COP 25 – Raising ambitions for lowering emissions
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) held in Madrid, Spain from 2-13 December is critical to the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. COP25 seeks to address the difficulties associated with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which provides countries with market based mechanisms to enable emissions reductions to be achieved. COP25 should also see countries re-evaluate their nationally determined contributions with greater ambition in light of the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting the increase of temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Clean up of energy infrastructure
As an initiative of its A Fair Deal on Energy policy, the Federal Government has announced it will establish a $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund to support Government investment in new energy generation, storage and transmission infrastructure. The Fund will be administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Fund will prioritise investments in States and Territories which are working towards an agreed reliability goal and to ensure sufficient reliable generation capacity is available to meet periods of high demand.
The National Hydrogen Strategy was launched at the 22nd COAG Energy Council meeting last month. The Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has announced $13.4 million to implement the Strategy and $370 million from existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding to support new hydrogen projects
New South Wales
Sparked interest in sustainable energy
The NSW Government last week released the NSW Electricity Strategy which details the Government's plan to encourage investment and the implementation of sustainable electricity.
Green hydrogen facility underway
The South Australian energy system has commenced development of Australia's largest green electrolyser at the Australian Gas Network's South Australian Facility. Once developed, the facility will produce green hydrogen which will be blended with natural gas and used locally under both residential and business gas networks. This project is part of the Australian Gas Network's plan to deliver 100% renewable gas as part of the South Australian Government's Hydrogen Action Plan. See more here.
50% renewable energy by 2030
The Victorian Government has passed legislation setting a renewable energy target of 50% by 2030. See more here.
Greater transparency on progress of major environmental projects
Environment Minister Sussan Ley has announced a new Federal Government initiative to create a national digital transformation program that aims to improve transparency on the progress of major environmental projects.
The Federal Government will form a partnership with the WA Government to launch an online portal that will allow the submission of project applications through both tiers of government and enable the roll-out of a single database of biodiversity studies.
New South Wales
Asbestos dumping reforms
The NSW Asbestos Waste Strategy 2019-21 proposes measures to reduce illegal dumping and unsafe disposal of asbestos waste. The NSW Government will be investigating the removal of the waste levy on separated, bonded and wrapped asbestos (for amounts of up to 250 kilograms). The strategy excludes contaminated land or naturally occurring asbestos, with the focus being on the transport and disposal of asbestos waste which the EPA regulates.
The Queensland Government has released for public consultation the Draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019–2024 and supporting koala habitat mapping. The draft Strategy proposes new ways to further protect koalas, particularly from habitat loss. The mapping identifies Koala Priority Areas – the optimum areas for koala habitat conservation – which are intended to be subject to the strictest vegetation clearing controls. Submissions on the mapping close 22 December 2019 and submissions on the draft Strategy close 31 January 2020.
Measures to protect the Great Barrier Reef from land-based sources of water pollution, including industrial and agricultural sources of nutrient and sediment pollution from the six Reef regions – Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett – have now commenced. The changes will be progressively rolled out for different industries in different regions over a period of 3 years, based on improved water quality management priorities. Requirements include record keeping demonstrating compliance with minimum agricultural standards of practice as these are applied to each region, sugarcane producers implementing a farm nitrogen and phosphorous budget and new, expanded or intensified industrial development complying with new discharge standards to ensure no increase in nutrient or sediment pollutant loads.
Progressive rehabilitation and closure of mined land
Informed by the Queensland Government's Mined Land Rehabilitation Policy, requirements for Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plans (PRCPs) have now commenced and have been integrated into the existing environmental authority processes for new mines. All mining projects making a site-specific environmental authority application for a mining lease will now be required to provide a PRCP. If approved, a PRCP schedule will be issued, containing milestones with completion dates for achieving progressive rehabilitation of the mine site. Transitional arrangements are in place for the application of the PRCP requirements to existing mines. See more here and here.
Native logging to end by 2030
The Victorian Government has announced it will immediately end logging in old growth forest and phase out all native forest timber harvesting on public land in the State by 2030. Immediate Protection Areas have been created, and public consultation on the future management and uses of state forests and best to permanently protect the Immediate Protection Areas will be announced in early 2020. See more here.
Delivering environmental offset projects in the Pilbara
A new Pilbara Environmental Offsets Fund has been launched by the Western Australian Government to support environmental conservation in the Pilbara. According to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, the fund is expected to receive about $90 million for conservation projects over the next 40 years and will play a critical role in ensuring sustainable development in the Pilbara while also protecting its unique environmental values. The fund combines money from individual offset payments made by project proponents to comply with state environmental approval conditions and may also combine contributions required by Commonwealth EPBC approval conditions.
Special thanks to Xara Kaye, Tahmyna Khoshnoud-Rad, Georgia Knox, Constantine Pasialis and Anji Sivakumar in our Sydney office for their contribution to this edition.