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Climate Change Adaptation

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The world is already experiencing the significant impacts of climate change including changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are driving climate change and continue to rise; they are now at their highest levels in history.

Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise during the 21st century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius of warming this century, with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. The poorest and most vulnerable people will be affected the most.

Affordable, scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. The pace of change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts.

But climate change is a global challenge that does not respect national borders. Emissions anywhere affect people everywhere. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level and it requires international cooperation to help developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy.

Australia will face significant environmental and economic impacts from climate change and across a number of sectors, including water security, agriculture, coastal communities, and infrastructure. Some impacts are already observable and there is broad scientific consensus that further changes will occur.

Until recently, buildings and infrastructure were designed based on historical weather records and assumptions that the climate would remain constant. With our climate changing, and the increasingly likelihood of climate extremes, buildings and infrastructure needs to be designed, constructed and operated to adapt with warmer, drier and stormier climatic conditions, with higher sea levels.

To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015. The Agreement entered into force shortly thereafter, on 4 November 2016. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Implementation of the Paris Agreement is essential for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and provides a roadmap for climate actions that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience.

Australia is one of the top 20 polluting countries in the world and produces more carbon pollution per person than any other developed country in the world. Without a comprehensive plan, Australia's emissions are projected to increase by 24 per cent between 2000 and 2020. Recognising this, the Australian Government has committed to an unconditional carbon emissions reduction target of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

This highlights the need for businesses to adapt to climate change as there will be effects on levels of rainfall, heat, wind and frequency of storms. Adapting to climate change means we will need to consider potential climate change risks as part of the design, construction, operation and disposal projects. A ‘whole-of-life’ perspective must be considered in assessing climate change.