Special thanks to Gabrielle Lawrence and Sarah Ashley (Seasonal Clerk) (Brisbane), Samuel Mursa and Alice Brennan (Sydney) and Ignatius Quin (Melbourne) for their contribution to this edition.
VIC: Wide-ranging recommendations following inquiry into ecosystem decline in Victoria
On 2 December 2021, the Legislative Council's Environment and Planning Committee tabled its report Inquiry into ecosystem decline in Victoria. The Inquiry is one of the largest and most extensive the Committee has ever undertaken with the Committee being tasked with considering the decline of Victoria’s ecosystems and measures to restore habitats and populations of threatened and endangered species. The Committee received nearly 1,000 submissions, and held 16 full days of public hearings in which more than 130 witnesses gave evidence.
The report includes 74 recommendations which notably include that the Victorian Government:
- in coordination with research partners, conduct further research and analysis to improve localised climate projections for both Victoria’s agricultural and biodiversity values;
- review environmental legislation with a view to ensuring that it:
- articulates clear standards for environmental restoration;
- imposes a general duty to restore or enhance biodiversity in partnership with Traditional Owners; and
- is underpinned by ministerial guidelines describing how environmental restoration and enhancement should be undertaken;
- consider the introduction of a state-wide accreditation process for ecologists and other environmental professionals;
- amend the Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation to ensure they incorporate the 'like for like' principle in offsetting arrangements; include strong specification that potential offset sites are protected, managed and not previously used in an offsetting capacity; and only permit offsets to be used as a last resort.
- review how the environmental impacts of developments are offset in Victorian environmental impact assessment processes to ensure they reflect the findings and recommendations of the independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (Cth);
- establish a standalone Department of the Environment, with its own Minister, that has the sole purpose of protecting the environment and, in particular, native species;
- undertake a review of penalties for offences that threaten Victoria's ecosystems and biodiversity in order to ensure that they act as an appropriate deterrent; and
- consider amending the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic) to ensure that local government authorities are able to effectively investigate suspected offences.
The Victorian Government now has six months to respond in writing to these recommendations. In its response, the Government will to indicate whether it supports the Committee’s recommendations and may outline those actions it progress. Once available the response will be found here.
It will be important to watch this space as some comprehensive reforms aimed at restoring habitats and populations of threatened and endangered species may be on the way in Victoria.
Commonwealth: First National Gas Infrastructure Plan
The Australian Government has released the first National Gas Infrastructure Plan (NGIP), the purpose of which is to identify a pathway for infrastructure and gas supply until 2041 with a view to deliver more gas at a lower cost through a number of priority actions. The NGIP was designed following the NGIP Interim Report which revealed that the supply of gas would fall short of the residential, commercial and industrial demand by 2024 if strategic action was not taken.
The NGIP recognises the following five priority actions to support development and reduce the risk of shortfall:
- Expand storage and flexible supply capacity to southern demand centres.
- Prove the viability of new upstream resource.
- Advance design and development infrastructure activities which will allow for greater access to new basins.
- Enable increase north-south flows.
- Coordinate gas infrastructure priorities with that of the National Hydrogen Infrastructure Assessment.
NSW: Modernising the legislative framework to better regulate renewable energy
In November, new amending legislation was passed by the NSW Parliament to modernise and improve the efficiency of energy regulation within the State.
The Energy Legislation Amendment Act 2021, which will commence on a day or days to be appointed by proclamation, will implement wide ranging amendments and reforms to the energy legislative framework to, as outlined during the Legislative Assembly's second reading speech, deliver on the following (amongst other things):
- support the development of the hydrogen and biogas industries within NSW, including the removal of duplicative licensing requirements for the distribution of gas and gas-hydrogen and allowing hydrogen blends, biomethane and other renewable methane gas blends to be covered within the national energy regulatory framework;
- reduce costs for electricity used for the production of green hydrogen;
- enable development of renewable electricity generation and storage projects in NSW State forests' softwood plantations;
- enable NSW to opt into the national regulatory framework for Distribution Network Service Provider-led standalone power systems;
- improve the administration of the Energy Security Safeguard, including expansion for other fuels and enhanced compliance powers; and
- modernise the energy emergency framework, provide a backstop for cybersecurity protections for critical infrastructure and update outdated penalties.
