Victorian communities know what climate adaptation plans and projects are most needed and relevant for them. Therefore, the best outcomes will be achieved if communities are directly supported via ongoing funding from the Victorian government. This blog post explores inspiring climate change impact adaptation stories from around Australia and internationally, to demonstrate what a permanent Victorian Community Climate Adaptation Fund (VCCAF) could allow our communities to achieve.
Communities are already developing practical strategies to address the unique challenges and opportunities that climate change brings, and guiding locally relevant practical actions, such as via the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Strategies developed by areas such as the Grampians and Gippsland. Ongoing funding is needed to put these plans into action.
A permanent VCCAF would help to ensure that climate adaptation is community-led, and continuously and adequately funded. Add your name to the call for a permanent VCCAF.
One-off adaptation grant funding has been previously provided by the Victorian government through the 2017 Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation Program (VCCIP) and the 2019 Community Climate Change Adaptation (3CA) grants program. These funding initatives led to innovative adaptations such as the establishment of a Community Water Bank in Loddon Mallee which provides irrigation for farmer members, demonstrating how community-owned water can support small-scale, regenerative agriculture farmers. Another example was the upgrade of the thermal envelope of houses in social housing in Port Philip and providing efficient heating and cooling appliances. This will improve the lives of tenants and the outcomes will be used to justify future investment in social housing. These examples demonstrate the effectiveness of government funding, and more is needed to continue this inventive work.
Safe and culturally appropriate housing is needed to protect our most at risk Victorians.
Housing that can cope with the increasing temperatures associated with climate change is vital for our most at risk communities including lower socio-economic groups and First Nations peoples.
Innovative solutions are being trialled in Victoria including ‘climate safe rooms’ which involve retrofitting one room in a home to protect residents from extreme weather by draught proofing, insulating, and fitting an efficient reverse-cycle air conditioner and solar panels to reduce energy bills. Another proposed example are climate-ready homes designed for and by First Nations people in so called Australia. These homes would include features that accommodate cultural needs, such as shaded outdoor kitchens, places to sleep outdoors to catch the breeze, and windows and doors that are designed to allow for maximum airflow in all conditions. Funding is needed to further explore and expand upon these ideas.
Improving social infrastructure can lead to ingenious solutions to climate change related challenges.
Social infrastructure such as green spaces, recreational areas, interstitial spaces such as lobbies and atriums, transit areas such as walking trails, and resilience hubs such as non-profit offices can provide spaces to minimise the effects of climate change related shocks and stresses. The world is becoming more isolated and alienated. These physical spaces support social interaction, community building, and allow bonds to develop. They can also provide respite areas to cool off during hot days, as well as places of safety in times of emergency.
A notable example occurred at Enghaveparken (Meadow Park) in Copenhagen where, after an extreme rainfall event in 2011, the park was transformed into a vital stormwater basin whilst still retaining its role as a historical and recreational neighbourhood park. It was partially excavated to create water storage capacity; water is stored above ground in a multifunctional reservoir that functions as a sports court with stepped seating in dry weather. After heavy rain events, the court fills up and becomes a temporary water pool including a fountain garden which visitors can touch and play with. The park is also capable of completely filing up in an extreme rain event, turning it into a giant reflecting pool. The parks also now boasts 83 large new trees, 11,000 perennial plants, and 220,000 bulbs which provide beauty and habitat for urban wildlife. Enghaveparken is an example of social infrastructure which embraces climate risks and uses them to enhance the lives of nearby residents as well as to support biodiversity, another important tool in our fight against climate change. Government funding is crucial in creating these larger changes to social infrastructure.
Changing the way we interact with the natural environment is key to improving climate change related outcomes.
Destructive fires continue to devastate human and animal lives, property, and the environment across the globe, and these effects are only projected to increase. Interesting research has demonstrated that certain plants grown on agricultural land could be utilised to help mitigate fires. For example, in Brazil, pineapple crops were much more effective at stopping fires than peanuts or grazing legumes. It has even been suggested that the comparative flammability of different plants could be used to design ‘green firebreaks’ where low-flammability native species could be planted around farms, houses, and communities. More research is needed to explore these ideas in an Australian context, and government funding would allow farmers to conduct research that is specifically relevant to their scenarios.
Many innovative solutions to the challenges of climate change are being posited or trialed around the world. Each situation is unique and therefore requires locally determined and relevant solutions. A permanent VCCAF would help to ensure that climate adaptation is led by and for the community and is continuously funded as the needs of communities continues to evolve.
Written by Enya Venn, Act on Climate collective member