Past Topics

Organisational Management: Leading from the top

About the Topic

Climate change is a pressing issue for local government that is already manifesting as a legal, social, economic and environmental risk. Local governments make decisions that span multiple decades and as such need to be actively assessing and responding to the direct and indirect risks that climate change presents. However, since climate change presents a plethora of direct and indirect challenges that are likely to change over time, it will be impossible to effectively manage the issue in an ad hoc and reactive manner.

Focusing on climate change adaptation corporate management provides a platform for a consistent approach in a formalised and whole-of-organisation fashion.

About Donovan Burton

Donovan Burton heads the Climate Planning team and is a leading climate change adaptation planner.  Donovan is a climate change adaptation specialist with a diverse portfolio of experience, having completed more than 150 climate change risk and adaptation projects. He is focused on influencing change adaptation governance through disruptive technology, big data and the internet of things. Donovan recently founded the Informed.City platform for climate change adaptation governance assessments. In the past 12 months the platform has been used to understand the adaptation governance of 230 organisations across numerous jurisdictions.

Over the past decade Donovan has  helped numerous organisations identify risks and opportunities associated with climate change. His sector experience in this space includes insurance, property development, infrastructure (including roads, rail, ports, tunnels), information communication technology, United Nations, national governments, state governments, local governments, NGOs and research organisations.


Request Ian Edwards Back

Name *

Community Engagement

About the Topic

Despite being one of the most important societal challenges of the 21st century, public engagement with climate change currently remains extremely difficult. This webinar focuses on how public engagement can assist in the development of just processes and outcomes in adaptation discourse and policymaking. It explores the foundations of adaptation policy and viewpoints from local government, environmental groups, and local residents engaged in adaptation planning in Australia.

About Simon Niemeyer

Simon Niemeyer is an Associate Professor and co-founder of the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance. His research ties together the themes of political behaviour, the public sphere and observations from deliberative minipublics, such as Citizens’ Juries, to develop insights into potential interventions and institutional settings that improve deliberation and governance.

His research covers the broad fields of deliberative democracy and environmental governance, particularly in respect to climate change. His research has involved developing fit-for-purpose methodologies for investigating public deliberation and deliberative transformation of public opinion. This research has contributed to an improved understanding of the forces that shape public opinion and how this can be improved so that public better articulates their collective long-term interests. The research also informs ways in which group deliberation can be improved via the design of deliberative minipublics, as well as the implications for institutional design more broadly.

Simon completed his PhD at the Australian National University and since then has been the recipient of a number of Australian Research Council Awards, including an earlier iteration of what has become the DECRA award and an ARC Future Fellowship. He has been lead investigator on three large ARC projects concerning the possibilities for achieving mass public deliberation; a co-investigator on several other ARC project on deliberative democracy, including achieving just outcomes when adapting to climate change (with David Schlosberg), and a co-investigator on a large Swedish Research Council project (with Julia Jennstål) concerning the nature of the deliberative person.

Until recently he was co-located between the University of Uppsala and the University of Canberra where he has developed international links for the next phase of research in assessing deliberativeness of national political settings.

His current ARC Discovery project (A Metastudy of Deliberative Democracy) is focussed on clearing up conceptual and methodological issues in the field, in conjunction with John Dryzek, Nicole Curato and a number of important international scholars in the field. This will ultimately lead to a much larger research effort dealing with methods for assessing deliberativeness of large scale democratic systems as part of an international comparative study.



Request Simon Niemeyer Back

Name *


About the Topic

It is widely recognised that if society is to effectively adapt to climate change that the vast stocks of capital managed by the private sector must be tapped. Access to private finance is not given freely however. In any negotiation, the profit driven motive of financiers will prompt their initial question (if not thought): what’s in it for me? This expectation of return differentiates “financing” from “funding” and is the hallmark of any financing mechanism whether designed to assist adaptation or any other endeavour. The objective of this webinar is to consider the relationship between funding and financing in the context of the local government environment, and ultimately how each of these components influences each other and council capacity to manage climate change. The intention is not to run through a myriad of adaptation financing mechanisms. Given the infancy of adaptation finance and the significant flexibility of the industry this would neither be possible nor representative of the sector’s potential.

"Climate change is the mother of all-pervasive risks, it's scale and scope can pretty well impact everything. If we want to look at finance or how we resource certain activities then you need to start with funding - certainly in the local government space."

