Environment and Sustainable Development 5 Minute Fix 35: climate triggers, Dutch hydrogen deal, koalas, PFAS

02 Mar 2023
5 minutes

Climate change

Commonwealth: Extension of time for report on climate trigger bill

The Senate referred the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill [No.2] to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on the 8 September 2022 for inquiry and report by 23 February 2023.

This Private Member's Bill was introduced by Senator Hanson-Young (a second iteration of a similar bill that was introduced in 2020) and proposes to establish an Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act greenhouse gas trigger. This would create a new class of controlled action and new environmental assessment requirements for emissions-intensive actions.

On 7 February 2023 the Committee granted an extension for the Committee’s report until 29 March 2023.

Waste

VIC: Single-use plastics ban is now in effect

As first covered in our ESD 5 Minute Fix 32, the ban on single-use plastic became enforceable from 1 February 2023. This means it is now an offence for businesses or organisations to sell, supply, distribute or provide banned single-use plastic items in Victoria. Banned items include:

  • drinking straws
  • plates
  • drink-stirrers and sticks
  • cotton bud sticks
  • cutlery (knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks, food picks and sporks)
  • expanded polystyrene food service items and drink containers.
WA: Get ready for the Stage 2 Plastic Bans

The WA State Government's Plan for Plastics has moved in the next phase with the Stage 2 regulations coming into effect on 27 February 2023. This follows Stage 1 which we covered in our ESD 5 Minute Fix 22.

The transition dates for items differ with the first bans to be in effect from 1 September 2023, including the ban of expanded polystyrene packaging (loose), expanded polystyrene cups and trays for raw meat and seafood, degradable plastics, cotton buds with plastic stems and microbeads. Further bans will come into effect from 1 March 2024 for produce bags, coffee cups and all disposable plastic cup lids and trays for takeaway food not covered in the Stage 1 ban. Lids for bowls, trays, plates and takeaway food containers will not be banned until 1 September 2024 and expanded polystyrene packaging (moulded) bans will not be in effect until 1 July 2025.

Enforcement of the Stage 2 regulations will occur from the date the bans come into effect, starting 1 September 2023. The Department of Water, Environment and Regulation has stated that an education-first approach will be taken when enforcing the bans.

WA: Ban on E-Waste Disposal to Landfill Consultation

The State Government has released for public comment a consultation paper to introduce a state-wide ban on e-waste disposal to landfill by 2024 to support a low-carbon WA future and Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 vision. The ban would complement the existing national product stewardship scheme, support the local e-waste industry and focus on recovering precious metals.

The ban would initially focus on electrical, electronic and battery-powered items that have already been collected, are already covered by existing schemes or markets and contain recoverable precious metals which includes no longer wanted or working items with a plug, battery or cord, including IT, televisions, mobile phones, computers, screens, white goods, medical devices and lighting. Future phases would then extend to small household appliances, photovoltaics (solar panels) and monitoring and control equipment.

Funding of $14 million has been allocated to implement the ban, with more than $10 million allocated for infrastructure grants to boost the State’s recycling capacity.

Industry and community members are encouraged to provide feedback here on the implementation approaches until 31 March 2023.

Energy

Commonwealth: Deal struck with Netherlands for renewable hydrogen

Australia and the Netherlands have signed a milestone Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support the development of a renewable hydrogen supply chain between Australia and Europe. The MoU covers the following:

  • Hydrogen trade policy, standards and certification schemes;
  • port infrastructure and supply chain development;
  • innovative hydrogen technologies, including shipping, equipment and services; and
  • government policies about safety, social licence and regulations for hydrogen.

The agreement forms part of Australia's efforts to reach net zero by 2050 and support decarbonisation.

Commonwealth: Australia's National Battery Strategy: have your say

The Australian Government has released National Battery Strategy: issues paper for consultation. The government is seeking views on how best governments, industries and researchers can work proactively together to establish and support an end-to-end battery supply chain that is sustainable.

Through this consultation process, the Government is looking to identify:

  • what Australia’s vision should be for our battery industries;
  • what is achievable and by when; and
  • what actions are needed from government, the research sector and industry.

Submissions can be made here until 17 March 2023.

NSW: Government promises new $1.5 billion Clean Energy Superpower Fund

The NSW Government has promised $1.5 billion through its existing Transmission Acceleration Fund and a new fund scheme to fast-track new renewable energy projects and ideas. Some of the projects include rooftop solar rollouts, community batteries, pumped hydro and grid batteries. The Government is also hoping the scheme will invite significant private investment. The promise comes ahead of the NSW State election.

Resources

NSW: Greens announce plan to end Native Forest Logging

The Greens have announced a $300 million plan to end native forest logging and transition the communities involved away from the industry. The plan includes:

  • a $244 million restructuring package for worker redundancies, retraining and a buy-back of current wood supply agreements;
  • a $58 million investment over 10 years in regional economic diversification; and
  • an expansion of the plantation forest estate by 33,000 hectares on marginal agricultural land.

