03 Oct 2019

NT Government tackling climate change and a transition to a low-carbon economy

By Margaret Michaels, Nicole Besgrove

The NT Government's long-term vision for climate change and transitioning the Territory to a low-carbon economy by 2050 has been released for consultation. Submissions can be made until 31 October 2019.

On 19 September 2019, the NT Government released its Northern Territory Climate Change Response Towards 2050 as the next step in its climate change agenda following on from the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Opportunities in the Northern Territory Discussion Paper that was released for consultation on 5 October 2018.

The aim of the Climate Change Response is to give Territorians insight into the NT Government's approach to addressing climate risk and creating new economic and business opportunities which includes the following aspirational objectives:

  • facilitating the long-term growth of the renewable energy industry to diversify and strengthen the Territory economy (low-carbon economic growth) and enable new export industries underpinned by renewable energy;
  • continuing to build on existing initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the economy to achieve a long-term aspirational target of net zero emissions by 2050; and
  • responding to climate risk and adapt to the observed and projected impacts.

Once finalised, the Minister for Climate Change will be responsible for implementing the Response and will be required to report on the implementation progress annually. Due to the ongoing advances in technology and policy which give rise to new opportunities and mechanisms for GHG emissions reduction, it is understood that the Response will be reviewed in 2023.

Growing renewable energy industry

The NT Government has already progressed a range of actions with respect to growing the renewable energy industry in the Territory as set out in its' Response, including setting its 50% Renewable Energy Target by 2030, which underpins the pursuit of a low-carbon economy.

The NT Government's aim is to facilitate the long-term growth of renewable energy, enable the growth of new export industries which are underpinned by renewable energy and become a key renewable energy exporter to the Asia-Pacific. Some examples of how the NT Government believes this can be achieved include the following:

  • Aboriginal Carbon Industry: this industry generates carbon credit units by re-establishing traditional savannah fire regimes favouring early dry season burning.
  • Renewable hydrogen industry: the Territory could be leaders in this industry given the solar resources, existing infrastructure, and proximity to export markets, including Japan.

The NT Government has also identified the following additional economic opportunities which it believes may flow-on from growing a low-carbon economy:

  • Repowering remote communities: the economic opportunities for remote Aboriginal communities could be twofold:
    • remote communities participating in and sharing the revenues from renewable energy systems located on Aboriginal-owned land; and
    • Aboriginal owned enterprises to install and operate energy systems or use renewable energy to power small scale businesses.
  • Cheaper transport costs: with increases in renewable energy and the use of electric vehicles (which are becoming cheaper to run), the average NT household could reduce vehicle running costs from $3,398 per year to $672 per year – an 80% saving.
  • Minerals and minerals processing: with the increasing production of renewable technologies and batteries, demand is expected to increase for minerals, including lithium, which the minerals sector could process with the use of renewable energy to realise additional export revenue.
  • Manufacturing: with the projected growth of renewables in the Territory there is a potential opportunity for the manufacturing industry to be electrified by renewable energy and to manufacture renewable energy equipment locally, including solar PV panels, battery assembly, racks for solar panels, and power cables.
  • Renewable technology recycling or repurposing: recycling or repurposing solar PV panels could result in the recovery of raw materials and other valuable components exceeding a value of over $15 billion by 2050. The NT Government is currently funding research to investigate this opportunity as currently there is only one facility in Australia for recycling solar panels.
  • Digital economy: there is an increase in data centres and digital services being powered by renewables with companies, including Apple, switching their Asian supply chains to renewables. The NT Government believes that with the Territory's solar resources and its proximity to Asian markets, the Territory is in an ideal position to potentially capture this market.

GHG emission reductions

The NT Government has identified those areas where action has already been taken to reduce GHG emissions in the Territory which spans the electricity, agribusiness, land management, minerals, transport, and waste sectors. However, in a bid to build upon these actions and further reduce GHG emissions across the economy the NT Government states that it will:

  • prioritise actions that are considered win-win approaches, in that they deliver meaningful emission reductions while also delivering benefits to Territorians and our natural systems;
  • enable and communicate new opportunities to reduce GHG emissions to all Territorians; and
  • embed GHG emissions reduction considerations across NT Government decision-making.

It is understood that once the NT Government has finalised the Climate Change Response, work will continue with all stakeholders, including local and national experts, to identify what actions and mechanisms are available to achieve GHG emission reductions under the following key areas:

  • Core actions (short-term delivery): actions that are the win-win approaches that deliver emission reductions and benefits to Territorians and the natural systems, such as creating new jobs, delivering cost-savings, attracting new investment and protecting the natural systems in the Territory. This will include the actions for delivery of the NT Government’s 50% Renewable Energy Target by 2030.
  • Further ambition (medium-term delivery): approaches that are not yet possible, such as those which are currently constrained due to technological or financial limitations, but where the foundations (if possible) can be put in place to allow for their implementation at a later date.
  • Speculative: approaches that have the potential to deliver emissions savings, but the technology requires further development and/or there is uncertainty in terms of its large-scale implementation (eg. engineered removals of carbon dioxide (direct air capture) or methane to carbon dioxide conversion).

Impacts of climate change

In order to respond to climate change risk and adapt to the observed and projected impacts, the NT Government has provided that it will continue to work in collaboration with stakeholders and experts to:

  • develop climate change risk response strategies for the NT Government services and assets and climate-sensitive sectors;
  • communicate climate change risks and enable adaptation across the Territory; and
  • embed climate change risk considerations across the NT Government decision-making.

It is proposed that this will be achieved through the following adaption pathways:

  • People and knowledge: engaging and facilitating access to best available evidence to support climate risk management within the Territory.
  • NT Government: embedding climate change consideration into policies, regulations and procedures to address risks to assets and services as well as developing adaptation plans.
  • Local governments and regions: collaborate with local governments and other regional organisations to develop regional adaptation solutions and embed climate risk across decision-making.
  • Sectors and systems: continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to identify adaptation needs and priority actions.

Have your say

Submissions can be made until Thursday, 31 October 2019 via online survey.

If you would like any assistance in preparing your comments on the Climate Change Response please contact us.

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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.