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Framework for developing climate change adaptation strategies and action plans for agriculture in Western Australia


Academic year: 2023

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There has been a good case for agriculture in Western Australia to adapt to climate change (see Foreword, DAFWA Climate change response strategy, 2010). Climate change response: identify research priorities for localized and relevant data; develop clear policy for both emission mitigation in the agricultural sector and climate adaptation. The need for a climate adaptation framework was identified in the Premier's Climate Change Action Statement (2007) and the DAFWA Climate Change Response Strategy (2010) and complements the development of a State Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy.

For further background information refer to the DAFWA Climate Change Response Strategy (2010) and Climate Change, Vulnerability and Adaptation for South West WA 1970 to 2006 (Morgan et al. 2008). The framework aims to help users design a process that will allow them to develop a strategy or action plan for climate adaptation. The contribution of funding from the WA Office of Climate Change to support the development of this framework is acknowledged.

Guide to using the Framework

  • What product can I expect at the end?
  • What does it offer?
  • What won’t the Framework do for you?
  • Background concepts and glossary
  • The ‘keeping-it-simple’ option
  • What resources will you require?
  • Enlisting support
  • Building on previous work and coordinating with others
  • Stakeholder engagement and/or consultation

A glossary (section 4.6) is provided for some of the more common terms used in climate adaptation. The framework offers a "keep-it-simple" option that allows you to implement an adaptation strategy in a relatively short time with relatively few resources. Even if data is publicly available, it may be a good idea to consider the appropriate format – and thus the cost – of this data for your purposes, e.g.

It is essential to focus on enlisting the support of key decision makers, investors, customers or joint partners, i.e. if you extend your involvement too far, you risk losing focus on the specific requirements of your planning process. Consider the stakeholders you may want to consult (rather than actively engage) to determine their response to your adaptation response strategy/action plan.

The Framework

  • Scoping and process design
  • Identifying and defining assets and/or systems
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Risk management analysis
  • Formulation of adaptation responses
  • Identifying responses to opportunities
  • Prioritisation of adaptation responses
  • Monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management

Conducting a climate change risk management analysis requires considerable focus, planning and preparation before any participatory workshop process begins. A lesson learned from the development of the South West Basin Council's NRM tools for climate change risk assessment (GHD 2009) was that, particularly in the early stages of undertaking a climate change risk management analysis, it was better to have participants informing the process rather than participants informing the process. South West Basin Council NRM Climate Change Risk Assessment Toolkit This is the result of a pilot project within the NRM National Ministerial Council Standing Committee on Climate in Agriculture and the NRM Task Force (CLAN).

Develop consequence descriptions (sections 4.8.1 and 2.8.2 of the SWCC toolkit and column J of the toolkit template) specific to the agricultural context of your adaptation response strategy. SWCC's NRM Climate Change Risk Assessment Toolkit and guidance is available from the department's Climate Change Policy team or by contacting the South West Catchments Council directly on December 2009, the relevant program manager was. Mr Bill Bennell). A good starting point to understand the use of the AS/NZS 4360 Risk Management Standard in the context of climate change is to look at the impacts of climate change and Australian government risk management - A Guide for Business and Government (Broadleaf Capital International et al 2006) at www.climatechange.gov.au/community/local-.

Where the impacts of climate change are not too severe, incremental changes and adaptations (eg improvements in productivity) may be sufficient. However, it is possible that some impacts of climate change may be so severe that incremental changes in existing systems and. At the broadest level, if little is done to adapt, under most climate change scenarios the overall outlook for agriculture in WA is unfavorable if not dire.

It is important that when developing an adaptation response strategy or action plan, time is given to consider the opportunities that may arise from the climate change scenarios you have chosen to analyze. Opportunities can arise from either the changes in various factors themselves (temperature, rainfall, carbon dioxide levels) or from a broader industry or market context (eg increased competitive advantage due to changes in markets due to climate change). Some of the vulnerability and risk management tools outlined above already include steps to identify opportunities; however, for those who do not, it is highly recommended that you include an opportunity analysis before finalizing your strategy or action plan.

Within the context of climate change, win-win options are often associated with those measures or activities that address climate impacts, but also contribute to. No-regret options – adaptive measures whose socio-economic benefits exceed their costs, regardless of the magnitude of future climate change. However, they have even greater significance in the context of climate change adaptation due to the levels of uncertainty surrounding climate change predictions.

