Environment and Planning 5 Minute Fix 13: climate change, waste, sustainable development and environmental protection

13 May 2021
5 minutes

Environmental protection

Commonwealth: National air quality standards changing

On 15 April 2021, the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) agreed to vary the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (Air NEPM) following public consultation on the scientific evidence and health impacts of certain pollutants. The standards for ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) will be varied, including bringing forward some variations initially proposed for 2025. The variations approved by the NEPC are available in full here and include:

  • establishing an O3 standard with an 8-hour averaging period that reflects the health evidence and its use internationally, with a numerical value of 65 ppb;
  • significantly strengthening NO2 reporting standards for 1-hour and annual average NO2 to 80 ppb and 15 ppb respectively;
  • significantly strengthening SO2 reporting standards for 1-hour and 24-hour SO2 to 100 ppb and 20 ppb;
  • removing annual SO2 and 1-hour and 4-hour O3 averaging periods;
  • changing the form of the standards to the maximum value with no allowable exceedances providing the most transparency for reporting purposes;
  • applying the existing exceptional events rule that applies to the particle standards to O3 given the linkages between elevated O3 levels and fire events; and
  • extending annual reporting of population exposure from particles as PM2.5 to O3 and NO2.

NT: Draft declaration to ban seabed mining released for consultation

In our Environment and Planning 5 Minute Fix 11 we discussed the NT Government's decision that it will ban seabed mining in the Territory and its consequential extension of the moratorium set to expire on 5 March 2021 for a further six-months to allow time for the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources to consult on the draft prohibition declaration.

The draft declaration to prohibit subsea mining which prohibits all mining related activities within NT coastal waters, including intertidal waters, has now been released for public consultation along with a Statement of Reasons.

Submissions on the draft declaration can be made until Monday, 21 June 2021.

It is understood that following consultation, the declaration will be finalised in August 2021, after which the ban will come into effect.

Sustainable development

SA: South Australia launches Regional Development Strategy

The South Australian Government has launched the Regional Development Strategy, which will guide the long-term development of regional areas in South Australia. It seeks to define key focus areas to guide government investment, decision-making and service delivery, taking into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The five strategic priorities in the Regional Development Strategy are:

  1. Regional Voice – engaging regional stakeholders and communities;
  2. Regional Connectivity – investing in telecommunications and data infrastructure;
  3. Regional Leadership and Skills – providing regional leaders access to development opportunities;
  4. Regional Services – identifying gaps in regional services and putting necessary services in place; and
  5. Regional Investment – developing initiatives that increase trade, profitability, sustainability and growth.

Climate change

Commonwealth: Proposed changes to the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting (NGER) Scheme – have your say

The Federal Government is proposing amendments to the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting (NGER) Scheme relevant to oil and natural gas emission sources, including hydrogen production facilities and capturing the commercial process of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) which is not yet undertaken in Australia. It is intended that the amendments will commence on 1 July 2021 and will affect NGER reports to be submitted by 31 October 2022.

The proposed amendments will:

  • introduce a new method providing explicit reporting guidance for hydrogen production facilities whose primary product is hydrogen for use outside of the facility;
  • expand on the method for estimating fugitive emissions from the transport and injection of greenhouse gases for Carbon Capture and Storage to also include EOR where it is conducted for commercial reasons as part of oil and gas production; and
  • update methods for estimating fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas facilities to reflect the latest available research and reflect the results of Leak Detection and Repair programs.

Submissions on the proposed amendments are due by Friday, 21 May 2021.

VIC: Victoria's strategy to meet target of net zero emissions by 2050 released

The Victorian Government has released its Climate Change Strategy and interim targets aimed at cutting emissions by 28-33 per cent by 2025 and 40-50 per cent by 2030.

The Strategy sets out a five-point plan and associated actions, which includes a number of significant investments by the Government:

  1. A clean energy economy – transforming the electricity system to renewable, building greener homes and buildings and expanding skills and jobs.
  2. Innovation for the future – next generation energy (batteries and offshore wind power), decarbonising gas use and transitioning to zero emissions vehicles.
  3. Resilient farms and forests – revitalising and protection lands and forests, researching and piloting new agriculture solutions and new farming technologies and practices that reduce emissions.
  4. Climate smart businesses and communities – energy efficiency and productivity, lower emissions from waste, community investment in renewable energy and improvements to public transport and cycling / walking paths.
  5. A climate resilient Victoria – address current climate change impacts, reduced barriers to adaptation and foundations for transformational adaptation.

In order to meet the targets the Strategy also sets out the Governments emissions reduction pledges for key sectors, including energy, agriculture, transport, land use, land use change and forestry, waste, industrial processes and product use and the whole of Victorian Government (including schools, hospitals and metropolitan trains and trams).


ACT: Another jurisdiction in Australia to ban the supply of single-use plastic items

The Plastic Reduction Act 2021 (No 4) (ACT) which was passed by the Legislative Assembly on 30 March 2021, will reduce the ACT's use of single-use plastic and improve the impact that plastic has on the environment and waste management systems. The Act prohibits the supply of select plastic items, including single-use cutlery, stirrers and expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers, beverage containers, such as plates, bowels and cups.

The ban will apply to food outlets as well as at "declared public events" (both Government and non-Government). The first tranche of single-use plastic products will be phased out from the commencement of the Act on 1 July 2021. Readily available single use items include alternatives made from wood and bamboo. This Act will establish a framework for reducing other products in the future, replacing the existing Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2010.

VIC: New financial assurance plans for the waste industry

The EPA has released a report in response to industry submissions on the proposed method of calculating financial assurance for the waste and resource recovery industry. Financial assurance requirements will be implemented for the sector under the EPA's powers as part of the new environment protection regime which commences 1 July 2021.

The finalised calculation method is expected to be published in the Government Gazette by mid-2021 along with the publication of guidance material and information on how the EPA will apply the prescribed risk assessment criteria to determine the need and the form of financial assurance.

Special thanks to Clare Foran in our Brisbane office, Tahmyna Rad, Joy Chen and Nadine Holman in our Sydney office and Bevan Willoughby in our Melbourne office for their contribution to this edition.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.