Coasts, capital and climate change: Harnessing private investment for coastal adaptation and resilience

Zsuzsa Banhalmi-Zakar1

College of Science and Engineering,James Cook University


Helping coastal communities adapt to the impacts of climate change is a key challenge in Australia and many countries overseas. Contrary to many other nations, coastal protection and management is not a federal responsibility in Australia; rather it is a mix of state and local obligations. Similarly, adaptation to climate change is also devolved, primarily to local governments. Climate change represents increased risks to coastal communities, as well as the natural and built environment. The problem with the current arrangement of responsibilities is that protecting coastal assets can be a costly exercise that is often beyond the capacity of local governments budgets. The norm is to seek funding from State government, or to self-funding activities. However, inevitably these sources of funding will not be sufficient, because the scale of investment needed to protect coastal assets is estimated to reach over $226 billion, while the cost of damages from natural disaster alone is forecasted to escalate to more than $33 billion by 2050 (Steffen et al 2017; Deloitte Access Economics 2016). It appears logical to look to the private sector to fill the adaptation finance gap, which possesses the necessary scale of capital. But are adaptation and climate resilient projects investable assets? Who would finance such projects and how? Although there are no simple answers, recent studies offer guidance on what it would take to harness private sector investment for coastal adaptation and resilience.


Deloitte Access Economics. (2016). The economic cost of the social impact of natural disasters. Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Communities. Available online at [].

Steffen, W., Hunter, J., Hughes, L. (2017). Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding. Climate Council. Available online at [].

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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