Global influences on Australian coastal management

The international push for improved coastal management which gained prominence following the Earth Summit has a number of identifiable themes and influences. Thom & Harvey (2000) isolated four key factors which they suggested have been critical in stimulating reform of Australian coastal management at the end of the 20th century (figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1 Factors for late 20th century reform of Australian coastal management

Factors for late 20th century reform of Australian coastal management

Source: Thom & Harvey 2000

Global environmental change

The influence of global environment change can be seen in the increasing acceptance of the concept of sustainable development and wise use of global resources. Awareness of the magnitude of change is due in large part to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1PCC) climate change projections and the debate about the enhanced greenhouse effect (Houghton et al. 1991, 1992, 1996, 2001). Some of the early projections highlighted the need for reduced output of greenhouse gases, but they also created a fear about the impacts of potential sea-level rise, particularly for small island nations and heavily populated coastal deltas. In an attempt to assess the global magnitude of the problem, the IPCC produced its Common Methodology for Assessing Coastal Vulnerability (IPCC 1991; see also Harvey et al. 1999a). At the same time there was a realisation that changing environmental conditions associated with the various projections required different approaches to coastal management systems. The impact of global change on the coast is discussed in more detail in chapter 2.

Sustainable development

The influence of sustainable development (see chapter 4 for a full discussion) was most noticeable following the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and its publication of Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report (WCED 1987). In this report, sustainable development was defined as 'that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' (WCED 1987, p.8). This report raised the alarm that the world's population growth and associated development was beginning to exceed the global ecological means to sustain the associated resource use.

The report also suggested that economic development and environmental well-being are not mutually exclusive goals. The influence of sustainable development as a concept was given further impetus by the Earth Summit (UNCED 1992). The need for a sustainable approach to development and wise use of global resources was in large part related to the IPCC predictions and the greenhouse debate (noted above). It is also strongly linked to a more integrated approach to coastal management, as outlined below.

It is important to note that the peculiarly Australian concept of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) equates with what is generally known elsewhere in the world as sustainable development. The Australian definition of ESD (Commonwealth of Australia 1992a, p. 6) is: 'using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased'. The Australian approach to sustainable development of the coast is discussed in more detail in chapter 4.

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