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Business facing unprecedented sustainability changes

20 December 2018 11:03am

Businesses will have to contend with new climate policies and unprecedented changes on multiple sustainability fronts in 2019, at the national and state level.

Key developments will include new climate policies in three jurisdictions, a review of the main federal environment law, work on more stringent national air quality standards, and new regulatory measures on waste.

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National:

Irrespective of the federal election, changes to Safeguard Mechanism rules that apply to large emitters will occur in FY19.

These have been signalled by the Coalition government (see background here), but haven't yet been gazetted.

If, as voter surveys predict, Labor wins the federal election, the Safeguard Mechanism is very likely to be significantly strengthened, with effect from next July (see background here).

The National Energy Guarantee would be used to manage down electricity industry emissions with a tougher target, or a back-up strategy of underwriting new clean energy would be deployed.

Vehicle efficiency standards to reduce CO2 emissions – technically under development for more than three years (see background here) – would almost certainly be introduced by a Labor government.

Under Labor, there would also be an extra $10 billion for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, $5 billion for improved grid interconnection, and additional funds for energy productivity (see background here).

Irrespective of who governs, a statutory review must start in 2019 of the EPBC Act, which regulates environmental assessments and approvals and sets out requirements to protect native plants and animals.

If Labor wins the election, the review will result in a new Environment Act and a new federal EPA will be established (see background here).

Other significant actions for 2019 include:

Queensland:

The state government's new waste levy will apply from July 1, with the aim of stopping flows of NSW waste into the state (see background here).

The state government's new CleanCo entity, initially comprising renewable and low emission assets of CS Energy and Stanwell, is expected to trade in the energy market from mid-2019 (see background here).

Debate will start on a government bill empowering the Chief Health Officer to order a company to publicly notify a pollution incident (see background here).

The state government will start to deploy its new financial assurance regime for the resources industry and will establish a Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner (see background here).

NSW:

A state election is due in March, and the major parties are yet to release their climate and sustainability policies.

However, the NSW Coalition has made it clear it won't acquiesce to federal Coalition efforts to sideline debate on emissions policy.

If Labor wins the state election, an independent review of the state's EPA is highly likely, as recommended by a state parliamentary committee inquiry (see background here).

Whatever happens at the state election, a solution must be found to the problems caused by the sudden ban on applying municipal waste-derived organics to land (see background here).

ACT:

The ACT government will issue a revised climate change strategy in early 2019, and will also finalise a waste to energy policy (see background here).

Victoria:

The state's EPA will continue preparations for the 2020 start of its overhauled environment law (see background here).

By February 22, the state government will receive advice on interim greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2021-2025 and 2026 to 2030 from a panel led by former federal climate change minister Greg Combet (see background here).

The state government will introduce a ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags (see background here) and on the landfilling of e-waste (see background here).

Tasmania:

The state government will develop a comprehensive waste plan and hasn't ruled out a container deposit scheme (see background here).

South Australia:

The state government will introduce a Landscape Bill to Parliament in early 2019.

Western Australia:

The state government must steer through Parliament bills to establish its new container deposit scheme, which will operate from 2020 (see background here).

The Western Australian government will issue a new climate change policy (see background here).

It will also introduce a new waste policy and review of waste infrastructure needs (see background here).

The Department of Water and Environment Regulation will finalise new criteria for classifying fill as uncontaminated (see background here).

Northern Territory:

The Territory government will finalise a climate change strategy in the first half of 2019.

It will also introduce an Environment Protection Bill, focused on environmental impact assessment and approval, and issue supporting Environment Protection Regulations (see background here).

Many of the changes aim to satisfy recommendations of the Territory's inquiry into hydraulic fracking, including a bill to amend the Petroleum Act (see background here).

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