Coasts and Climate Change

Climate change is projected to have serious impacts on Australia’s coastal communities, development, infrastructure, and natural ecosystems. More than 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast, and billions of dollars worth of buildings and infrastructure are threatened by future flooding. The Australian coast is also home to important natural wetlands, with Australia having the second highest number of mangroves globally. These ecosystems provide crucial ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, shoreline stabilisation, water filtration and food production. Unless these wetlands can migrate inland to keep pace with sea level rise, these important ecosystem services will be lost.

Coastal communities and development

The projected impacts of sea-level rise on coastal communities raises serious legal conundrums for Australian governments. In the coming decades as climate change impacts materialise, affected landholders may bring legal actions against governments, seeking redress for harm caused. Governments may also be called upon to resume and acquire land likely to be affected by climate change.

Coastal ecosystems

Despite the crucial ecosystem services offered by coastal ecosystems, these services are not routinely factored into laws and policies, and decisions regarding development. This research aims to determine how these ecosystem services can be better integrated into law and policy.

Blue carbon

Whilst Australia has systems in place for quantifying and crediting the carbon stored by land-based vegetation, the carbon stored in marine ecosystems (‘blue carbon’) is not yet recognised in law.