Climate change continues to be a significant headline issue with proposals for and implementation of various policy initiatives, as well as new requirements and recommendations to respond to climate change risks around the nation.
The Climate Change Authority (CCA) has released Australia's climate change policies at the Australian and State and Territory Government levels: a stocktake and International action on climate change mitigation: a stocktake for public consultation. These papers will be used by the CCA to assist it to update its advice to the Australian Government on Australia's emissions reductions policies.
The latest figures from the Department of Environment and Energy show Australia has some way to go before starting to reduce its emissions. The gains from big declines in emissions from the electricity sector of 3.2% and agriculture of 3% were negated by the 5.8% increase in mining and manufacturing.
The Fourth edition of the ASX Corporate Governance Rules expands upon the Rules' previous environmental disclosure recommendation, recommending that companies consider whether they are vulnerable to climate risks "even where they are not directly involved in mining or consuming fossil fuels."
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is increasing its scrutiny of how banks, insurers and superannuation trustees are managing the financial risks of climate change to their businesses. Releasing the results of its first climate risk survey of regulated entities (detailed in its information paper Climate change: Awareness to action, released 20 March), APRA is now calling on entities to move from gaining awareness of the financial risks of climate change to taking action to mitigate against them.
On 12 March 2019, Deputy Governor of the RBA, Guy Debelle, addressed a public forum hosted by the Centre for Policy. In his speech on Climate Change and the Economy, Mr Debelle discussed how climate change affects the objectives of monetary policy and financial stability and raised some of the challenges that arise in thinking about climate change.
State and Federal Agriculture Ministers have agreed to start a national consultation process on agriculture and climate change. The Ministers have agreed to a forum to take place in August to co-ordinate policies and programs addressing the risks to the agriculture industry from climate change.
New South Wales
A recent landmark decision by Chief Justice Preston of the NSW Land and Environment Court has rejected long-standing arguments concerning the relevance impact of greenhouse gas emissions from coal mine developments in determining whether or not to approve new projects. As a consequence, greenfield mining projects that will create greenhouse gas emissions (and significant modifications to existing mining operations) may now face a higher bar for approval in NSW, and will require much more robust evidence about the impact of their Scope 3 emissions. Similar considerations may apply to other emissions-intensive industry proposals. More information and an outline of the arguments relating to climate change are here.
The NT Government has committed $2 million to help drive NT’s Roadmap to Renewables agenda with grants now open to local government councils to boost energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions cost.
The City of Melbourne has launched its Climate Change Mitigation Strategy to 2050 outlining actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of a changing climate. The four priority actions identified for the City are 100% renewable energy, zero emissions buildings and precincts, zero emissions transport and reducing the impact of waste.
The Minister for Planning has flagged new planning mechanisms "to ensure Victoria's rapid uptake of large-scale renewable energy is well-planned and receptive to the needs of the local community." Changes to State planning rules will ensure planning permits will be required for power lines connecting to new large scale electricity generators to the energy network. These changes will apply to wind and solar farms where new power lines are required for connection to the grid.
In March 2019, the WA Environmental Protection Authority released a revised Environmental Factor Guideline – Greenhouse Gas Emissions on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from significant new or expanding proposals in Western Australia, stating that it "will provide greater certainty in the EPA’s consideration of greenhouse gas emissions through its assessment process." After concerns were raised the EPA withdrew the guidelines for further consultation.
WA’s Labor Government is reportedly drawing up plans to facilitate the shift from coal to a grid dominated by renewables, and will develop a “whole of system” plan as well as a strategy to cope with the dramatic uptake of rooftop solar and battery storage.
The States are continuing to implement various policy, legislative and other measures to manage waste.
New South Wales
Under the Waste Less Recycle More initiative, the EPA has announced it is awarding more than $3.6 million to waste and reprocessing facilities, and manufacturing plants to increase recycling of waste materials from households and businesses, and more than $11 million in grants to boost food and garden organics recycling and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.
In a letter from the NSW Minister for the Environment to the Australian Council of Recycling, the NSW Government has reaffirmed its support for the continuation of the alternative waste treatment industry.
As NSW heads to the polling booth on 23 March, the major parties are highlighting waste solutions as priorities for the next term of government. Waste to energy is looming as an important opportunity.
On 14 February, the NT Parliament passed the Nuclear Waste Transport Storage and Disposal (Prohibition) Amendment Bill to provide greater certainty around the types of nuclear waste which are not prohibited. and to exempt nuclear waste derived from pipelines and exploration and recovery activities in the offshore oil and gas industry in specified circumstances. The Bill has not yet received assent.
Queensland laws to implement the waste levy of $75 per tonne of waste to the disposal of most wastes (with hazardous materials incurring higher charges per tonne) passed on 14 February. This means the levy for all types of waste will increase by $5 per tonne on 1 July each year, commencing 1 July 2019. In conjunction with the new waste disposal levy, the Queensland Government is developing a comprehensive new waste management and resource recovery strategy. Submissions are open until 5 April 2019.
New categories of regulated waste under the Environmental Protection Regulation, as well as a new tracking code for PFAS wastes, commenced on 4 February. DES has issued a fact sheet on the new PFAS waste tracking obligations.
A Queensland Government report, Recycling and Waste in Queensland 2018, highlights that more waste was imported into Queensland in 2017-18 than in previous years. The report also showed Queensland generated nearly 11 million tonnes of waste in 2017-18, which was an increase of 1.1 million tonnes compared to the previous year.
Expressions of interest are open for a new $5m Waste to Biofutures Fund (W2B Fund). The fund will help Queensland companies find innovative ways to convert waste into bio-based products – creating investment opportunities and more long-term, high-value jobs across the state.
The EPA has released a landfill financial assurance calculation assessment form and accompanying guidelines to assist duty holders in the calculation of financial assurance required as a condition of a licence or a works approval for landfill, prescribed industrial waste (PIW) management, container washing, and organic waste processing of PIW scheduled activities. Along with various minor updates, the new version requires landfill duty holders to obtain an auditor assessment of calculations.
On 6 March, the Legislative Council referred an inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management to the Environment and Planning Committee. The inquiry cannot commence until the Council appoints members to the Committee.
WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has announced there will be no increase to the State's waste levy next financial year. As part of the State’s recently released Waste Strategy 2030, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will review the levy to ensure it meets new strategy objectives.
Under the new Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030, WA will introduce sustainable government procurement practices encouraging greater use of recycled products and supporting local market development, review the scope and application of the waste levy, encourage organics recycling through consistent three bin kerbside collection system, and provide funding to promote recovery of more value and resources from waste.