Environment and Sustainable Development 5 Minute Fix 27: climate change, waste, energy, major projects and environmental protection

24 Jun 2022
Time to read: 5 minutes

Climate change

International: Quad leaders meet to tackle climate change mitigation and adaption

At the fourth Quad Leaders’ meeting held in Japan on 24 May, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joined his counterparts, India's Narendra Modi, Japan's Fumio Kishida, and US President Joe Biden in renewing their commitment to taking action on a range of issues: including climate change.

Recognising the immense challenges climate change poses in the Indo-Pacific, the Quad launched the Quad Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Package (Q-CHAMP). Q-CHAMP outlines a number of ongoing initiatives targeted at mitigation and adaption including:

  • green shipping and ports aiming for a shared green corridor framework;
  • clean energy co-operation in clean hydrogen and methane emissions from the natural gas sector;
  • strengthening clean energy supply chains, welcoming the contribution of the Sydney Energy Forum;
  • climate information services for developing an engagement strategy with Pacific Island countries; and
  • disaster risk reduction, including disaster and climate resilient infrastructure.

Q-CHAMP confirms the Quad countries commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement and delivering on the outcomes of COP26.

ACT: ACT Government explores opportunities to reduce Scope 3 emissions

On 2 June 2022, the ACT Government tabled the Investigation Report on Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the ACT – Government Response, following the Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the ACT Investigation Report tabled in the Legislative Assembly on 11 November 2021. That Report made twelve recommendations for the reduction of Scope 3 emissions, through climate leadership (reporting and intergovernmental initiatives), ACT Government operations, household consumption, and in the construction and infrastructure sectors.

In the Response, the ACT Government has (for the most part) agreed or agreed in principle to all of the Report’s recommendations. In terms of legislative amendments, the Government has stated that:

  • it is committed to creating circular economy legislation, including requiring businesses to have organic waste collected separately to other waste, and to have a food waste reduction plan; and
  • while it agrees in principle with the recommendation to review and expand legislation and ensure compliance of new building regulations related to Scope 3 emissions, the associated regulatory impact and cost implications will require further analysis to understand the impact across the community prior to any regulatory or legislation change.

SA: South Australia declares a "climate emergency"

On 31 May 2022, both houses of South Australia’s parliament passed a motion introduced by Climate Minister Susan Close declaring a “climate emergency” in the State. The motion:

  • referred to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which confirms that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and that current plans to address climate change are not ambitious enough to limit warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial level — a threshold scientists believe is necessary to avoid more catastrophic impacts;
  • notes that around the world, climate change impacts are already causing loss of life and destroying vital ecosystems;
  • declares that we are facing a climate emergency; and
  • commits to restoring a safe climate by transforming the economy to zero net emissions.

This motion follows similar declarations already being made by 67 local SA councils (and other jurisdictions around the world).


VIC: Proposed amendments to Victoria’s Waste and Recycling System

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has introduced a Bill which proposes to amend the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Act 2021 to:

  • introduce of a cap on thermal waste to energy facilities’ capacity in Victoria;
  • provide a legislative framework for the remaining functions for the Head, Recycling Victoria, including infrastructure planning and a risk management framework; and
  • create additional compliance and enforcement tools through Monetary Benefit Orders.

The Bill also proposes to insert a section into the Environmental Protection Act 2017 (Vic) regarding cost recovery powers, which will displace Chapter 5 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

TAS: Introduction of legislation to ban single-use plastics

The Waste and Resource Recovery Amendment (Single Use Plastics) Bill 2022 proposes to introduce restrictions on the use of single use plastics, including plates, bowls, cutlery, straws, and stirrers. The objects of this Bill include:

  • reducing plastic pollution, including by encouraging retailers and consumers to reduce their use of single use plastics and use alternatives instead;
  • encouraging manufacturers to find innovative, sustainable alternatives to single use plastics.

The Bill is currently before the House of Assembly and if passed, will bring Tasmania in line with other jurisdictions that have already imposed bans and restrictions on the use of certain single use plastic items.


NSW: Change to fuel source for electricity generating power plant substantially different development

The Land and Environment Court of NSW has handed down a decision that has practical implications for the electricity generation industry’s transition away from coal.

In Hunter Development Brokerage Pty Limited trading as HDB Town Planning and Design v Singleton Council [2022] NSWLEC 64, Hunter Development Brokerage Pty Limited appealed against the deemed refusal by Singleton Council of an application to modify a development consent to permit biomass to be utilised as a supplementary fuel source in an existing electrical generating power plant, known as the Redbank power plant.

