Institutions of response

The Institutions of Response are the frameworks and functions that determine how we can adapt, and how me are made (more or less) resilient.

This includes the actions of multiple levels of government in response to climate change - policy, projects and regulations – and the people who’s work in the public and private spheres is a determinant in the course that adaptation takes.

Adaptation capacity and action: Sub-national government responses to climate change

This project provides a much-needed window into the ‘black box’ of adaptation decision-making within state or sub-national governments by considering in detail the institutional barriers that have featured in the literature for some time. This project is funded by the Australia-Germany Joint Research Academic Exchange Cooperation Scheme 2023.

Together with colleagues from the University of Freiburg, we will undertake case studies the state governments of Victoria, Australia and Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

The Job Ads of Climate Change Adaptation

As climate change impacts cities, regions and urban systems, adaptation will be a determinant of the quality of lives of their inhabitants. Climate change adaptation is the necessary work to reduce these impacts, and therefore how action is taken and for whose benefits will influence justice and equity within our cities.

The role of professions in forming urban adaptation has been previously overlooked but important, as their disciplinary backgrounds, organisational positions, roles, responsibilities and spatial locations inform professional understanding and approaches to climate change risk and adaptation.

This article identifies three biases in the jobs of adaptation, based on the analysis of Australian job ads for adaptation work from the first half of 2022, supplemented by interviews with hiring managers. The biases towards well-resourced and urban-based positions, professional services and climate risk management indicate that urban adaptation has the potential to ossify, if not exacerbate, unjust urban geographies. It also highlights the importance of universities in providing professional education, indicating the need for adaptation education across disciplines, delivered with a focus on just outcomes.

Just and green labour interventions: Blending online training with local action

This project is a case study is of the free online course “Just and Green: Labour’s Ecological Question” developed and provided by the Online Academy of the Global Labour University (GLU). GLU has been in operation for over 20 years, and is a partnership between the International Labour Organisation, the trade union movement, NGOs and seven universities from Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

The broad aim of the GLU is to provide access to education and training opportunities to enable trade unionists to actively participate in policy discussions relevant to their work and members, increasing analytical and organising capacity. These opportunities take the form of master’s programmes, certificate degrees and massive open online courses.

The importance of trade unions’ representation of workers’ interests and consideration of equity and justice in global policy undergirds the need for the open access education provided by the GLU Online Academy (GLU-OA) in the past 10 years. Given the implications of energy transitions for workers and the union movement, the GLU-OA has also recognised the need for trade unionists to understand the key debates around just transitions policies and the broader role of labour in sustainability transitions.

Embedding environmental justice into adaptation policy and practice

This project is part of the Australian Research Council funded: Environmental Justice and the Making of Just Food and Energy Policy, which aims to improve environmental policy by investigating the meaning of environmental justice and how it is best implemented. Working with the University of Sydney and Australian National University, this project considers the interaction between environmental justice and adaptation, and how environmental justice principles, aims, and approaches can strengthen adaptation governance.

Taking a practice-based approach, we held targeted workshops in New South Wales and Victoria with people from local and state government, catchment management authorities, community resilience organisations, and adaptation consultants. Through the workshops we identified key drivers of adaptation policy, alignments between environmental justice and climate change adaptation, and barriers and enablers of embedding environmental justice into their area of work. Importantly, there is tension in engaging environmental justice in this context whereby activists work for structural change, and both identify institutions as a site of injustice and work to influence institutions for justice, and we bring this tension into our research.

Our next step is to bring these findings into conversation with other aspects of the project so that we can continue to develop approaches, conversations, and theories about policy improvement.