COP25 in Madrid
Negotiators gathered in Madrid in late December for COP25 – the most recent conference of the UNFCCC Parties. COP25 aimed to encourage parties to significantly increase their emissions reduction targets, and to finalise the rules of implementation of the Paris Agreement. Only limited progress was made on both issues. Negotiations will continue during 2020, culminating at COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November. See here for more.
UK emissions aim
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has called on all countries to prepare plans to reach net zero emissions. Johnson has a plan to phase out diesel and petrol vehicles. The Australian Government is set to finalise an electric vehicle plan at the end of the year.
Climate Trigger Bill referred to Committee
"Emissions-intensive actions" would require Commonwealth approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act if changes proposed to the EPBC Act are accepted. Under the private member's bill, emissions-intensive actions are broadly defined as actions involving mining operations, drilling exploration or land clearing. The Climate Trigger Bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and reporting by 14 October 2020. Submissions may be made to the Bill until 21 May 2020. More information here.
Royal Commission into bushfires
The Governor-General has confirmed that there will be a Royal Commission into this summer's bushfires. Terms of Reference have been released. The focus of the Royal Commission will be on how to prepare for future bushfire seasons. The Royal Commission will be led by The Hon Dr Anabelle Bennett, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC (Retd) and Professor Andrew Macintosh.
New South Wales
NSW Energy deal with Federal Government
The Federal Government has entered a $2 billion agreement with the NSW Government to deliver a number of energy initiatives to NSW, focusing on lowering power prices for consumers. The initiatives include increased gas and electricity supply, improved grid security and support to reduce emissions. The Federal Government endeavours to enter similar deals with other States and Territories.
Independent Review into South Australia's 2019/2020 season
The South Australian Government has confirmed that, separate from the Royal Commission, it will be conducting an independent review into the 2019/2020 bushfire season. The review will focus on South Australia's preparedness for the bushfire season, and what can be done in the future to reduce the impact.
Second draft GHG emissions guideline
The Environmental Protection Agency in Western Australia released a second draft greenhouse gas emission guideline after the first draft released in March 2019 was withdrawn. The guideline specifies that gas emitting projects must show how they will reasonably avoid, reduce and offset emissions. The guideline has been released after a 12-week round of public consultation.
Increase landfill levy
The landfill levy is to increase to discourage interstate disposal of waste into Victoria. The levy rate for hazardous prescribed waste will increase to $125.90 per tonne. Similar increases will apply to the levy for landfill of regional municipal waste and the levy for regional industrial waste. The increases will be rolled out over three years.
New South Wales
Grafil appeal refused
The High Court refused a special leave application for a matter regarding up to $12 million in asbestos waste costs. The NSW Court of Appeal's finding has been upheld. The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge erred in determining that whether waste contains asbestos is a matter of fact and degree. Therefore a small portion of asbestos within a large stockpile can result in the entire stockpile being considered asbestos waste. The matter will now be remitted to the Land and Environment Court for redetermination. See more here.
ACCC investigation into waste in NSW
The ACCC is investigating the price rises in the building and demolition waste industry in Sydney. The ACCC has not provided further information on the investigation timetable.
Waste reform in WA
The Department of Water and the Environmental Regulation released two papers on waste for public consultation – one on the waste levy and the other on waste reforms for a circular economy. The WA Government has invited feedback from the community on how to reform waste management in the State.
PFAS in-principle agreement
An in-principle agreement has been reached between the Commonwealth Government and the class action residents of three communities because of PFAS contamination. The three class actions related to Williamtown in New South Wales, Oakey in Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory.
New South Wales
Independent Planning Commission changes in NSW
The NSW Productivity Commission recently concluded its review of the State's Independent Planning Commission (IPC), making the key finding that it is in the public interest for the IPC to be retained as an independent decision-making body for contentious State significant developments. Recommendations were also made to address the independence, role, accountability, composition and processes of the IPC. See more here.
Koala Regulations in South East Queensland
The Queensland Government implemented changes to the Draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy and associated mapping. The changes commenced 7 February 2020 and increase the areas in South East Queensland considered Koala Habitat Areas to 690,000 hectares and designated 577,000 hectares as Koala Priority Area. Development that will interfere with koala habitat in both a Koala Habitat Area and Koala Priority Area is now prohibited. New assessment criteria have also been adopted for development in a Koala Habitat Area. See more here.
City of Adelaide signs renewable deal
The City of Adelaide has entered a Virtual Generation Agreement with Flow Power. All council event infrastructure, electric vehicle chargers, barbeques, water pumps, street lighting and traffic lights in the area will be 100% powered by renewable energy.