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People and places adapt to climate change and future shocks and stresses

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Objective 36

Planning for resilience has largely been driven by environmental issues, but is increasingly being used as a way to consider a wide range of economic and social issues. In 2016, the City of Sydney, in collaboration with councils across Greater Sydney, joined the 100 Resilient Cities network. Urban resilience is described in 100 Resilient Cities as the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

Adapting to climate change will be critical to Greater Sydney's future resilience. The NSW Climate Change Policy Framework has set an aspirational objective for NSW to be more resilient to a changing climate. It is internationally acknowledged that with the amount of carbon and other greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, climate change will be inevitable with some impacts already being felt today. The National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy outlines the risks of climate change to cities and the built environment including greater risks of human injury, disease and death.

Figure 57: Number of days above 35ºC in Harbour CBD, Greater Parramatta and Penrith

Source: Greater Sydney Commission (2018) using data from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Download this image s3fs-public/gsrp_figure_57.png (format PNG / 207 KB )

The Office of Environment and Heritage's AdaptNSW, provides background information, analysis and data as well as information to explain and address climate change risks. This includes projections of higher temperatures, higher evaporation, changes to the distribution and intensity of rainfall and how severe and more frequent heatwaves contribute to more severe bushfire weather and a longer bushfire season.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has developed a range of future sea level rise projections associated with different greenhouse gas emission scenarios. The potential implications of sea level rise over time include higher storm surge and inundation levels, the erosion of sandy shorelines, saltwater intrusion into freshwater ecosystems, impacts on stormwater infrastructure, and altered flood behaviour in the catchment of coastal lagoons.

The NSW Government has prepared a draft Coastal Management Manual to support coastal communities to address a range of coastal issues, including climate change and sea level rise and the resilience of coastal assets. The National Climate Change and Adaptation Research Facility has also developed CoastAdapt, which gathers together a range of tools to support adaptation to coastal climate change and sea-level rise58. Investigations59 have shown that the key challenges for Greater Sydney are:

  • managing the worsening impacts of natural hazards on communities
  • managing risks to energy, water and communications utilities and transport infrastructure, particularly for older infrastructure, from sea level rise, floods, bushfires and heatwaves
  • maintaining capacity on transport routes to evacuate communities at risk from natural hazards
  • managing damage to biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as natural systems that provide essential services such as clean air and clean drinking water
  • adapting communities to cope with more very hot days.

While the frequency of very hot days varies considerably from year to year, the number of very hot days in Greater Parramatta has doubled since the late 1960s and there have been significant increases in Penrith since the mid-1990s (refer to Figure 57). Climate projections from the NSW and ACT Regional Climate Modelling project60 suggest that very hot days will become increasingly common. The frequency of very hot days in inland locations such as Penrith, which already experience more very hot days, may increase at more than double the rate of locations close to the coast.

Future Transport 2056 sets out directions to investigate how Greater Sydney's transport network can be more resilient to significant weather events and climate change by understanding the risk profile of existing and planned infrastructure assets, addressing interdependencies between transport, water, energy and telecommunications infrastructure and continuing to work with the Office of Emergency Management on risk assessments.

Strategy 36.1

Support initiatives that respond to the impacts of climate change.