Environmental compliance news for business

Environment law and policy tracker

Highlights include statutory developments in Queensland and Victoria, and a summary of the IPCC climate and oceans report. Jobs include posts with Woolworths, Sydney Airport, Rio Tinto and GHD.

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New IPCC report on oceans

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new report on oceans and frozen areas of the planet.

Below is a summary of key findings. The report and related materials are available here.

Declining Arctic sea ice, thawing permafrost:

The extent of Arctic sea ice is declining, and it is getting thinner.

If global warming is stabilised at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the Arctic ocean would only be ice-free in September – the month with the least ice – once in every hundred years.

For global warming of two degrees, this would occur up to one year in three.

Permafrost ground that has been frozen for many years is warming and thawing and widespread permafrost thaw is projected to occur in the 21st century.

Even if global warming is limited to well below two degrees, around 25% of the near-surface permafrost will thaw by 2100.

Arctic and boreal permafrost hold large amounts of organic carbon, almost twice the carbon in the atmosphere, and have the potential to significantly increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere if they thaw.

It is unclear whether there is already a net release of carbon dioxide or methane due to the ongoing thaw of the Arctic permafrost.

Rising seas:

While sea level has risen globally by about 15cm during the 20th century, it is currently rising more than twice as fast – 3.6mm per year – and accelerating.

Sea level will continue to rise for centuries. It could reach around 30cm to 60cm by 2100 even if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced and global warming is limited to well below two degrees.

It could rise by about 60cm to 110cm if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly.

More frequent extreme sea level events:

Sea level rise will increase the frequency of extreme sea level events, which occur during high tides and intense storms.

Indications are that with any degree of additional warming, events that occurred once per century in the past will occur every year by mid-century in many regions, increasing risks for many low-lying coastal cities and small islands.

Increases in tropical cyclone winds and rainfall are exacerbating extreme sea level events and coastal hazards. Hazards will be further be intensified by an increase in the average intensity, magnitude of storm surge and precipitation rates of tropical cyclones, especially if greenhouse gas emissions remain high.

Changing ocean ecosystems:

Warming and changes in ocean chemistry are already disrupting species throughout the ocean food web.

To date, the ocean has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system.

By 2100, the ocean will take up two to four times more heat than between 1970 and the present even if global warming is limited to two degrees.

Ocean warming reduces mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life.

Marine heatwaves have doubled in frequency since 1982 and are increasing in intensity.

Their frequency will be 20 times higher at two degrees warming, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The ocean has taken up between 20% to 30% of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions since the 1980s, causing ocean acidification. Continued carbon uptake by the ocean by 2100 will exacerbate ocean acidification.

Ocean warming and acidification, loss of oxygen and changes in nutrient supplies, are already affecting the distribution and abundance of marine life.

Upcoming events:

  • Sustainable consumption in the EU and Australia
    A September 30 evening seminar in Canberra, hosted by the embassies of France, Germany and Denmark.

  • Avoiding another Hazelwood - how to manage coal closures
    An October 8 evening seminar in Melbourne, hosted by the Grattan Institute.
  • CleanCo - a new force in renewable energy
    An October 9 evening seminar in Brisbane, featuring interim CleanCo chief executive Miles George.
  • Social, economic and environmental risk
    An October 10 morning seminar in Melbourne, with speakers including Meredith Gibbs of Baker McKenzie.
  • Achieving net zero by 2050: Professor Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge
    An October 14 evening seminar in Canberra.
  • Investor Group on Climate Change summit
    An October 14 and 15 summit in Sydney.
  • Carbon neutral portfolios &and PRI impact on fund flows
    An October 18 lunchtime seminar in Sydney, hosted by the Centre for Corporate Sustainability and Environmental Finance.
  • Energy efficiency expo
    An October 23 and 24 event in Melbourne, hosted by the Energy Efficiency Council.
  • Electric vehicles for business
    An October 21 morning seminar in Adelaide.
  • Australia China renewable energy forum: The future of investment, collaboration and new technologies
    An October 25 conference in Melbourne.
  • Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand annual conference
    A November 4 to 6 conference in Adelaide.
  • Creating low-carbon precincts
    A November 7 seminar in Adelaide, hosted by UniSA.
  • Launch of the ResponsibleSteel standard and certification scheme
    A December 1 to 3 forum in Wollongong.

International and national:

  • The UN Climate Summit was held on September 23, featuring speakers and activists including Greta Thunberg (speech here) and involving the launch of several new international initiatives (see background here).

