NZ’s first NCCRA: What does it mean for the public and private sectors?
New Zealand’s first national climate change risk assessment is now out in the world. So, what happens now? Who can use it and how?
I was incredibly proud to have led this team of collaborative, hardworking specialists – this work provides the public and private sector with pragmatic, useful information to get started with, and is another example of NZ leading the world in climate change response.
Allow me to explain why this national assessment was necessary, what I hope it will achieve and how it could be used.
Both the science and our own experience tell us that the climate is changing. Understanding that we are on a path of continuous change is important, in other words, getting back to “the way it was” is not realistic.
Equally important, is understanding that reducing our impact on the planet is achievable.
I was amazed how quickly nature came back during the COVID-19 lockdown; the air cleared, water quality improved and birds could be heard, even over that relatively short period. This time also gave a glimpse of what a low carbon world might look like and how it could affect us, both as a country and as individuals.
There is, and will continue to be, uncertainty on both the rate and extent of climate change but we do not need agreement, or indeed a definitive answer, to begin to plan or respond.
What we do need, is to get started!
In order to do that, we need an agreed and consistent time scale and climate projections so that we can identify and compare risks that are likely to be impacted by a changing climate. We also need a standard assessment process to compare and prioritise them. This is what the NCCRA does.
As part of a suite of tools and actions, the assessment provides a shared understanding of national priorities, and a consistent base for identifying those nationally significant risks that will increase due to climate change.
For businesses and commercial operators, there is a need for more granularity between now and 2040 – but even for those parties, the 2040 frame gives a good understanding of critical matters to consider.
From an economic perspective, we need to focus on those more material and impactful issues where we can get the most “bang for buck,” and to ensure we include those communities and environments that do not have a voice, or are not often heard.
But I can't emphasise enough that we need to be taking more action, and we need to be doing it now to both mitigate and adapt to climate change risk - it's quite literally a burning platform.
That is why identifying risks across the five value domains (natural environment, human, economy, and built environment) and partnering with Māori to do so, is so important. Greater acknowledgement of Mātauranga Māori is something we can, and must, do better through greater collaboration and sharing - by doing that we will get better outcomes for all of New Zealand.
So, for the first time we have a national framework and process that can help rank and prioritise risk - how can you use it?
First of all, it's important to remember that we can all do something to improve our community’s resilience, and the first step is to determine what is critical to your specific needs or assets.
Which assets and amenities are already at risk? If you look at your infrastructure and overlay the 43 risk areas identified in the NCCRA – this will help you to identify priority areas and assist in deciding on adaptation or mitigation responses.
The risk assessment is not perfect. There are gaps in our knowledge and understanding that will continue to require more data and investigations, and there will be a need for downscaling and considering regional and portfolio risks to a wider group of stakeholders.
There are improvements that will be made in the next risk assessment, although I believe we have set a strong foundation and ideas for those improvements. However, it is enough to make a start to inform the National Adaptation Plan, and to provide clarity and consistency in the priorities of government.
I am hopeful the NCCRA will set a path for effective action, and provide a framework that will allow us to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the actions we take.
You can read the NCCRA report, including the 43 risk areas on the Ministry for the Environment’s website. If you would like to discuss this some more, please reach out by email and I will get back in touch with you.