Sunday, August 26, 2007

Call for tigher building codes in Australia

The Age: Building codes across Australia must be strengthened and greater attention paid to where developers are allowed to build if damage to homes and infrastructure from climate change is to be minimised, a leading insurer has said.

Tony Coleman, chief risk officer for Insurance Australia Group, the country's largest home and motor insurer, said recent debate about how to curb carbon emissions had eclipsed the issue of the looming physical costs of global warming. "If you just mitigate, that's only half the job," Mr Coleman said. "We do actually have to do a decent job on adaptation as well because inevitably, we're going to be faced, almost certainly, with a two-degree Centigrade change."

The Insurance Council of Australia, the industry lobby group, was already pushing to get building codes amended "to make buildings effectively stronger when they're threatened by serious weather, and in some cases by bushfire", Mr Coleman said. "We're going in the right direction, but it's going to be slow progress."

A scoping study of building codes is expected in the next few months, as part of programs to be administered by the Federal Government's new $126 million Centre for Climate Change Adaptation.

Tony Arnel, Victoria's building commissioner, agreed that the issue of extreme weather and construction rules "is very much on the agenda" of the Australian Building Codes Board.

…Higher insurance premiums were "really the only countervailing market force" to discourage more risky developments, said Mr Coleman, of the IAG, although that alone might not be enough to sway local governments under pressure to allow development on vulnerable land.

…Since many public assets, such as roads, railways and ports were also in low-lying sections of Australia's coast, the community as a whole would have to pick up the tab if climate change brought more severe storms, Mr Coleman said.

No comments: