Increased declarations of climate emergency globally
Since the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to declare a national climate emergency following protests from a UK based environmental group, global climate strikes have played a significant role in leading 1,177 jurisdictions in 23 countries to declare a climate emergency.
Most recently in Australia, a climate emergency was declared by South Australia on 25 September, making it the first Australian state to do so. This follows similar declarations by the Australian Capital Territory as well as 69 local councils around the country, representing approximately 25% of the population.
Adding to previous guidance from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities Exchange, ASIC has published new regulatory guidance for directors on disclosure of climate change risks (Regulatory Guide 247) as such risks may "pose a systemic risk that could have a material impact on the future financial position, performance or prospects of entities."
Directors will need to demonstrate that they have exercised due care and diligence by properly considering climate change risk in the course of their duties.
Residential energy efficiency
The 2022 edition of the National Construction Code seeks to investigate possible changes to the energy efficiency provisions, with an emphasis on residential buildings. Consultation has now closed on the Australian Building Codes Board scoping study, but further opportunity for public consultation on the detailed changes proposed for NCC 2022 will be provided in late 2020 or early 2021.
Australian Capital Territory
ACT announces 5-year plan to combat climate change
With the intention of attaining a 100% renewable electricity target from 2020, the ACT has developed and published the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-2025, outlining the next steps the community, business and government will take to reduce emissions by 50-60% by 2025, and establish a pathway for achieving net zero emissions by 2045.
New South Wales
New Bill means Rocky ground for scope 3 emissions arguments
Following the ground-breaking Rocky Hill decision handed down in February this year, along with the Independent Planning Commission's rejection of the Bylong Valley and United Wambo projects, the NSW Government has proposed the Environment Planning and Assessment Amendment (Territorial Limits) Bill 2019 (NSW) which, if passed, will remove the express requirement for proponents to carry out an assessment of scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions arising from the combustion of coal either domestically or overseas. More information here and here.
Grants to promote large-scale electricity projects
The NSW Emerging Energy Program is an initiative by the NSW Government to encourage private sector investment in cutting edge large-scale electricity and storage projects, supporting affordable, reliable and clean energy across NSW. Twenty-one projects have been shortlisted to receive capital funding, using technologies such as pumped hydro, gas, biogas, solar thermal, virtual power plants and batteries. The successful recipients will be announced in the first half of 2020.
Aspiring to zero net carbon emissions by 2050
The recently released Northern Territory Climate Change Response - Towards 2050 sets out the NT Government's plan to address climate change. In short, it will continue to facilitate the growth of renewables (noting its significant solar resource) and build on existing initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to its aspirational target of net zero by 2050, as well as proactively respond and adapt to climate change. Amongst other things, the Response identifies a 10GW renewable energy network rollout by 2030, which is expected to generate $2 billion in annual revenue and over 8000 new jobs. More information here.
Queensland Government preparing draft paper on post-2020 policies
The Queensland Government is continuing to finalise its green paper on how it plans to reach its carbon emissions targets of zero net emissions by 2050 and 30% by 2030, with its release now anticipated by the end of the year. The proposed Industry and Resources Sector Adaptation Plan (the last plan identified to be made under the Queensland Climate Adaptation Strategy) is also due to be released this year. More information here and here.
Blue Carbon Strategy for South Australia 2020-2025 released
Blue carbon - that is, carbon removed from the atmosphere and stored in coastal and marine plants and soils - is the subject of South Australia's new strategy to mitigate climate change. The Blue Carbon Strategy for South Australia aims to accelerate action to protect and restore coastal ecosystems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as provide a number of co-benefits including coastal protection from storm surges and sea level rise, improving water quality and biodiversity, providing fisheries habitat and nature-based tourism opportunities.
Hydro Tasmania pumped to help Victoria
In August 2019, Hydro Tasmania released the white paper How Battery of the Nation can contribute to Victoria's energy needs and objectives. The report highlights the energy challenges facing Victoria and demonstrates Tasmania, through hydropower, can assist in addressing these challenges. The report claims that the combination of Tasmanian and Victorian renewable energy sources can facilitate a smooth transition to the affordable, reliable and sustainable power system of the future.
Victorian Government zeroing in on net zero by 2050
The Victorian Government is currently considering what the State should do over the next five years and beyond to establish a pathway to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is scheduled to determine interim emissions reduction targets by 31 March 2020 and publish a draft Climate Change Strategy for consultation in the first half of 2020. More info here and here.