"Right now, I can pretty confidently say that climate risk is not really impacting how much organisations pay to access finance but I think that there are a number of significant trends in the private sector that are going to change that dynamic very soon".

"You need to get the CFO on board, you need to make it very clear that climate change might be an environmental impact but it has significant economic risks. Explain how seriously the private sector and the regulators are taking this risk, ... then you need to be understanding what the implications are to your operations and asset base so that you can financially cost it".

Ian Edwards (16th May 2019).

About Ian Edwards

Ian Edwards specialises in the socio-economic and financial implications of climate change adaptation. He is a chartered accountant with twenty years experience in national and international financial services. He has worked across a broad spectrum of the financial industry including accounting public practice, investment banking and reinsurance. His career has focused predominantly on affecting system change at a multinational scale, which has afforded him strong analytical, financial, information technology and project management skills.  Ian has worked on climate change adaptation projects both within Australia (state and local governments) and internationally (NGOS, development banks and universities). Amongst other things, research undertaken by Ian has explored the viability of risk transfer mechanisms in the face of climate risk within the context of Local Government.



Request Ian Edwards Back

Name *

Risk Management

About the Topic

Climate change is no different to any other risk management issue in Council. The fundamental approach needs to translate broad information about climate change into “what it means for our local area” context. Presenting a convincing case for undertaking adaptation measures is likely to involve the following steps:

  • Translating statewide, regional information and data into an initial broad ‘on ground’ overview of impacts, geographic area affected, number of residences and people affected, impacts on economic activities.

  • Detailing how climate change will impact Council’s core business

  • Detailing the views of and impact on the community

  • Outlining and proposing specific next steps

“Consider climate risks with probabilities larger than those expected – climate change is a threat multiplier.  These predicted events could happen sooner than expected.

If you have an existing risk management process, use it!  Climate change risk management is an integral part of risk management not separate from other risk management tasks.

An adaptive pathways approach is preferred for local communities. On the ground action requires community support.  It may take decades for action but being warned assists in the recovery if an event was to occur.”

Robyn Birkett (13th June 2019).

About Robyn Birkett

Robyn Birkett is the Principal Engineer - Waterways in Mackay Regional Council’s Strategic Planning program. She commenced at Council in 2004 following 6 years working in engineering consultancy. Robyn has a Bachelor of Engineering from James Cook University and is a Registered Professional Engineer Queensland (RPEQ).  Robyn loves living in regional Queensland and has a passion for waterways, coasts and sustainable, vibrant communities.  Robyn’s expertise is on flood and stormwater management studies (quality and quantity) and in the last five years, climate adaptation has been an area of particular interest.


Request Robyn Birkett Back

Name *

The Law

About the Topic

Climate change is a pressing environmental, economic and social problem. Global warming is predicted to have wide-ranging impacts, and it presents enormous challenges for conventional models of law and socio-economic governance due to its pervasive character, long-term effects and the need for dynamic change in many of the fundamental areas of life. This webinars examines the climate change challenges for law on local adaptation responses.

It’s quite difficult to sue government for a failure to make policy but decisions made under a bad policy are certainly open to challenge”

“If a local government is aware of a risk and fails to act on it then that is something that a court will consider this”

“It is certainly getting to a point where it’s really difficult to argue that you (the Council) did not have that risk information … so if you are approving a development now in an area that is quite clearly projected to be subjected to a significant risk in the future then you are putting Council into a precarious position”

Dr. Justine Bell-James (4th May 2019)

About Dr. Justine Bell-James

Dr Justine Bell-James is a Senior Lecturer at the TC Beirne School of Law, teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the areas of environmental law and property law. Dr Bell-James obtained a PhD from the Queensland University of Technology in 2010, and was subsequently awarded an ARC funded Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2011. Dr Bell-James undertook her postdoctoral research at the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, focussing on legal, policy and insurance responses to coastal hazards and sea-level rise. Dr Bell-James's research focuses on legal mechanisms for protection of the coast, drawing upon environmental, planning, property and tort law. In addition to her work on sea-level rise, Dr Bell-James is also particularly interested in novel legal mechanisms for protection of coastal ecosystems like mangroves and seagrass, protection of the Great Barrier Reef, and biodiversity offsets in the coastal context.

Dr Bell-James currently holds an ARC Discovery Grant (2019-2021) to consider how ecosystem services provided by mangroves can be integrated into law.


Request Dr. Justine Bell-James Back

Name *