Coastal Planning has received early attention from the
Palaszczuk Government. Its election commitments included
reinstating coastal planning laws removed by the previous
The policy attention is, perhaps, unsurprising. Climate change
has become a mainstream social and political issue over the last
decade. How society should respond is a complex and politically
difficult issue. Our understanding of the science of climate change
is evolving. The timing of climate change impacts is uncertain and
variable. Any policy change has the potential to dramatically
affect coastal planning and development.
On 8 July 2015, mapping for erosion prone areas, including a
component for a 0.8m sea level rise, was restored to DEHP's
website. The Government also sought feedback on its proposal to
abolish the existing, and declare a new coastal management district
under the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995.
Submissions closed in mid September 2015.
DEHP has indicated that it considers the 0.8m sea level rise as
a reasonable and proportionate level. It acknowledges that it is
the same level adopted in 2012 and that the mapping largely
replicates that underpinning the Queensland Coastal Plan 2012.
However, since 2012, the IPCC has published its Fifth Assessment
Report with updated predictions for seal level rise.
The IPCC's Summary Report for Policymakers, which
accompanied the Fifth Assessment Report, states that:
"There has been significant
improvement in understanding and projection of sea level change
since the AR4 [the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report]. ....
For the period 2081–2100 relative to
1986–2005, the rise will likely be in the ranges of 0.26 to
0.55 m for RCP2.6, and of 0.45 to 0.82 m for RCP8.5 (medium
confidence) (Figure SPM.6b). Sea level rise will not be uniform
across regions." (Our underlining)
RCPs are "Representative Concentration Pathways"
which, essentially, measure the amount of heat in the atmosphere.
The four RCPs describe four different scenarios for green house gas
(GHG) emissions. There is a stringent mitigation scenario (RCP2.6),
two intermediate scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP6.0) and one scenario
with very high GHG emissions (RCP8.5).
Figure SPM.6b from the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report
illustrates global mean sea level rise as follows:
The data is summarised in the following table:
It is notable that:
Under a stringent mitigation scenario (RCP2.6), the mean sea
level rise to 2100 is 0.4m;
Under the two intermediate scenarios (RCP4.5 and 6.0), the mean
sea level rise to 2100 is under 0.5m;
Under the final scenario, very high GHG emissions (RCP8.5), the
mean sea level rise is 0.63m; and
Sea level rise of 0.8m is at the higher end of the likely range
for the final, high GHG emission scenario (RCP8.5).
The data inevitably leads to the question - is the use of a 0.8m
sea level rise really a reasonable and proportionate response to
climate change risks?
Taking a hard line regulatory approach to coastal development
will have major impacts on the economy. It is also contrary to a
performance based planning system that has, at its core, the
principle of ecologically sustainable development – requiring
a balanced approach to environmental risk management, economic
development and social factors. The State Planning Policy contains
State interests of housing supply and diversity, liveable
communities, tourism, construction and development which all
recognise the logic of increasing density around infrastructure and
employment opportunities. Those state interests should be balanced
against, not overridden by, a fear of coastal hazards. Good coastal
planning policy should build in resilience and adaptability,
allowing for a balance between risk management, economic
development and allowing communities to live and work on the coast.
That balance should be the guiding principle applied in the review
of the Coastal Management District and corresponding changes to
Warranties can be risk-shifting mechanisms when the party giving the warranty is not the party at fault for the defect.
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