NGER reporting companies can opt-in to pilot scheme for disclosure
From 30 November 2021 to 30 January 2022, companies who report more than 50 kilotonnes of emissions a year under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) scheme can opt-in to the Corporate Emissions Reduction Transparency Report (CERT) pilot scheme for the public reporting of their emissions reduction commitments and progress.
The aim of the CERT scheme is to add a new level of transparency and accountability for Australia's largest companies’ performance against their voluntary emissions reduction targets by providing guidelines for those eligible companies who opt-in to publicly report in a clear and standard way.
It is understood that the new CERT scheme will be in a pilot phase for the first year to allow for the guidelines and the report format to be refined following its practical application.
Further information about the CERT scheme and how to opt-in can be found here.
TAS: Bill to update State's climate change legislation and establish net zero emissions by 2030
On 24 November 2021, Tasmania's Minister for Climate Change, Roger Jaensch, introduced the Climate Change (State Action) Amendment Bill 2021 to amend the Climate Change (State Action) Act 2008 (the Act) following the most recent independent review which is required every four years under the Act.
In addition to establishing a state-wide emissions reduction target of net zero emissions, or lower, from 30 June 2030, the Bill proposes to establish a legislative framework for the following:
The Minister will be required to prepare a climate change action plan at least every five years, which must include details of the emissions reduction measures that Tasmania will adopt.
The actions in the climate action plan must:
- reduce Tasmania’s greenhouse gas emissions; and
- build resilience to the impacts of a changing climate through adaptation measures; and
- manage climate-related risks and take advantage of potential opportunities from a changing climate.
The Minister will be required prepare a state-wide climate change risk assessment at least every 5 years.
The Minister will be required to, in consultation with each relevant portfolio Minister, consult with business and industry representatives to develop sector-based emissions reduction and resilience plans which are to be updated every five years.
The sectors included are energy, transport, industrial processes and product use, agriculture, land-use, land-use change and forestry, waste, and any other sector or sub-sector determined by the Minister.
The Minister will be required to prepare every year:
- a greenhouse gas report which is to include details of Tasmania’s greenhouse gas emissions for the sectors reported in the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, details of Tasmania’s progress towards achieving its emissions reduction target, and any other relevant analysis and reporting; and
- a climate change activity statement which is to include a description of Tasmania’s adaptation measures and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emission and any other relevant analysis and reporting.
SA: Legislation proposed to enshrine greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy targets
South Australia's Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs MP, has introduced the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction (Target) Amendment Bill 2021 to Parliament to update the current legislation to reflect the State's ambitious targets for emissions reduction and renewable energy production.
If passed, the Bill will amend the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 to enshrine the following targets:
- reduce net greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to an amount that is at least 50% below 2005 levels by 31 December 2030;
- net-zero GHG emissions by 31 December 2050; and
- achieve 100% net renewable electricity generation by 31 December 2030.
QLD: 30 year vision for Queensland resources industry: have your say
The Queensland Government has released the draft Queensland resources industry development plan for public consultation which sets out its vision for the resources industry for the next 30 years.
The aim of the Plan is to fast-track new economy minerals production and processing, trigger new regional industries, and cut red tape to drive new projects and jobs which will be done through implementing actions for the following six key focus areas:
- Key focus area 1: Grow and diversify the industry;
- Key focus area 2: Strengthen our ESG credentials and protect the environment;
- Key focus area 3: Foster coexistence and sustainable communities;
- Key focus area 4: Ensure strong and genuine First Nations partnerships;
- Key focus area 5: Build a safe and resilient future workforce; and
- Key focus area 6: Improve regulatory efficiency.
Regulatory reforms worth noting include:
- the introduction of a requirement for environmental authority holders to prepare and implement greenhouse gas abatement plans to demonstrate how they can move towards net zero emissions; and
- to reform the current objections, review and notification processes for project approvals for mining leases under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 and whether a consistent process should be applied to petroleum leases.
The consultation period on the draft Plan ends on 11 February 2022 and it is understood that the final Plan will be due for release in mid-2022.