solutions in an effective and efficient manner. They should at all
times guarantee that climate change data is promptly accessible to the local governments, organisations and
individuals for the conveyance of adaptation measures and should oversee the management of climate change
mitigation in every region (Productivity Commission, 2012). In addition, the introduction of national legislation should
empower the execution of approaches that ensure that Australia is ready to battle against climate change and its
impacts. Consequently, organisations such as the Climate Commission (CC) should be reinstated in order to convey
dependable and legitimate data to the general population in relation to mitigating climate change in Australia
(Australian Government, 2011). Assets must also be apportioned across the nation by the national government so as to
consider the adaptation measures that is needed to be made on a local level to decrease the adverse impacts of
climate change. Without these assets and data, adaptation will be unlikely to occur which means that Australia will
have to combat these with no efficient or effective strategies set up. Furthermore, organisations that aims to mitigate
climate change need to keep supplying the Commonwealth with accurate climate change data, which will encourage
and enable the government to assign the needed resources for the implementation of climate change mitigation
strategies (Heads, 2008).
4.2

State Governments Role

The responsibility and role of the Queensland Government should be to lead local governments in making solid
approaches that support the execution of climate techniques, which should inform local leaders and permit them to
settle on educated choices with respect to climate change mitigation. The State Government should also be giving
more careful consideration on the way that local governments can play a more pivotal part in climate change
mitigation by assigning them more obligations and responsibility in mitigation. This will therefore allow the Queensland
Government to understand that climate change matters should be better fought on a local level of government.
Furthermore, the State Government should come up with solutions that will help in building climate change resilient
communities in order to endure the main impacts of climate change. Under the Queensland Government Act on
climate change, disaster management and land use planning should be linked tightly together in order to better
manage both alleviation and mitigation strategies. In addition, the Queensland Government needs to make sure that
local governments are additionally involved when it comes to ensuring our habitat and its assets, as extensive research
demonstrate that expanded recurrence of significant severe storm surges, alongside sea-level rise (SLR), will undermine
the structure and income of coasts (DCC 2010). Finally, even though national strategies are put in place to assist state
governments in combating climate change, these efforts are lacking. Therefore, in order to solve this problem, they
should be encouraging that data are made accessible to the local governments, as well as working together with
experts to coordinate climate change mitigation strategies.
5.0

Local Governments Role

Because the majority of Queenslands population lives in seaside regions, local governments are lacking when it comes
to the management of native catastrophes and to construct a defense to these negative impacts (Bryne et al 2009;
Gurran 2012). Therefore, local councils in Queensland should come up with essential obligations regarding disaster
management and land use planning (Bajarcharya et al 2011; Dedekorkut-Howes 2012). In addition, because current
events such as fires and floods have caused Queensland to be more vulnerable to hazardous events, and have an

inability to adapt as these events increment in seriousness and recurrence because of the effects of climate change,
local governments should be incorporating land use planning, disaster management, recovery plans, and future
projections of climate change into a whole package that will help Queensland adapt to climate change and build
resilience (Bajarcharya et al 2011, pp. 5), which should concentrate on increasing precise information about the
climate change concerns explained in Section 2.0, give specialised data, present new laws, and introduce rules that
address the inability of the local regions in managing climate change. Furthermore, local governments must work
together in order to implement more modern methods of risk evaluation and also make a greater comprehension of
unsuitable dangers with respect to urban footprints (Taylor et al 2014). Finally, Taylor et al 2014 states that
informing the public should also be a major role of governments as they have the means to research specific groups of
people and build adaptive capacity in local communities (Taylor et al 2014, pp. 13). More knowledgeable and
educated individuals are therefore required to make sure that the needed changes are seen through to their fruitful
execution (Taylor et al 2014).
6.0

Collaboration between Governments

Keeping in mind the end goal of conveying the most suitable, powerful and proficient climate change adaptation
methods in Queensland, an organised and multidisciplinary approach that recognises the negative effects of climate
change and incorporates all levels of government is vital to the improvement of different innovative studies
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013). Understanding and adjusting to climate change dangers will be a
long-term responsibility for all levels of government. Working helpfully once in a while to evaluate adaptation
strategies between governments will therefore help in the proficient and viable controlling of climate change impacts.
In addition, during the times where numerous governments are required to act closely in cohesion with one another,
the Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) could be most suited to allow this collaboration to occur. This
intergovernmental forum is the perfect medium to manage governments in Australia in regards to atmospheric activity,
where mitigation or adaptation-based, and permits both state and national leaders to meet and talk about
argumentative issues. This will therefore limit all levels of government in Australia in significantly increasing climate
change, and successful adaptation strategies can be instated (Council of Australian Governments, 2007). Moreover, in
addition to utilizing COAG to make agreements within governments, the introduction of elected climate change
activities will empower state and local governments to perceive and consider more proper climate change approaches
(Council of Australian Governments, 2007). Furthermore, collaboration is a key instrument for all three tiers of
governments, as the results of their comparative projects will vary, with local governments concentrated on more
precise issues and national governments concentrated on more extensive ones (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, 2013). Therefore, in order to come up with more productive and successful climate change adaptation
strategies, collaboration should occur more between all of the levels of government in Australia in relation to giving the
best accessible data that will aim to decrease the negative impacts of the concerns mentioned in the previous sections
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007).
7.0

