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A Short History of Climate Adaptation Law in Australia

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This article reviews Australia’s experience with adaptation law. While climate change is likely to implicate a number of regulatory domains, most adaptation reform has been in the field of spatial and land use planning. These reforms have been influenced by the institutional, political and fiscal context for spatial planning. Traditional planning tools such as zoning, set-backs, and building standards have been modified to address the exacerbating effects of climate change. A preference for market-based autonomous adaptation has seen increased interest in information instruments and limited experimentation with conditional approvals. Three themes characterise Australia’s brief history of adaptation and are likely to affect its development: the need for trade-offs between competing interests; the relationship between law-making and climate science; and the complexity and fragmentation of roles and responsibilities for adaptation. These challenges have pervaded environmental law for decades. The adaptation imperative is an important opportunity to rethink and reframe their resolution.

Affiliations: 1: University of Tasmania,


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