While mitigation remains the best strategy, Amy Steel argues it is now vital to start having frank discussions around climate adaption.
Australia’s political voice has largely been absent from the annual summit of world leaders in recent times. But it was announced that Australia’s Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Senator Jenny McAllister, is set to facilitate consultations to reach outcomes on adaptation at the upcoming COP 28 summit in Dubai.
While it may seem drastic to discuss adapting to climate change impacts when we’re still pursuing effective mitigation, we’ve moved beyond the point of no return for many nations. We’re now set to talk about the efficacy of coastal protection and range-shifting plants that can better tolerate the “new normal”.
These conversations are now, sadly, vital, and Australia can lean on its own experience in climate change to start the ball rolling on these discussions.
One of the most exposed sectors in Australia in the immediate term is the agricultural sector, due to crops and livestock being highly vulnerable to both acute and chronic climate events. There are ways the sector can look to adapt, including using new variants of crops (that are more tolerant of the newer climate) or adapting practices to maintain plant survival rate (for example increasing irrigation precision). Agrivoltaics – a technique that consists of mixing the production of photovoltaic electricity and agricultural production in the same area by raising the solar panels above the cultivated ground or cultivating crops in between rows of PV panels – may become more commonplace as a solution to overcome intersecting land use barriers.
As a land proudly girt by sea, in the longer term we may have to consider coastal protection, such as mangrove plantations to provide coastal defense against extreme sea levels and cyclones. In worst-case scenarios, we may need to consider relocation as a coastal defense.
Meanwhile, widespread exposure in the immediate term will be felt acutely by the financial sector, which stands at arm’s length to the companies facing the physical impact of climate change. It faces a daunting task to grapple with widespread impact and the inability to drive or finance direct adaptation measures on the ground.
Yet Australia’s role at COP 28 is not to talk solely about its own challenges; its role will be to facilitate discussions about the world and what measures need to be taken to both adapt and finance those adaptation strategies.