Native vegetation covers an estimated 1.9 million hectares of land in NSW, accounting for about 2.4% of the state’s total land area. The Greens argue that their proposal is important in the State’s fight against climate change.

NT: Extension granted for inquiry into oil and gas exploration and production in the Beetaloo Basin

On 23 June 2021, the Senate referred an inquiry into oil and gas exploration and production in the Beetaloo Basin to the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee for final report by March 2022. After a Second Progress Report was published on 28 April 2022, the Senate granted an extension of time for the final report until 2 August 2022.

However, on 4 August 2022, the Senate agreed to adopt the Committee's recommendation that the inquiry be re-adopted in the 47th Parliament, with the Committee referring to evidence received during the 46th Parliament, for inquiry and report by 14 February 2023. On 9 February 2023, a further extension of time was granted until 21 March 2023.

The Inquiry is focused on oil and gas exploration and production in the Beetaloo Basin, with particular reference to the Industry Research and Development (Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program) Instrument 2021. This Instrument prescribes the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program for the purposes of s 33(1) of the Industry Research and Developments Act 1986 (Cth) which provides public money for oil and gas corporations. When active, the $50 million Program provided successful applicants with grants to accelerate exploration and appraisal activities in the Beetaloo sub-basin of up to $7.5 million per well.

SA: New voluntary Code of Conduct for exploration

The Department of Energy and Mining (DEM) has released a voluntary Mineral Exploration Code of Conduct for good practice for companies or individuals exploring for minerals on agricultural land and respectfully engaging with landowners directly impacted by a mineral exploration project. The purpose of the Code is to:

  • ·outline good practices that support cooperative multiple land use across the state where it includes the exploration sector;
  • suggest practical tasks to support good practice in early and advanced exploration; and
  • facilitate cooperative, commercially oriented discussions between an exploration company and landowner.

The Code provides practical steps for early engagement as well as creating templates for documenting actions taken to follow the code as part of a company's transparency in performance to shareholders and environmental, social and governance credentials.

The key principles of the Code are respectful relationships, good faith negotiation and agreement-making, observe biosecurity requirements and minimise disturbance to the land and landowner. Under each of these principles, there are recommended actions. For example, the Code recommends under the principle of respectful relationships that landowners are given an overview of the program for environmental protection and rehabilitation (PEPR) which includes measures to minimise and mitigate disturbances, and actions the company will perform to leave the land in the same condition as it was found (known as environmental outcomes and measurement criteria).

Given the voluntary nature of the Code, it will not be regulated by DEM and has no reporting requirements.

Major projects

WA: WA Government releases response to State Infrastructure Strategy

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet, in consultation with lead agencies and Government Trading Enterprises, has released its response to Western Australia's first State Infrastructure Strategy - Foundations for stronger tomorrow published on 3 August 2022. The Government has supported the majority of the 93 recommendations made by Infrastructure WA in its inaugural State Infrastructure Strategy, including climate change adaptation, investing in the State's hydrogen industry, social and affordable housing and infrastructure and services in remote Aboriginal communities.

Environmental protection

Commonwealth: Extension of time for report on bill to ban clearing of koala habitat

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Save the Koala) Bill 2021, which was introduced on 4 February 2021, proposes to amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to:

  • introduce a moratorium on the clearing of koala habitat which would effectively prevent the Minister from approving an action under the EPBC Act where that action consists of or involves the clearing of koala habitat; and
  • remove the exemption of Regional Forest Agreements from requirements of the EPBC Act where there is, may, or is likely to be a significant impact on koalas.

This Private Member's Bill was first referred on 25 February 2021 to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report, however following three extensions to the reporting date, the Bill lapsed immediately before commencement of the new Parliament. The Bill was subsequently restored to Notice Paper and was again referred to the Committee in July last year for inquiry and report by 8 February 2023. The due date for that report has now been extended to 29 March 2023.

SA: EPA consults on draft PFAS disposal Guidelines

The South Australian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has released two draft guidelines, consistent with Australia's per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) National Environmental Management Plan, for feedback:

  • PFAS-contaminated waste disposal site suitability guideline – provides advice for assessing the site suitability for proposals which involve the permanent disposal of PFAS-contaminated waste in South Australia; and
  • PFAS in waste soils guideline – outlines the EPA’s position on the suitability of waste soils containing specific levels of PFAS for reuse or disposal.

Submissions on the draft PFAS guidelines may be made in the methods specified here until 1 March 2023.

Special thanks to Sarah Ashley (Brisbane), Isabelle Macdonald (Perth), Madeleine Grant (Darwin), Eli Hall (Sydney) and Sian Ainsworth (Melbourne) for their contribution to this edition.
Disclaimer
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.