25 Nov 2021

Environment and Planning 5 Minute Fix 20: climate change adaptation, circular economy, Renewable Energy Zones, coal mining

By THE ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING TEAM

The Environment and Planning 5 Minute Fix gives you a snapshot of what you need to know across a range of environment and planning issues across the country. This edition focuses on the latest in climate change, waste, energy and environmental protection.

Climate change

Commonwealth: Strategy to support efforts to anticipate, manage and adapt to climate change impacts released

Following consultation in early September 2021, the Australian Government has now released its new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy which outlines how it proposes to support all levels of government, business and the community in their efforts to anticipate, manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change through the following three objectives:

TEXT

Objectives

What the Australian Government will do

Objective 1 – Drive investment and action through collaboration
  • Provide enhanced national leadership and coordination.
  • Partner with governments, business and communities to build resilience and adapt.

Objective 2 – Improve climate information and services  
  • Deliver co-ordinated climate information and services to more users.
  • Continue to deliver climate science that informs successful adaption.

Objective 3 – Assess progress and improve over time 
  • Deliver national assessments of climate impacts and adaptation progress.
  • Independently assess progress over time.

Commonwealth: New Biomethane ERF method package released for consultation

The Clean Energy Regulator has made available for public comment proposed variations to the following three Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) waste methods to include biomethane project activities:

As part of this consultation opportunity, the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee is also seeking stakeholder feedback on whether to also vary the following methods to include biomethane activities:

  • Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative—Alternative Waste Treatment) Methodology Determination 2015; and
  • Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative—Source Separated Organic Waste) Methodology Determination 2016.

The consultation period closes on 30 November 2021 and any feedback can be submitted here.

Waste

NSW: New law focuses on packaging waste, plastic prohibitions and financial assurance requirements for brand owners

On 16 November, the NSW Parliament passed the Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Bill 2021 which will:

  • Prohibit the supply into and within the State of certain plastic items – these are plastic items which are unnecessary or, for environmental, human health or economic reasons, including reasons relating to waste management or resource management, problematic. This relevantly includes 'integrated packaging', lightweight plastic bags, single-use plastic items (straws, stirrers, bowls, plates, cutlery and cotton buds), and expanded polystyrene food service items.
  • Specify design standards for certain items – regulations may prescribe design standards for an item for environmental, human health or economic reasons. The first design standard prescribed in the Bill is plastic microbeads prohibited in certain rinse-off personal care products.
  • Establish a product stewardship framework for brand owners of certain products – regulations may prescribe product stewardship requirements and specify targets for the stewardship of the life cycle of a product, or part of a product, prescribed by the regulations (a regulated product), including the development, design, creation, production, assembly, supply, use or re-use, recovery, recycling or disposal of the regulated product. As part of the framework there will be reporting requirements and, where required by regulations, brand owners of regulated products must prepare action plans for approval which the Regulator can condition to require financial assurances to secure or guarantee funding for or towards the carrying out of actions required to meet product stewardship requirements or targets.

VIC: Reforming Victoria's waste and recycling system

On 27 October, the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Bill 2021 was introduced into the Victorian Parliament to implement a number of the Government's key commitments in its February 2020 policy and action plan to transition Victoria to a circular economy and reform the waste and recycling system over the next decade, Recycling Victoria: a new economy.

The Bill is intended to reform the Victorian waste and recycling system by introducing a circular economy that maximises the use of products and waste material and accounts for their environmental impact. The Bill requires improved data collection from reporting entities regarding waste, provides support to, and places obligations on councils to provide residual waste and recycling services and creates a system of enforcement measures including criminal and civil penalties.

TAS: State-wide levy aimed at deterring landfill and funding waste and resource recovery

The Waste and Resource Recovery Bill 2021 has been introduced into the Tasmanian Parliament which, if passed, will introduce a state-wide levy on each tonne of waste disposed to landfill to serve as both:

  • a deterrent to landfilling; and
  • a mechanism to fund strategic investment into Tasmania’s waste and resource recovery sectors with collected levies to be deposited in a dedicated ‘Waste and Resource Recovery Account’.

The levy collection and compliance requirements of the Bill will have a staggered introduction over 4 years to avoid price shock and allow time for the development of alternatives to landfill disposal. It is anticipated that the levy will start on 1 July 2022 at $20 per tonne, will then double to $40 in 2024 and then $60 at 2 yearly intervals.

