Sandy's storm surge should lift climate risk action in Australia Media Release

Oct 31, 2012 - 11:08am

The cascading and costly impacts of Frankenstorm Sandy – with some estimates at about $US45 billion - should add impetus to Government and business action on climate and extreme weather risks to Australia’s infrastructure. 

“As the costs of Sandy climb by billions of dollars there are urgent lessons for governments and significant implications for business,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute. “On Monday we released a report prepared with business Coming Ready or Not: Managing climate risks to Australia’s infrastructure that revealed Australia’s electricity, transport, property and  financial infrastructure is mostly underprepared.” 

“Sandy has now given an immediate, tragic and costly lesson in the consequences of such a lack of preparation.” 

The topic is not new, but recent reports point to growing awareness of the potential risks. 

“Sunday’s Asian Century White Paper notes that climate change is likely to add to the frequency and severity of disasters. But our report revealed that government policy is fragmented and the business response uneven," said Connor. 

Last week a report by Baker & McKenzie argued that trustees in charge of Australia's $1.4 trillion in superannuation who failed to consider climate change risk may be in breach of their fiduciary duties. 

In September, Global reinsurer Munich Re reported that it was seeing the initial footprint of climate change in loss data. It has since been reported stating that Australia's weather-related losses rose more than fourfold in the 1980-2011 period (in inflation-adjusted terms), a pace only exceeded among the continents by North America. 

“The 40 per cent increase in greenhouse gas levels in the last 200 years has loaded the dice in favour of more extreme weather events and impacts from climate change, we need to act now both to manage the unavoidable as well as avoid the unmanageable,” said Connor.   

“Australian governments have made progress on disparate elements of the May 2007 National Climate Change Adaptation Framework, but core elements of coordination and governance may only possibly be addressed by COAG later this year.”

“State governments in Victoria, NSW and most recently Queensland have wound back coastal planning controls, moves which should be urgently reconsidered.” 

“COAG needs to see all governments urgently lifting their game, refreshing the adaptation framework and expanding analysis and reporting of infrastructure independencies to risk. The Commonwealth’s response to the Productivity Commission’s report on barriers to adaptation should carry a similar urgency.” 

Connor concluded: “Business needs to do more or risk far greater intervention from insurance companies and superannuation funds, who are beginning to realise the cost implications and legal responsibilities of climate risks.”

For more information
Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director, The Climate Institute | 02 8239 6299
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