What is Adaptation?

Adaptation means making adjustments to decisions and activities in order to manage risks and capture potential opportunities.

The goal of adaptation to climate change is to increase the ability of our environmental, social and economic systems to cope. It involves making preparations to both mitigate and recover from the effects of climate change (sometimes referred to as building ‘resilience’ or ‘adaptive capacity’).

In 2012, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed on the roles and responsibilities for climate-change adaptation in Australia, including the following basic principles of risk management:

  • Private parties should be responsible for managing risks to private assets and incomes.
  • Governments (on behalf of the community) should be responsible primarily for managing risks to public goods and assets (including the natural environment) and to government service delivery, and for creating an institutional, market and regulatory environment that supports and promotes private adaptation.

Adaptation includes activities to be taken before, during and in response to climate change—and often to alleviate, rather than prevent, the effects.

In NSW 2021 – A Plan to Make NSW Number One the government has committed to minimising the impact of climate change (some level of which is now inevitable, despite global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and aims to gain the community’s participation towards achieving this goal.

Climate change adaptation

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines climate change adaptation as: ‘The adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.’