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Study highlights agreement on climate adaptation

Tuesday 14 May 24 10:30am

Heathcote River flooding across Ashgrove Terrace, Christchurch. Photo by Jon Sullivan on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Scientists have looked over all the submissions to the National Adaptation Plan, finding the common ground among differing interest groups like businesses, environmental organisations, and iwi.

With Parliament signalling it wants to work across party lines on climate adaptation, the researchers say their study highlights the areas of agreement that cross-party politics could focus on first.


The research was undertaken with funding from the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge.


Research co-author Professor Iain White, Environmental Planning Programme, University of Waikato, says that while climate change is seen as contentious or partisan, the analysis of submissions on the National Adaptation Plan identified a number of clear areas of convergence. “Diverse interest groups and organisations agreed on the type of future action, albeit sometimes for different reasons.”


For example, almost everyone was supportive of the Government investing more in science to provide both authoritative national data sets and more local and culturally specific information, White says. “For the business sector, data helps strategic growth or investment decisions, for NGOs it helps understand risks and response, for communities it can stimulate the conversations needed for local adaptation. Data was seen as necessary to empower action, regardless of who took it, which is crucial as the more people act now, the lower potential liability for future governments.”


Another example that received significant cross-sector support was working with the environment. “On one hand, there was strong support for nature-based solutions at the site-scale that can help manage the effects of climate change, such as restoring coastal habitats. Others wanted to also see a more interconnected relationship with nature that restored the health of ecosystems and promoted biodiversity. Some local government submitters further emphasised how nature based adaptation can provide wider social or wellbeing benefits for communities.”


However, there were also areas of disagreement. “Many, particularly in the business sector, wanted to see adaptation occur, but largely in a "Business As Usual" way, so it's more a problem of tools or guidance. Others emphasised the need for more transformative change, addressing broader societal issues such as poverty and inequality, stressing that the ability, and need, to adapt is directly related to these,” White says.


Some groups were also less represented in the consultation. “Yet, issues like who pays and who stays for managed retreat demonstrate the need to connect with the diverse local communities impacted by these decisions. While there was a strong representation from industry and local government, there were much fewer submissions from youth or youth organisations, who are groups with the most at stake. Some submitters noted the lengthy and technical process. Others highlighted the need to go beyond traditional consultation for more comprehensive involvement of impacted groups, particularly Māori, Pasifika and disabled communities, in adaptation decision-making.” 


Looking across the consultation to identify broad patterns provides a timely insight into political possibilities and can feed into any future cross-party inquiry, White says. “It's a strong steer on where differing groups agree, where cross-party politics could focus on first, how to communicate the benefits of policy in different ways to different groups, and where more fundamental disagreement, or disengagement, might require further thought."


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