Trade-offs in adaptation planning: protecting public interest environmental values

Anita Foerster, Andrew Macintosh, Jan McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Like many issues in environmental law and governance, climate change adaptation planning involves difficult policy trade-offs. Decision-makers must balance competing public and private interests and short- and long-term concerns against a background of considerable uncertainty and complexity. One of the classic challenges of environmental governance is to establish laws and other institutions which support long-term decision-making in the public interest and this is equally a challenge for adaptation planning. This article explores Australian approaches to such policy trade-offs in the context of spatial planning for bushfire and coastal hazards. These examples illustrate the difficulties of considering cumulative, longer term environmental impacts of adaptation measures in the face of immediate and known risks to existing private property and infrastructure, and the way in which current decision-making downplays these public values. The authors identify institutional factors that help to explain this bias and propose strategies to improve protection of public interest environmental values in adaptation planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-487
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Environmental Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bushfire
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Coastal hazards
  • Environmental trade-offs
  • Public interest environmental values

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