There is global consensus amongst scientists that human activities are increasing levels of greenhouse gases and contributing to a change in the global climate. Climate change is a significant and lasting change to the statistical distribution of weather patterns over prolonged periods and is expected to increase temperatures by up to 2oC, increase the number of days over 35oC, reduce rainfall, and cause sea levels to rise by at least 0.9m, warming and acidifying oceans in the process. It also has the potential for cyclone activity to become more intense.
Observed sea level rise is tracking along the higher end of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections and the trend is expected to continue. Coastal climate change hazards including coastal erosion and inundation attributable to rising sea levels, and changes to the frequency and intensity of storm events are expected. It can be argued that they are already being experienced. The State Planning Policy 2.6 requires local governments to consider a 0.9m sea level rise.
Whilst shorelines are naturally dynamic, changes to sea levels, sediment supply and transport, altered wave and swell patterns attributed to a changing climate will have different impacts in different local areas. Given the rapid development along the City’s extensive coastline and localised accretion/erosion regimes, the City recognised that a more thorough understanding of coastal dynamics and coastal vulnerability at a local scale was required.
The City of Rockingham has acknowledged that climate change may bring significant changes to the region, particularly coastal zones, and is participating in a number of projects to better understand the potential risks and opportunities, and to take actions that reduce the City’s carbon emissions.
Understanding the local context
The Australian Government identified increasing risks associated with climate change and the need for additional information in the First Pass Assessment of coastal vulnerability (Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coasts, 2009) undertaken by the Department of Climate Change. The subsequent report Climate Change Risks to Coastal Buildings and Infrastructure – a Supplement to the First Pass National Assessment (2011) identified Western Australia as having a significant number of properties at risk of sea level rise. 60% of the properties identified at risk in Western Australia lie within the area between Rockingham and Busselton.
To better understand the local risk, the City is working with other local governments to share resources and undertake research.
The Cockburn Sound Alliance is a collaboration between the Cities of Cockburn, Fremantle, Kwinana and Rockingham and the Department of Defence. The focus of the project is to clarify areas at risk of climate change coastal vulnerability and areas that require further study to understand the risk within the Cockburn Sound, Owen Anchorage and Garden Island east.
The Peron Naturalist Partnership (PNP) is a partnership between the local governments of Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Dardanup, Harvey, Mandurah, Murray, Rockingham and Waroona and the State and Federal Government which aims to build resilience in regional coastal communities, reduce risks and optimise opportunities associated with climate change risks and climate vulnerability.
The PNP project identified that until 2110 in the Peron Naturaliste region:
erosion is a far more pervasive issue than flooding;
800 hectares of residential land would be subject to increased flooding risk;
close to a 200m wide strip along the whole extent of the coastline is at risk from erosion;
the value of the affected assets at risk along this section of coastline is approximately $1.2 billion, and $1.1 billion of assets are worth saving, at a cost of around $120 million;
ownership of coastal protection assets need to be clarified; and
there is a need to request funding to address limitations highlighted in report.
Climate Change Response Plan
Whilst coastal vulnerability to climate change will continue to be of high importance, the City is continuing to develop an understanding of what other risks climate change might pose to the City, and the mitigation and adaptation actions required to prepare the City and its operations for the potential impacts. The Climate Change Response Plan currently being prepared will cover the next 60 years and will be reviewed annually to ensure new knowledge is incorporated, and to update assumptions and actions.
The purpose of the Climate Change Response Plan is to:
Inform staff of climate change and how it is likely to affect the City, its Strategic Community Plan and its operations in the future
Address those Strategic Community Plan Aspirations that would be affected by the variables associated with climate change and to link this to the City’s operations
Identify all risks for the City of Rockingham that would be associated with climate change and prioritise the identified risks using consequence and likelihood criteria
Develop adaptation and mitigation actions to address the high and extreme priority risks and track implementation of identified actions
Corporate Local Action Plan
In addition to planning for climate change adaptation, the City continues to identify actions to reduce its carbon footprint. The Corporate Local Action Plan guides mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) activities across the City and its operations and is reviewed annually. The Corporate Local Action Plan builds on the City's previous participation in the Cities for Climate Protection Program and ClimateWise program.
Further information is available below.