Albanese government’s rapid environment law reform agenda

Sep 2022 | Planning & Environment

Federal environmental laws have been under the spotlight during the first 100 days of the Albanese Federal Government.  Three significant announcements underpin what appears to be the start of sweeping reform of federal environmental legislation, as well as the introduction of new climate change and environmental protection legislation.

Climate Change Bill 2022

On 8 September 2022, the Senate passed the Climate Change Bill 2022 (Climate Change Bill), which was passed in the House of Representatives on 4 August 2022. The Climate Change Bill is among Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first pieces of legislation introduced to Parliament, and is arguably the most important climate change legislation passed in over a decade.  The Bill passed the Senate with support of the Greens and some cross bench senators, including the Jacqui Lambie Network.

In a statement, Prime Minister Albanese said:

'Passing this Bill in the House of Representatives only 75 days after the election is an important step towards implementing the Albanese Government’s Powering Australia plan to create jobs, put downward pressure on power bills and reduce emissions by boosting renewable energy.'1

The primary focus of the Climate Change Bill is the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions targets to 43 per cent from the 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050, in alignment with Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The Climate Change Bill will also:

  1. Establish a Climate Change Authority to advise the Minister in relation to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets; and
  2. Introduce an Annual Climate Change Statement that will inform Parliament and the Australian public on Australia’s progress towards its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Biodiversity Certificates Scheme

On 26 August 2022, the Federal Government also announced a new certification scheme with respect to carbon credits for biodiversity.  The Biodiversity Certificates Scheme (BCS) will allow landholders who restore or manage habitat to trade biodiversity certificates.

The BCS intends to address the need for significant investment in conservation and restoration of the environment, to combat the current state of decline in environment raised in the SOE Report. The certificates will be bought or sold in a similar way to the current Carbon Credits Scheme and will also be regulated by the Clean Energy Regulator.

There is only limited detail released to date, however, the Government has stated that it will be consulting widely on the detailed framework under the proposed BCS. 

State of the Environment Report 2021

The State of the Environment Report 2021 (SOE Report) has now been released by the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek.  The SOE Report details the dire state of the environment in Australia, finding that the environment is generally deteriorating and will continue to do so without drastic reform. 

The deteriorating conditions have been attributed to the increasing pressures on the environment and the impacts of climate change across every ecosystem, with at least 19 Australian ecosystems being identified as showing signs of collapse or near collapse. 

On 19 July 2022, at the press conference for the launch of the SOE Report, Ms Plibersek delivered scathing remarks with respect to the former government’s dealings around federal environmental issues, saying ‘… years of warnings that were ignored or kept secret. Promises made, but not delivered. Dodgy behaviour, undermining public confidence. Brutal funding cuts. Wilful neglect.’  She also said ‘Laws that don’t work to protect the environment or smooth the way for sensible development, all against the backdrop of accelerating environmental destruction.2

Ms Plibersek stated that new legislation would go before parliament next year, either by amending Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1994 (Cth) (EPBC Act) or through the introduction of completely new legislation.

A draft proposal for a new independent environment protection agency is to be released later this year.

 

If you require any assistance with your project’s Federal Government environmental approvals, please do not hesitate to contact our Planning and Environment Team.

 

1.  Prime Minister of Australia, ‘Albanese Government Passes Climate Change Bill in the House of Representatives’ (Media Release, 04 August 2022) https://www.pm.gov.au/media/albanese-government-passes-climate-change-bill-house-representatives.

2. Tanya Plibersek, ‘State of the Environment Address’ (Speech, National Press Club of Australia, 19 July 2022) https://minister.dcceew.gov.au/plibersek/speeches-and-transcripts/national-press-club-address-minister-environment-and-water-tanya-plibersek.

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The material contained in this publication is in the nature of general comment only, and neither purports nor is intended to be advice on any particular matter. No reader should act on the basis of any matter contained in this publication without considering, and if necessary, taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.