Project summary: Spatial planning instruments for climate change adaptation: a taxonomy


Settlements in coastal and bushfire prone areas across Australia face major challenges in adapting to potential climate change impacts. This report identifies the range of legal tools and instruments that can be used to influence the spatial distribution and nature of land use and development and hence the exposure and vulnerability of settlements to climate hazards.

The analysis is not limited to traditional ‘land use planning’ instruments such as zones, overlays and approval conditions. Instead, it considers the broad suite of ‘spatial planning instruments’ applicable to both new and existing development, including information tools, incentives, taxes and charges. These instruments are classified according to the role they play within a legal framework for adaptation planning. Examples drawn from current Australian practice are used to illustrate how each instrument can be employed to address climate change-related coastal and bushfire hazards.

The report draws on interviews with local and state planning, emergency management and coastal officers in selected coastal and bushfire prone areas across Australia, to highlight the potential benefits and challenges associated with different instrument (and combinations of instruments), and a range of considerations relevant to instrument design and implementation. This discussion highlights that each category of instruments has an important role to play within a legal framework for adaptation planning and makes a number of recommendations regarding the way in which they can be employed to support effective and efficient adaptation to climate change.

Please cite this summary as:
Macintosh, A, Foerster, A & McDonald, J 2013, Limp, leap or learn? Developing legal frameworks for climate change adaptation planning in Australia: Summary for policymakers, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 9 pp.

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Gnarabup community planting after bushfires © Blair Darvill, South West Catchment Council



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