Thursday, August 25, 2011

Planning for Climate Change in the Canberra Region

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Canberra Urban and Regional Futures (CURF) is holding its Inaugural Regional Symposium 2011. This is looking at the issue of climate change in the region around Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This follows a Climate Research Expo which I spoke at on Monday. There will be a second CURF Inaugural Regional Symposium 2011 on 26 August in Batemans Bay.

For me the major issue is how to make these long term planning issues relevant to the short political and commercial decision cycles. There is little point in preparing plans over decades if political and business leaders are rewarded (with reelection or pay rises) over times scales of months or years. There is no point the planners saying that the decision makers need to take a long term view. Any politician or business leader who focuses on long term issues will find themselves out of office at the next election (or board meeting). Planners need to come up with short term results which will motivate decision makers act.

In planning the Canberra region in response to climate change, I believe that ICT Enablement could assist, with dematerialisation and smart systems moving out of industry and business, into the community (as I teach in my ICT Sustainability course).

ICT will have a significant impact in Canberra. As a large proportion of Canberra jobs are in the knowledge industry and many for just two employers (federal and ACT government), these jobs can move to neighborhood and home offices.

Broadband cable and wireless provides the infrastructure for this, as I discussed in "The Smart Apartment and a Proposed Design for the National Information and Communications Technology Centre of Excellence (for the Bauhaus Serve City Sydney Trimester III, 12 June 2002, Sydney).

What is also needed for knowledge workers are the skills to use the on-line applications, as I teach in: "Electronic Document and Records Management".

ICT can also help with social housing and public cohesion. On-line systems can be used to run collective housing, such as body corporates. By sharing resources this can reduce cost, energy and waste. As an example, City Edge (behind the O'Connor Shops) has a shared solar hot water system.

Information systems for coordinating transport could be used. This would include simple public electronic sign-age and smart phone applications to advise when the next bus is due, as well as more sophisticated systems which blend aspects of buses and taxis. This does not require a large investment in ICT, as most can be done with the passenger's smart phones. Also the ACTON new smart tickets are already smarter than the sophisticated system used for Istanbul.

The report which the Bauhaus students produced for Sydney's inner west is of relevance for Canberra

An adaption of Senator Lundy's "Public Sphere" process for having blended on-line and in-person discussion of issues could be used for consultation on planning issues. This would allow more people to be involved and lower the cost of the process.

One seemingly mundane issue is how the results of planning are communicated to the community. In the past I have seen many such projects end by producing a large glossy book which almost no one ever sees. If available on-line at all the reports are produced as very large, hard to download and hard to read PDF files. A set of accessible web pages which work on smart phones would be preferable.
Canberra Urban and Regional Futures’ first symposium will identify and explore the issues facing the Australian Capital Region in achieving sustainable development, with a particular focus on adapting to climate change.

Bringing together Federal, state and local government, business, community and NGO groups as well as academics working in the field, this symposium offers an opportunity for raising awareness, sharing information and the development of new approaches and strategies to develop resilience in our region.

The Symposium will also be an opportunity for networking, engagement and partnerships between business, government and community groups to ensure a sustainable, resilient future.

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