In dismissing the appeal, the Court held that the addition of biomass as a fuel source for an electricity-generating power plant amounted to a development that is not "substantially the same" because “disposal of coal tailings was a fundamental element of the proposal, which if altered to a material degree would have the potential to alter an essential or material component of the development the subject” of the original development consent.

This decision signals that electricity generators seeking to transition away from their original fuel source may need to lodge new development consent applications in respect of existing plants.

WA: Retiring State-owned coal power stations by 2030

The Western Australian Government has announced that it will close all State-owned coal power stations by 2030 and invest an estimated $3.8 billion in new green power infrastructure in the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), including wind generation and storage. This will be WA's largest infrastructure program since METRONET and the Government expects that the new renewable power will pay for itself by 2030-32 relative to the increasing electricity subsidies.

We understand the Government will not commission any new natural gas-fired power stations on the SWIS after 2030.  Interestingly, WA Government-owned generator Synergy is currently investigating the feasibility of a pumped hydro project forming part of its storage needs, as well as using hydrogen to power its existing gas generation assets. Following this announcement, there will continue to be greater use of renewables for electricity generation, creating increased demand in the renewable energy space in WA.

Major projects

NSW: NSW announces $107 million Biodiversity Credits Supply Fund

The NSW Government has announced that it will spend a total of $106.7 million over three years in acquiring biodiversity credits for the purpose of a new Biodiversity Credits Supply Fund, which is hoped to ensure a readily available pipeline of biodiversity credits for companies needing to offset their environmental impacts.

The Fund is expected to be operating by early 2023.

Environmental protection

International: Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures expands its engagement activities

The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on 24 May 2022 that it has expanded its engagement activities to support nature-risk framework development.

Three new initiatives have been introduced to drive engagement about the design and development of the TNFD’s recommendations on nature-related risk and opportunity management with market participants and other stakeholders on global, national and community levels:

  1. Six TNFD consultation groups (including one for Australia and New Zealand convened by the Responsible Investments Association Australasia (RIAA)) will be established in markets where significant interest in the work of the Taskforce has been established. These consultation groups will be market led, with an aim to discuss nature-related business and financial issues and the future adoption of the global TFND framework.
  2. There will be four pilot testing program partnerships - FSD Africa, Global Canopy, United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Each of these partners will run a portfolio of pilot tests with companies and financial institutions across geographies and sectors to inform the development of TNFD’s recommendations.
  3. Over the next 12 months, TNFD will partner with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to ensure that the voices and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities from around the world are incorporated into the design and development of the TNFD Framework.

Australia: New Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water established

Following its election win, the Labor Government has established the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, to begin operating from 1 July. The new Department will assume the responsibilities previously spread across the Agriculture, Industry and Treasury portfolios, as well as environmental protection, water policy, the national energy market, renewable energy and climate change adaptation strategy.

The Department will be jointly administered by Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen. The development and negotiation of international climate change policy will remain in the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, headed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong.

One key item the new Department will be tasked with is reforming the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, a process which the former Liberal Government started when the former Minister for the Environment appointed Professor Graeme Samuel AC in October 2019 to conduct the second independent review.

QLD: Stakeholders to have their say on independent Environmental Protection Agency

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) is consulting with a targeted group of stakeholders about possibly establishing an independent Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

Queensland is the only Australian state that does not separate the policy-making functions of government from the regulator's assessment and compliance functions. The Environmental Services and Regulation (ESR) division within DES currently oversees environmental regulation in the State.

As part of the consultation, DES has released a Discussion Paper which presents three different regulatory governance structures:

Model 1: continuing with the current departmental structure (but rebranding the ESR to EPA) –with the EPA not to be a separate legal entity and remaining subject to periodic government restructures.

Model 2: a statutory authority (with or without a board) – a separate legal entity with a clear role as established within legislation, the ability to create strategic direction and oversight through a board, and subject to the annual reporting of the administering agency.

Model 3: a statutory body (with or without a board) – operationally independent, subject to varying degrees of Ministerial direction, and with the ability to manage its own funding arrangements.

The consultation period closes on Friday 22 July 2022.

Special thanks to Sophie Dole (Melbourne), Kate Wilkes (Perth), George Stribling (Sydney) and Grace Scanlon (Brisbane) 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.