There is significant policy momentum in Australia to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for energy production, with most States and Territories committing to emission-reduction targets.
The Victorian Government’s Climate Adaptation Plans are unlikely to disrupt industry and that may not be a good thing.
The Victorian Government has released its first set of Climate Adaptation Action Plans (AAPs). The plans support its Climate Change Strategy, which includes reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and ensuring communities, businesses and institutions are better prepared to deal with the impacts of climate change.
These plans have been prepared for seven essential systems identified as vulnerable to the impact of a changing climate or critical to our climate resilience.
The seven systems are:
- Built environment: homes, other buildings and infrastructure, and public parks.
- Education and training: early childhood, school, higher education, training and skills.
- Water cycle: managing wastewater, drainage and flooding.
- Health and human services: public health services and assets, and social housing.
- Natural environment: land-based ecosystems, and coastal and marine ecosystems.
- Primary production: agriculture, forestry, productive fisheries, and infrastructure.
- Transport: transport users, freight, transport networks, facilities, systems, and vehicles.
Each plan sets out the unique challenges and opportunities of climate change for each system, as well as a series of actions and adaptation priorities. They will be updated every five years on the path to the Victorian Government’s 2050 target.
The final plans were released following a period of consultation to identify any major issues or changes for affected industries. Peter Daly, CEO of Master Plumbers worked with key stakeholders within the plumbing services industry to coordinate a response to the most relevant AAPs for our industry: Built Environment, Education and Training, and Water Cycle. Feedback was provided via an online survey with all industry submissions then coordinated and submitted to inform each AAP.
“There are no major issues or concerns for our industry directly arising from the Victorian Government Climate Action Plans. No specific proposal, policy position, or immediate or significant change flagged in the AAPs directly impacts the current industry operating environment,” Peter says.
The plans include commentary and background on the high-level issues of climate change and its impacts on the relevant sector. They re-emphasise the need to act in a coordinated and collaborative way across and within sectors if the worst effects of climate change are to be mitigated.
“Each plan is a substantial, standalone document. They have been developed in different Departments for different Ministers and are not of a consistent structure. However, they all do essentially the same thing,” Peter says.
Each AAP also includes a set of actions that assess likely issues or impacts for each industry. Collectively, the AAPs commit the Victorian Government to 127 separate actions, intended to guide activity over the coming five years. The AAPs also contain an evaluation framework method to monitor progress of the actions over the relevant period.
“The identified actions are high level and enabling-type actions, as opposed to direct reforms or change proposals. In effect, the AAPs are commitment statements, across key policy areas, to apply a climate change lens to every activity in a sector - from curriculum development in the education sector to the design of sewerage systems to the way councils assess building permit applications and so on,” Peter says.
The Built Environment system is the first of three AAP plans relevant to our industry. It includes Victoria’s physical structures and assets (such as homes, other buildings and infrastructure), as well as built and natural assets (such as cultural heritage places, public parks and sports fields), and how people interact with them.
This plan has three priority areas and 19 actions focused on improving essential policies and standards to make Victoria’s built environment more resistant to climate change, especially for highly exposed and vulnerable Victorians.
Peter said the “actions” are really about preparedness to adapt.
“In the plan, a range of systems, processes, legislation and planning systems are slated for a range of actions in the period to 2026 including review, development, improvement, support and/or assessment. The identified actions all seem sensible and logical - although referring to them as actions is a bit of a stretch. For example, ‘pursue opportunities to upgrade building stock’ is an identified action, as is ‘review planning approaches for bushfire risk’,” Peter says.
The Education and Training system captures Victoria’s early childhood, school education, higher education, and training and skills sectors.
The plan has five priority areas and 22 actions focused on ensuring that decision makers, educators and learners have the capacity, tools and information they need to respond to current and future climate impacts - particularly those related to health and wellbeing, and infrastructure and assets. The plumbing services industry’s input to this AAP was around ensuring the training sector is capable of delivering the adaptive skills, such as hydrogen and water efficiency, that the economy will need in future. The AAP refers to this point, noting that Victoria requires a workforce trained in low carbon energy use, renewable energy industries and emerging energy technology.
Peter says that the Education and Training AAP is also a pathway to enable actions, as opposed to a plan of actions.
“For example, there are a series of actions in the AAP relating to the importance of ‘developing measures to support adaptive capacity of the education and training sector’, but no discreet project plans, or funding or legislative proposal to accompany or support the action,” Peter says.
The Water Cycle system captures the collection, storage, treatment, delivery and supply of water, and the management of wastewater, drainage and flooding.
The plan has five priority areas and 21 actions focused on integrating climate change adaptation across all aspects of the water cycle system.
The Water Cycle AAP is one of the more detailed of the seven plans, going into significant depth about the current and emerging impacts of the changing climate on the water cycle, and all the other systems in the economy which rely on it. The Water Cycle AAP best picks up the themes expressed by our industry in the survey responses, especially with respect to the link between resilient water infrastructure and climate change, and the health risks that go along with floods, stormwater management, and cross connection risks.
Peter says that the Water Cycle AAP has an additional layer of detail to the others, drilling down to projectlevel action in several key action areas to include specific projects.
“It sets out project plans to modernise existing irrigation districts to improve water efficiency for example, and to build water supply infrastructure to improve water security for rural users, connecting recycled water products to end users and reconfiguring water delivery systems to improve environmental outcomes,” Peter says.
Peter notes one key piece of the climate adaptation story missing from all seven AAPs: there is no specific plan or action that directly address energy issues including how it is generated or distributed.
“The Built Environment APP makes several references to the need for energy efficiency, and resilient energy systems and distribution networks, yet it does not commit to any course or energy type going forward. Renewables are referred to in the general, and no specific plans are outlined for new energy sources, such as green hydrogen.”
For more information on the Victorian Government’s action on climate change, including the full Climate Adaptation Plans, visit their website: climatechange.vic.gov.au/victorian-government-action-on-climate-change