The Bill also establishes a Waste and Resource Recovery Board, whose functions include:

  • the development and implementation of a state-wide Waste Strategy that will set long and short term objectives for waste minimisation, and investment in the waste and resource recovery sectors; and
  • supporting communities, particularly in regional and remote areas.

Energy

QLD: Design and access of Queensland Renewable Energy Zones – have your say

In early September, the Queensland Government established three Renewable Energy Zones (QREZ) to improve coordination of investment in electricity transmission and renewable generation infrastructure and promotes Queensland's renewable energy target of 50% renewable energy by 2030.

As the next step, the Government has now released a Technical Discussion Paper for public consultation which provides an initial model for QREZ design and access to enable the first stages of QREZ investment.

The preferred model presented involves a process of declaring individual zones focussed on a specific geographic area within a broader QREZ region (Northern, Central or Southern) as ‘declared REZ’ for coordinated development, where selected transmission infrastructure will be designated as REZ assets which will be developed and managed under terms set out in documents forming a REZ Management Plan.

Submissions on the Technical Discussion Paper can be made until 14 January 2022.

Environmental protection

Commonwealth: IESC releases new guidelines on coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC), a statutory body under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), which provides independent scientific advice to the Australian Government, has released updated information guidelines on coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals for public consultation.

The Information Guidelines have been amended a number of times since they were first introduced in 2013, and the IESC is now seeking public consultation on a further updated version. Specifically, the IESC is seeking feedback on:

  • the content of the updated Information Guidelines, particularly where any further explanation would be useful;
  • the relevance to specific areas of work; and
  • potential options to increase uptake and adoption.

The Information Guidelines are open for public consultation until 5pm, Friday 17 December 2021 (AEDT).

NT: Modernising land clearing requirements on pastoral land

On 26 October, the Environment Legislation Amendment Act 2021 was passed by the NT Parliament and subsequently received  assent on 18 November. Upon its commencement, to be fixed by Administrator by Gazette notice, this Act will amend a range of environmental laws, most notably of which relates to the land clearing requirements for pastoral land.

A new Part 7A will be inserted into the Pastoral Land Act 1992 which requires a pastoral lessee to apply for a permit to clear native vegetation on pastoral land from the Pastoral Land Board. It will be a strict liability offence for a person to intentionally clear land without authorisation unless they have a reasonable excuse. There is also provision for the Pastoral Land Board to identify by gazette notice exemptions to the need to obtain a clearing permit and to issue guidelines about land clearing on pastoral land.

Applications for a land clearing permit will be the subject of public consultation before the Pastoral Land Board makes its decision and any comments that are received during the public comment period must be considered.

WA: Debarment regulations – WA Government to ban polluters from government contracts

In mid-2020, the WA Government released its Draft – Western Australian Debarment Regime for public consultation, which was aimed at prohibiting suppliers who had engaged in unlawful or unethical conduct from contracting with the government for up to five years. Under the regime, the CEO of the WA Department of Finance was able to debar a supplier were satisfied that:

  • ·on the balance of probabilities, a cause for debarment is applicable to the supplier, and
  • debarment is in the public interest.

A cause for debarment in the draft Regime included non-compliance a wide range of corporate, criminal consumer, and WHS legislation, both within and outside of WA.

The WA Government has now introduced its new procurement Regulations, made under the Procurement Act 2020, which in addition to the above causes now includes non-compliance with environmental legislation, in particular:

  • Environmental Protection Act 1986: pollution and environment harm offences.
  • Contaminated Sites Act 2003: offences relating to remediation, compliance with investigation, clean up and hazard abatement notices, contaminated site auditor requirements, providing false and misleading information.
  • Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2007: offences relating to evading or attempting to evade payment of all or any amount of a collection levy imposed under Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Levy Act 2007.

If disbarred by the Department on such grounds, suppliers will not be able to be awarded contracts (or extensions of existing contracts) for the supply of goods, services or works to a State agency (which does not include State owned enterprises such as Synergy, the Water Corporation or port authorities). Additionally, debarred suppliers will not be able to represent another supplier in relation to a Public Contract and any other supplier proposing to sub-contract to a debarred or suspended supplier will be likewise excluded. All debarred suppliers will be placed on a public register.

This regime is the first of its kind in Australia and will commence on 1 January 2022.

Special thanks to Alice Brennan (Sydney), Paris Buti (Perth), Ignatius Quin (Melbourne) and Gabby Lawrence (Brisbane) for their contribution to this edition.

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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.