Policy Cycle and its Benefits

The Australian policy cycle is generally defined as being a continuous and iterative way to deal with creating and
improving policy over time and consists of eight steps. Every phase of the policy cycle has the possibility of being
executed into policy making for climate change mitigation, from recognising the problems that were brought up in
Section 2.0 of this essay, to the usage and assessment of current strategies (Althaus et al 2013). One of the main
criticisms of the policy cycle is that it is often portrayed as a disentangled depiction of the actual policy world
(Greenhalgh 2006; Head, 2008). Furthermore, there should be a greater coordination as well communication between
all levels of government in order to consider the climate change adaptation strategies that are involved in every step of
the policy cycle (Althaus et al. 2013).
7.1

Issue Identification

Identifying issues is the initial phase of the policy cycle and can emerge from both internal and external sources,
prompting conflicts of opinions and ideas (Althaus et al. 2013). In order to make the policy agenda and be taken up by
government, an issue must be met by at least four simple conditions such as agreeing on both a problem and a solution
as well as the involvement of governments (Althaus, Bridgman and Davis 2013). The final condition, which states that
the ideological framework of the governing party or parties may influence whether ministers wish to deal with an
issue at all (Althaus, Bridgman and Davis 2013, pp. 52), is the step where possible improvements could be made
regarding the management of climate change for all three levels of government. Furthermore, the management of
issues with a greater intergovernmental solution can permit all three tiers of government to give more noteworthy
information about the negative impacts and will have a greater amount of an effect than if only one government
played a role (Althaus et al. 2013).
7.2

Policy Analysis

The policy analysis process discusses the extent of a problem as well as its solutions (Althaus et al. 2013). Engagement
with specialists that give suggestions to policy makers is an essential fragment of policy analysis, and has been at risk at
the federal level in regards to climate change through the elimination of the Climate Commission (CC). This phase
should be immensely enhanced by ministers connecting not only with ecological specialists but also with business
analysts and social researchers in order to make reasonable adaptation strategies that assist Australia with alleviating
and adapting to climate change. Advice taken from all three levels of government may additionally enhance the policy
analysis stage (Althaus et al. 2013).
7.3

Policy Instruments

The five types of policy instruments that are used in the policy cycle are advocacy, network, money, government
action and law (Althaus, Bridgman and Davis 2013, pp. 93). A suitable instrument is chosen in relation to how easy it is
to accomplish the policy objective for that particular instrument. An example of this is the recently eradicated carbon
tax utilised by the national government, which was useful in forcing polluters to pay for every amount of carbon
radiated, but extensive research has demonstrated that there has been a collapse in the policy cycle with respect to
climate change, which will then weaken Australias adaptation attempts in addition to its surroundings and economy.
Therefore, the carbon tax should be re-established on a national level, with it in the long run promoting the production
of an ETS, as it is the least expensive and best approach to decrease per capita carbon information (Althaus et al. 2013).
7.4

Consultation

Consultation includes the consideration of key stakeholders and the overall population in making decisions. This is a
very crucial part of the policy making procedure, conceivably altering the policy direction to pacify the general
population and prevent conflicts (Althaus et al. 2013). It is hard to incorporate the overall population in vast-scale
discussion, yet on a local level, governments can communicate directly with the general population. This dialogue
capacity should therefore be exploited by using local governments as a way for correspondence between the
community and state or local governments (Althaus et al. 2013).
7.5

Coordination

Coordination is an important step for creating effective policies, programs, and plans that aim for the same objectives
and goals (Althaus et al. 2013, pp. 132). In order to improve this step in the policy cycle, federal, state and local
governments need to work together in collaboration regarding climate change mitigation strategies in order to make
long-term improvements to federal and state legislation through the use of organisations such as COAG (Althaus et al.
2013).
7.6

Decision and Implementation

In this step, government agreement will enable policymakers to reach decisions that attempt to satisfy every level of
government. Decisions should be made by governments so that the wider community can receive the specific policy, as
long as the past policy cycle stages have been used appropriately (Althaus et al. 2013). More prominent
comprehension by governments is therefore critical for useful policy making and application with respect to climate
change. It is also vital that they realise the issue as well as its variables and policy outcomes in order to allow them to
settle on more educated choices (Althaus et al. 2013).
7.7

Evaluation

The continuous evaluation of the policies that have been appointed by governments is a regularly neglected yet basic
stage in the policy cycle, which determines whether an approach is successful and if it has delivered critical results. It
keeps up responsibility for the policy makers, and in addition gives input that will allow the control and guidance of any
upcoming policy making and planning (Althaus et al. 2013). Thus, an independent body is helpful as it cant be
influenced nor ruined by government to deliver positive outcomes. Furthermore, the Climate Commission (CC) used to
give advice to policy makers regarding climate change adaptation strategies, but now there are no such organisations.
This phase of the policy cycle would therefore be improved if governments were required to consider and acknowledge
information that is given to them from an autonomous body, such as the previous CC. After this stage, the policy cycle
begins anew with issue identification (Althaus et al. 2013).

Figure 1. Australian Policy Cycle (Althaus, Bridgman & Davis 2013)


8.0

Conclusion

From the information presented in the previous sections, it is clear that in order for Australia to successfully mitigate
against the negative impacts of climate change all three tiers of government must work together in collaboration in
order to utilise effective strategies. Local, state and national governments will all still keep their own specific
responsibilities and levels of power however this cooperation will allow Australia to more successfully adapt to the

negative impacts that it is currently facing. It has also been included in this essay the main climate change adaptation
problems that need to be considered in Queensland and the powers that are granted to each tier of government under
the Australian Constitution and Queensland Local Government Act. Following from this, the possible roles that should
be considered by the three levels of government have been proposed and how they should work in collaboration to
develop and deliver more appropriate, effective and efficient climate change mitigation strategies have been discussed.
Finally, recommendations has been given regarding on how each step of the policy could be improved.
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