Australia: What's getting in the way of climate change adaptation, asks Productivity Commission

Last Updated: 12 November 2011
Article by Brendan Bateman

Key Points:

The Productivity Commission has a wide-ranging brief to investigate environmental, insurance, tax, labour and other possible barriers to climate change adaptation.

The main climate change policy debates are on the carbon tax, mitigation policy, and climate change science generally, but the general regulatory issues get less public attention. That is about to change, with the Productivity Commission's new inquiry Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation.

In the context of climate change, "adaptation" refers to the ability of the natural and built environment to cope with the anticipated impacts of climate change, such as increasing average temperatures and increasing severity of storm activity.

The Australian Government has asked the Commission to identify regulatory and policy barriers to effective adaptation, and to identify high priority reform options to address any identified barriers. The areas for consideration include (but aren't limited to) infrastructure projects and infrastructure networks, environment and planning, insurance, tax and labour markets, at local, State and Federal levels.

Infrastructure projects, climate change and risk allocation

Governments' infrastructure assets may be susceptible to climate change impacts, but the actual impacts might not be clear yet. The issues paper identified two possible approaches:

  • delay decisions about large, irreversible investments until more information is available on their costs and benefits (a "real options" or "adaptive management" approach); or
  • make the decisions now but use risk-sharing arrangements in public–private partnerships.

It's asking how frequently either approach is used, and what stands in the way of increasing their use.

Do planning laws or building codes help or hinder climate change adaptation?

As climate change is expected to cause more extreme weather events, such as bushfires, cyclones, flooding, and coastal erosion, where and how one builds is a key problem in adaptation.

The issues paper asks:

  • How have State and local governments responded to the potential impacts of climate change through their planning and zoning policies? Are there existing planning policies that could constrain the ability of individuals and businesses to adapt, or reduce their flexibility? What reforms may be needed to meet community objectives while facilitating effective adaptation — are there good examples?
  • What implications might climate change have for local councils' planning policies and development approval processes? Has concern about legal liability restricted the ability of councils to achieve good economic, social or environmental outcomes?
  • How might building regulation affect the ability of individuals and businesses to adapt to climate change? Are there any inconsistencies across the States and Territories that could impede adaptation?
  • What would be the costs and benefits of changing the way that the building code is applied across different geographic or climatic zones, or to establish new zones (for example, to allow for greater variation across regions)?

Regulation of network infrastructure

Governments' regulatory schemes for large infrastructure networks (such as electricity and water distribution) could inhibit adaptation if they discourage investments in infrastructure upgrades or other strategies for adaptation. The Commission is asking how regulations might be doing this, and what would be the costs and benefits of any changes to existing regulations.


While government regulation can address market failures in insurance, it can also create perverse incentives (for example, by encouraging further development of disaster-prone land).

The Commission is seeking information on:

  • whether any existing regulatory arrangements (including State-based insurance taxes and disaster recovery policies) impede the efficient operation of the Australian insurance market, or reduce incentives to take up insurance;
  • how the market is coping, and what sorts of new products might be developed by the market in response to climate change; and
  • what, if any, kinds of government intervention would be most appropriate for addressing any market failures or regulatory barriers.

Labour markets, tax, and general regulatory issues

Regulations and taxes can both inhibit people moving to where the jobs are, or where business might be otherwise better placed. What, if any, impediments to capital and labour mobility that are particularly relevant to adaptation?

The issues paper is also asking

  • What other reforms would improve the overall flexibility of the Australian economy and thus contribute to efficient adaptation?
  • Which broad-based reforms also offer potential benefits for facilitating adaptation to climate change?

Strengthening price signals and markets for natural resources

To overcome the tragedy of the commons, governments use various policy responses, such as enforcing property rights over natural resources or creating new property rights, environmental taxes and charges, or paying for conserving habitats.

These approaches, say the Commission, "can also facilitate adaptation by providing stronger price signals about the increased scarcity of some resources and the higher economic benefit of others". It is asking what should be done here.

What happens now?

The next key date is the deadline for submissions – 16 December 2011. After that, the Inquiry will:

  • release its draft report April/May 2012;
  • hold public hearings June/July 2012; and
  • send its final report to Government in September 2012.

You might also be interested in ...

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.