Figure 2 Vulnerability and its components from Climate change risk and vulnerability  (The Allen Consulting Group 2005)
Figure 2 Vulnerability and its components from Climate change risk and vulnerability (The Allen Consulting Group 2005)

Modelling and other decision support tool options

For more information, the department's project team includes Sam Harburg and Robert Grima, economists, Geraldton; Caroline Peek, senior development officer, Geraldton; and Ross Kingwell, Manager - Economic Services, South Perth. In addition to the tools specifically mentioned, the department has a list of decision support tools that can help better identify your exposure and/or predicted climate impacts. These can be found at www.agric.wa.gov.au/PC_92629.html?s Alternatively, on the home page of the external website (www.agric.wa.gov.au), click on Farm Systems; then Tools to support decision makers; and scroll down to Land, Water + Environment: Climate.

Background concepts

  • Issues of uncertainty
  • Scale and extent
  • Role of government
  • Critical thresholds
  • Other issues that impact on adaptation responses
  • Glossary

While it can be useful to consider the impacts of climate change on upstream and downstream processes, be aware of the need to access expert advice in these other areas. For more in-depth discussion and analysis of the theory behind the role of government decision-making and public investment in the context of climate change adaptation, the document Clarifying Economic Justifications for Government Intervention to Assist Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change (Sandall et al. 2009), published as a recommendation part of the Victorian Climate Change Adaptation Program (VCCAP), run by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI). The experience of climate change will vary between households and between communities, businesses, sectors and regions.

First, climate change will require the adaptation of myriad, locally specific customs and practices over time. Third, the uncertainty surrounding the impacts of climate change makes it impossible to predict their timing, magnitude or location with precision. The review advocates strong reliance on local initiative to determine how Australia as a whole adapts to climate change.

In reality, because of the uncertainty surrounding climate change predictions, you or your participants in the process are unlikely to rush to implement dramatic solutions (without further economic, social and environmental analysis). Adaptation response generally refers to either a strategy or an action to help adapt to climate change. Furthermore, there is the possibility of confusing sensitivity (the inherent 'natural' adaptability of an asset or system to climate change) with adaptive capacity.

To avoid this possible confusion, adaptive capacity is defined as: the existing human capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This is the potential effect that a climate change scenario may have on the asset or system under consideration, e.g. There are several definitions for vulnerability in the recent climate change literature, but for this framework, vulnerability is defined as how susceptible a given asset or system is to a given impact.

The level of vulnerability is a function of the estimated magnitude of the potential impact (this is determined by the magnitude of the exposure to climate change and the degree of sensitivity to that climate change of the relevant asset or system); and an assessment of the existing human capacity to adapt (adaptive capacity) to the expected.

Simple matrix vulnerability analysis

Once you've researched and assessed the sensitivity issue, it's time to investigate and document any critical thresholds that you believe could impact your asset or system. At this point you may also want to determine whether the specific asset or system in question is sensitive to seasonal variations, i.e. use a matrix of exposure and sensitivity (see example below) to determine the level of impact (Very High, High, Moderate- High, Moderate, Low-Medium, Low, Very Low); place a qualified descriptor on the impact (e.g. more than 80% yield reduction two out of three years).

As it relies on an assessment of social, economic and technological dimensions, judging adaptive capacity can be complicated. For the purposes of this simple matrix analysis, the goal is to gather a consensus about participants' intuitive responses to dimensions of adaptive capacity. Aim to keep this step as simple as possible and avoid getting bogged down in extensive discussions of the details (remembering that there are only four broad categories in the vulnerability matrix below).

Economic/financial: Is there capacity in cash flow and/or equity to finance the adaptation response sufficiently. Are there economic or financial instruments (eg insurance, corporate governance structure, public funding) that can increase adaptability. Are there immediately available technologies (eg new species, varieties, hardware and agronomic practices) that can be implemented.

Is there a willingness to change (eg adopting new practices or changing industry mixes); whether human capital (eg population, skills, experience and education) and social capital (eg social networks, support structures, learning opportunities and technology transfer) are available to implement adaptation measures. Using the matrix of potential impact and adaptive capacity (see example below), determine the level of vulnerability (extreme, highly vulnerable, moderate, slight, limited). You may wish to add a statement that further describes why this asset or system (or asset/system and climate change factor) has been placed in this category (especially extreme and highly vulnerable), e.g.

However, if you have the time or resources available, you may want to consider them separately.

Existing work to define generic adaptation strategies and actions


Figure 2 Vulnerability and its components from Climate change risk and vulnerability  (The Allen Consulting Group 2005)
Figure 3 Overview of AS/NZS 4360 Risk Assessment and Management Process  (Broadleaf Capital International et al


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