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Climate change in NSW

Key points

  • The NSW climate is changing. While changes will vary in each region, in general we will see higher temperatures, changes to rainfall patterns, and increases in fire weather and the risk of bushfire.

  • All of these changes will affect NSW communities and industry, especially agriculture.

  • The NSW Government is developing a climate change adaptation strategy and statements on climate change risk, impacts and adaptation to help put our communities and businesses in the best position to maximise opportunities and minimise harm.

  • Government also provides information, tools and support to help government, industry and communities adapt to climate change. Information includes detailed climate projections, available for each region of NSW and the Climate Risk Ready Guide and Climate Change Fund.

Snapshot of NSW 

Situated in the mid-latitudes of eastern Australia, NSW covers an area of more than 800,000 km2, and has just over 2000 km of coastline. From the mountainous region of the Great Dividing Range, coastal rivers flow eastward to the sea. The western plains cover almost two-thirds of the state.  

NSW is Australia’s most populous state, and over 73% of the NSW population live in major cities. Recent population growth has been greatest in Metropolitan Sydney, as well as the Central Coast, Lower Hunter and Illawarra. 

NSW is also Australia’s largest economy, and its largest industries include: 

  • information technology and financial services 
  • manufacturing 
  • agriculture 
  • tourism  
  • film and television.

How NSW is being affected by climate change

NSW climate change projections and regional impacts infographic

The climate of NSW is highly variable. While it is in the temperate zone and temperatures across NSW are generally mild, they can also be very high in the north-west of the state and very cold in the southern alpine regions. 

The north-east of the state is dominated by summer rainfall, with relatively dry winters. The south of the state experiences regular rainfall from cold fronts and lows traversing south-eastern Australia during the winter. Rainfall generally decreases from the east to the west of NSW. 

The climate of New South Wales is changing as a result of climate change. Changes vary from region to region. But in general, the main impacts in NSW from climate change include: 

  • an increase in average, minimum and maximum temperatures  
  • more hot days and heatwaves 
  • changes in rainfall patterns 
  • increased bushfire risk. 

Average temperatures have been steadily rising since the 1960s. The decade from 2011 to 2020 was the hottest on record, while 2019 was the hottest year in NSW. Overall, temperatures are projected to warm, with increases of about 1.0°C in the near future (by 2030) and by about 2.6°C in the far future (by 2070). The number of hot days will increase and the number of cold nights will decrease. 

Rainfall is projected to decrease in spring and winter, and to increase in summer and autumn. Fire weather is projected to increase in spring and summer, leading to higher risk of bushfires in those seasons. 

Detailed information on the projected climate changes for NSW can be explored further or downloaded from the NSW climate projections page. We also provide detailed maps and data of changes to temperature, hot days and cold nights, rainfall and high fire danger days. You can also select your region to find out more about climate projections for where you live.

Adapting to changes in NSW 

The NSW Government, together with many councils, industry and community groups, are taking important steps to help each of our regions adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

We are committed to making NSW more resilient to climate change under the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework.  

Find out more about the strategy and statements in the Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-30 Implementation Update, as well as on our NSW government action on climate change page.

We are also developing the information and tools to help government, businesses and communities build resilience to current change and future extreme events, by helping them to understand and minimise climate change impacts.  

Some important information and tools are contained in the Climate Risk Ready Guide. The guide was developed by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, in partnership with NSW Treasury, to help state government staff manage risks and opportunities associated with climate change. It includes 

  • Climate Risk Ready Guide, which offers a 4-step process to conduct or revise a climate change risk assessment aligned to ISO:31000(2018) Risk management guidelines. It builds on national and international best practice in climate change risk assessment and adaptation practice. 
  • Climate Risk Assessment Tool, which provides a template to identify, assess and evaluate climate change risks. This tool may be adapted to align to existing risk management frameworks in each organisation. 
  • Climate Risk Maturity Health Check Tool, which takes users through simple steps to understand the current climate risk management maturity of the organisation, and its level of adaptative capacity. The tool is aligned to the NSW Treasury Risk Maturity Assessment Tool

The assessments generate information that can be used by organisations to develop adaptation strategies and make decisions to integrate climate risk management into existing policies and procedures and reduce their climate risk over time. 

In addition, further guidance on taking action is provided for state government agencies and local councils and authorities. Regional information on climate risk and opportunities for action is available on the pages for each region in this section. 

Through the Climate Change Fund, the NSW Government has also helped households, businesses and councils to adapt by funding specific adaptation and resilience actions.

Addressing climate change 

The NSW Government aims to achieve a 50% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. 

To help achieve our climate objectives, we have released the Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020 – 2030. The plan outlines how we will reduce emissions by promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy alternatives. The plan aims to enhance the prosperity and quality of life of the people of NSW while allowing the state to deliver a 50% cut in emissions by 2030 compared with 2005 levels and progress NSW towards net zero by 2050.

In addition, the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap sets out a 20-year plan to deliver the generation, storage, firming and transmission infrastructure we need to provide clean, cheap, and reliable NSW power into the future.

Find out more about the Net Zero Plan and how NSW is reducing emissions.

Related information 

Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-2030 – NSW Government 

Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-30 Implementation Update – NSW Government

NSW Climate Change Policy Framework – NSW Government 

Asset Management Policy – NSW Government 

Climate Risk Ready training – NSW Government and Western Sydney University