Research Aim 4

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Enhancing Capacity and Increasing Coordination to Support Decision-Making

Decision-making that accounts for climate impacts can be hampered by the type of information available to understand the nature and criticality of the risks. Relevant climate information for decision-making requires an understanding of the decision processes of those affected. The implications of climate impacts for New Zealand will be examined with those affected by them, using collaborative learning techniques. We will link decision-makers, planners, resource managers, and iwi through communities of practice with the modelers, to define critical decision factors that shape the nature of the science required for decision-making. This will enable prioritising and timing of mitigation of climate-related risks by decision-makers.

Leadership of Research Aim 4:

  • Prof Dave Frame, New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington

Primary Support:

  • Dr Judy Lawrence, New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University; PS Consulting Ltd
  • Dr Stephen Flood, New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University

Other Key Personnel:

  • Dr Paula Blackett, AgResearch
  • Alison Greenaway, Landcare Research
  • Dr Nicolas Craddock-Henry, Landcare Research
  • Andrew Dunningham, SCION
  • Dr Andy Reisinger, AgResearch

This report presents evidence about the impacts and implications of climate change that have decision relevance for a range of stakeholders. Collaborative and participatory research methods were used to engage with a wide range of stakeholders to better understand the decision landscape affected by climate change impacts and implications. The evidence supports the development of new practices for addressing and planning for climate change impacts and implications in New Zealand. The relationships developed will enable a strategy to be built in order for adaptation practice to mature, and to develop a shared understanding of climate change impacts and implications across public, private, and influential actors and agencies.

1) Understanding and information
Perceptions of climate change are dominated by shortterm thinking in all but a few sectors, and on ‘familiar’ risks. The interaction between climate change and other risks, however, will require new strategic approaches to risk management and a greater emphasis on dynamic and emerging risk profiles. More information is required to support the adaptation decisions of stakeholders in dynamic social and economic contexts that will be affected by climate change. Information needs and knowledge gaps include understanding future risks for a range of decision-relevant variables; climate change implications for a greater range of stakeholder interests and information to support adaptation decision-making in dynamic social and economic contexts.

2) Effects
Climate change will have direct impacts on primary economic activities and have indirect implications for a range of sectors including hydro-electric generation, tourism, commercial forestry and agriculture. Implications are particularly acute for urban areas facing the combined effects of rainfall extremes and sea-level rise, to which legacy infrastructure may be ill-suited. Climate change will create dynamic risk profiles, demanding a more strategic management approach. However, with a few notable exceptions, the private sector has done little to consider changing climate risks on business operations, and serious questions about public and private adaptive capacity remain unanswered.

Climate change will also create cascades of implications, resulting in a chain of events affecting multiple system domains, including governance. Rainfall extremes can disrupt productive land uses, affecting quality and yield, with implications for transport networks, port access, trade, and economic exchange. Increased irrigation and shifts in land use in response to a drier climate, may result in pastoral farmers moving stock to steeper country, increasing runoff and erosion, with downstream water quality impacts. Such cascading impacts are identified.

There are functional linkages between land and water management, energy, and climate change that are often treated separately. Inter-basin water transfers and ground water pumping, for example, are energy intensive. Promoting them as a drought mitigation solution or to boost productivity may have implications for sustainability. Such ‘nexus’ issues also have social consequences. Urban and rural populations may place different values on freshwater than productive sectors, leading to growing tensions over managing this resource. Nexus issues have received only limited attention to date; the integrated tools and solutions required to guide decision making are, therefore, lacking.

3) Decision-making implications
Current tools are ill-suited for addressing the uncertainty and long decision time frames posed by climate change. There are dependencies between public and private sectors that are not commensurate with the strategic and inter-generational view that is required. This includes the ‘legacy effects’ of past decisions, changing risk profiles, regulatory frameworks and functional mandates that emphasise reactive and short-term decision cycles.

Governance – regulation, coordination and control to enable or constrain action and actors – is fragmented across scales, and between and within organisations, impeding adaptation efforts. There is early evidence of linked-up thinking in regional and territorial councils that developed over the course of the research, but coherent national objectives for climate change impacts throughout New Zealand are vital. Institutional tools to support dynamic adaptive planning, and address economic and fiscal risks, are also needed.

Organisational capability falls along a spectrum, depending on size, focus, and degree of functional integration within agencies, and across governance levels. Capability and capacity to address climate change impacts and implications depend on management processes, self-efficacy, and resource mobilisation. Access to resources varies widely. Where skills and resources are available in-house, intra-organisational silos may limit the ability to address climate risks. The immediate focus of smaller councils and businesses limits the ability to address climate risk and make connections with other scales or sectors. Most risk management processes and practices are linked to specific issues; for example, fire risk or experienced risks, rather than to changing climate risk profiles.

4) Engaging with climate change in decision making
Governance, policy, uncertainty, resources, and psychosocial factors are the greatest impediments to more effective decision-making relating to climate impacts and implications. Mismatch of time horizons for adaptation decisions and political and management practices are the most significant governance barriers, while scepticism regarding the drivers and effects of climate change has, until recently, hampered strategic thinking. Meeting urgent information needs – including climate change guidance, improved monitoring and evaluation, and vulnerability and its drivers – can help support strategic adaptation planning efforts and avoid maladaptive responses.

Greater integration across governance levels and between societal actors is urgently needed. Opportunities to incorporate greater consideration of climate change impacts and implications into decision making are available, but have not been fully realised. Enhancing the linkages between statutory instruments, and identifying synergies between policy reviews and legislative reform, for example, can provide critical leverage points to help motivate change.

Tools and policy measures for decision making under conditions of uncertainty and change need to be deployed. Local government urgently needs to build decision capability and capacity, including enhanced networks, access to tailored and state-of-the-art climate information, and national measures to support climate change adaptation. NGOs and communities have a critical place in catalysing change by raising awareness.

Click here to download a full copy of the RA4 Synthesis Report.

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