EPA to release greenhouse gas emissions assessment guidance
Following a period of public consultation which concluded in September, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to release a draft of its new greenhouse gas assessment guidance in December 2019 at the earliest. Upon receiving subsequent feedback from its Stakeholder Reference Group, the EPA intends to release the final guidelines in March 2020.
Fund established to support renewable hydrogen industry
The WA Government is committed to developing a renewable hydrogen industry and has established a $10 million Renewable Hydrogen Fund over four financial years, commencing in 2019-20, to support the development of the industry. Up to $2 million has been made available for projects/activities in the Perth metropolitan area and up to $7 million for projects/activities in regional WA locations.
Review of Waste Levies in Australia report released
Released by the National Waste & Recycling Industry Council in October 2019, this white paper reviews the current status of waste/landfill levies across Australia, calling for urgent reform. Recommendations include establishing a national pricing strategy and protocols and greater transparency and accountability by jurisdictions on how much levies are raised by, how they are spent and annual reporting.
Waste levies currently apply in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. The ACT and Tasmanian governments have indicated they are considering introducing levies. From 1 January 2020, South Australia will be subject to higher levy rates (the solid waste depot levy will increase from $110 per tonne to $140 per tonne in Metropolitan Adelaide and from $55 per tonne to $70 per tonne in non-metropolitan. Queensland introduced a waste levy on 1 July 2019 ($75 per tonne) for waste disposed to landfill in the levy zone. This will rise by $5 per tonne each year. Victoria is currently reviewing its levy rates, due for completion by December 2019.
New South Wales
New refund marking offence for beverage container suppliers
Supplying or offering to supply a beverage in a container that does not bear a refund marking will be an offence under the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 from 1 December 2019. Committing this offence will attract a $1,500 fine for a person, or $3,000 for a corporation. See more here.
Recycling and resource recovery under review by Victorian Government
Infrastructure Victoria has published its early findings for public comment in the Recycling and resource recovery infrastructure: Evidence base report, outlining six possible waste management scenarios which will facilitate opportunities for investment, new processes and community action to support Victoria's recycling and resource recovery sector. Consultation is open until 13 December 2019, with the final advice to the Special Minister of State expected in April 2020.
Australia's environmental law under review
The second 10-yearly independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 was announced on 29 October 2019 to "tackle green tape and deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environmental organisations" and ensure the law "remains fit for purpose and fit for the future within the context of our changing environment." Professor Graeme Samuel AC has been appointed to lead an expert panel including Mr Bruce Martin, Dr Wendy Craik AM, Dr Erica Smyth AC and Professor Andrew Macintosh. In the coming weeks, a discussion paper will be released to start the conversation about the review and invite initial submissions. This follows the recent independent review of the EPBC Act's interaction with the agricultural sector.
New environmental impact assessment system to commence next year
In what the NT Government is calling a "significant step in creating a contemporary environmental protection regime," the Environment Protection Bill 2019 has been passed and is expected to commence during the first half of next year. The Bill introduces a new environmental impact assessment system which will replace the Environmental Assessment Act 1982 and, notably, includes a requirement to take into account "impacts of a changing climate" when assessing, planning and carrying out actions that may have a significant environmental impact. More information here and here.
Public comments on operative details of new environmental law under consideration
Significant changes to the existing environmental protection regime in Victoria will commence on 1 July 2020, or by 1 December 2020 at the latest. This will include the introduction of a general environmental duty applying to any person engaging in an activity that can cause harm to public health or the environment, a new duty to notify pollution incidents and a duty to respond to the harm caused by a pollution incident when it occurs. The operative detail for the new regime is yet to be finalised, with consultation on proposed regulations and environment reference standards having closed on 31 October. A report will be released in 2020 responding to all substantive comments. More info here.
Have your say on WA's environmental laws
In October 2019, the WA Government released the Modernising the Environmental Protection Act discussion paper. Highlighting key areas of reform, this paper initiates the review process on WA's Environmental Protection Act. Submissions from the public are due by 28 January 2020 and will help inform the new changes to WA's environmental laws. The proposed changes aim to improve regulatory efficiency and effectiveness and facilitate the implementation of the bilateral agreements under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to deliver better environmental protection and sustainable development outcomes. A working draft of the proposed changes is available here. More info here.