University of Western Australia: Coastal futures event to focus on climate change impacts

Climate change and its impact on small regional economies and vulnerable communities will be the focus on an event to be held in Albany next week.

Organised by The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, Public Policy Institute and Wave Energy Research Centre, the event will explore the unique challenges and opportunities ahead for Albany and the Great Southern Region, including how coastal populations should prepare and adapt to a changing world.

UWA invited researchers, policymakers, stakeholders and members of the community to discuss this complex question at the Coastal Futures: Planning and Adaptation in a Changing Climate event.

Speakers will include experts from UWA, Bureau of Meteorology and Environmental Protection Agency, discussing topics such as coastal impacts, environmental protection and policy, renewable energy, regional development and planning.

Dr Nick D’Adamo, from UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Adjunct Research Fellow with UWA’s Oceans Institute, said it was vital for Australia to collaborate with other countries to understand how the Indian Ocean was being challenged by climate change.

“As Australia’s Indian Ocean frontier, and as part of a sophisticated marine and climate science country, WA can continue to grow as a marine hub in catalysing and supporting collaborative international programs,” Dr D’Adamo said.

Like many towns around Australia, Albany and its nearly 40,000 residents rely on the coast for daily life, from surfing, fishing, and whale watching to port operations.

Extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels and warming ocean temperatures will not only alter its rocky shoreline, but also have deep implications for its fisheries, marine biosecurity risks, tourism industry, coastal infrastructure and other aspects of life in the Great Southern region.

UWA Wave Energy Research Centre Manager Dr Wiebke Ebeling said an emerging economic opportunity for the region was its limitless potential to harness renewable energy from ocean waves.

“As the town is growing, planning of urban developments will need to be as future-proof as possible,” Dr Ebeling said.

The Coastal Futures event aims to open a conversation between subject experts and those who live and work in the region. More than 40 local stakeholder representatives and 100 members of the public are expected to attend, to voice their concerns and share their vision for the future as the region adapts to the challenges ahead.

Complex challenges such as climate change require collaboration across all sectors of society, underpinned by a strong interface between science and policy.

The event will also include a relaunch of the UWA United Nations Regional Centre for Excellence.

UWA Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education Professor David Sadler said the UNRCE was a global network that aimed to achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development through translation of its global objectives into tangible outcomes to improve local contexts, as well as provide a tangible focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“UWA is pleased to announce the relaunch and expansion of its UNRCE within the framework of its ambitious Grand Challenges of addressing Climate Change and the need for a more Just and Equitable Society,” Professor Sadler said.

“The UNRCE will work with local partners and facilitate the application of our research to meet local needs, as well as provide ways to engage our students in their communities.

“The UWA UNRCE will be based in Albany and Perth and will work closely with the Oceans Institute and the Wave Energy Research Centre and many external partners in the Great Southern.”

This year marks the start of the United Nations Decade of Oceans Science for Sustainable Development, a movement for international cooperation to develop innovative technologies and strengthen the management of our oceans for the benefit of all humanity.