  • The World Meteorological Organisation, in collaboration with other science agencies, has released a new climate science update. It shows the average global temperature for 2015–2019 is on track to be the warmest on record. Global mean sea level rise is accelerating, and there has been a 26% increase in ocean acidity since the start of the industrial era.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken at the UN General Assembly.
  • Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has convened a meeting of COAG's Energy Council for November 22 in Perth, 11 months after its previous meeting.
  • The Australian Energy Market Commission today released a 'grid of the future' report recommending changes so networks can better accommodate distributed energy resources (report and related materials here).
  • Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley today met with the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association to discuss plans to ban the export of waste tyres, plastic, paper and glass.
  • The Emissions Reduction Advisory Committee is reviewing five ERF energy efficiency methods and two other methods that earn credits by preventing clearing (see background here).
  • Proponents of the $1.5 billion, 1,100 kilometre Copperstring transmission line in Queensland have sought to vary their EPBC referral to add a connection to the Kennedy renewable energy hub (connecting the project to the NEM) and to a connection point at Lansdown near Townsville.
  • The Bureau of Statistics has released an experimental waste account.
  • The Department of Environment and Energy has released a report on donations to environment groups.
  • The Department of Environment and Energy has for the first time granted a permit for hazardous waste to be exported to India, allowing Hydromet Corporation to ship up to 4,000 tonnes of lead waste (see background here).
  • The ACCC last week issued a draft determination allowing large format retailers to jointly tender for electricity (see background here).
  • Offshore oil and gas regulator NOPSEMA has extended to November 14 the timeframe for deciding a proposal by Equinor to conduct exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight.
  • Geoscience Australia has released a map of Australian regions that are most suitable for hydrogen production (see background here).
  • Have your say – last chance!: The Department of Environment and Energy is inviting comments by September 30 on draft national light pollution guidelines for wildlife.
  • Have your say – last chance!: Comments are due by October 4 on a priority list of exotic environmental pests and diseases.
  • Have your say!: Comment is due by November 21 to a Senate environment committee inquiry into a Greens-proposed product stewardship Bill that is focused on packaging and plastic (see background here).
  • Have your say!: Comments on a Productivity Commission issues paper on its review of resources sector regulation are due by October 31.
  • New resource:The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has released a new report on business climate resilience - thriving through the transformation.


  • Statutory development: Parliament has passed Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) And Other Legislation Amendment Bill, which aims to improve water quality entering the Reef.


  • The state government has announced new conservation tenders for Central West Rivers and Southern Highlands koala habitat, with bids for conservation payments accepted from November 4.

  • Have your say!: Comments close October 16 on a satutory review of the Marine Pollution Act 2012.
  • Have your say!: Comment closes October 16 on proposed changes to the Biodiversity Assessment Method.
  • Have your say!: Comments are due October 21 on IPART issues papers on prices charged by Sydney Water and Hunter Water.


  • Minister for Recycling and Waste Reduction Chris Steel has announced a 15-year contract with LGI Ltd for landfill gas infrastructure services at ACT government landfills, with the expectation that 34,900MWh will be generated each year.


  • Statutory development: The Dangerous Goods Amendment (Penalty Reform) Bill has passed the Legislative Assembly and will now go to the Council (see background here).

  • Statutory development – have your say!: Comment closes October 21 on proposed revised Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) (Extractive Industries) Regulations.
  • The owner of an industrial estate that has Woolworths as a tenant has criticised a proposal to gasify municipal waste on a neighbouring site (see background here).
  • Grant opportunity: Melbourne City Council is offering grants of up to $25,000 to start-ups and universities for activities that result in innovative ways to reduce waste. Applications close October 17.
  • Tribunal ruling: VCAT has refused to issue solar farm permits to two of three related companies because they planned to build on strategic farmland (see background here).
  • Tribunal ruling: VCAT has ruled Helios Volta Holdings Pty Ltd can build a 1.3MW solar system at a site in an irrigation zone near Mildura, as it will still leave room for horticulture.
  • Have your say!: Comment closes November 10 on the EPA's draft charter of consultation.
  • Have your say!: Comment closes October 31 on a regulations, standards and protocols that will support the state's new environmental law, due to take effect in mid-2020 (see background here).
  • Have your say!: Comment closes November 8 on a state government options paper on water market transparency.
  • Have your say!: A total of five renewable energy roadmaps are now open for consultation.
  • Have your say – last chance!: Parks Victoria is inviting comments by September 29 on its plans to develop a land management strategy for the parks estate.
  • Have your say – last chance!: Comment closes September 30 on the draft Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations and a regulatory impact statement.


  • Have your say!: Comment closes October 7 on research proposals for the Green and Gold Frog and the Orange-Bellied Parrot.

  • Have your say – last chance!: Comment closes October 4 on a draft bill that would crack down on what constitutes clean fill and make company environmental monitoring data more accessible to the public (see background here).
  • Have your say!: Comments are due by October 7 on a draft waste plan that proposes the introduction of a waste levy (see background here).

South Australia:

  • Nine councils are participating in a pilot project to jointly boost purchasing of recycled content goods (see background here).

  • The state government has released a hydrogen action plan (see background here).
  • Have your say!: Comments are due November 3 on a draft strategy to manage Little Corellas.
  • Have your say!: The state government has invited comment by October 31 on its healthy Coorong action plan.

Western Australia:

  • An EPA recommendation to amend a carbon condition attached to Chevron's Gorgon LNG project would result in the company having to buy millions of offsets (see background here).

  • Parliament's Economics and Industry Standing Committee has extended the reporting date for its inquiry into microgrids to next March.
  • Grant opportunity: Applications are due by October 30 for a share of $9 million in renewable hydrogen grants on offer from the state government. A further $1 million will fund work by the government's Renewable Hydrogen Unit.
  • Have your say – last chance!: Comment closes October 2 on a new discussion paper on carbon farming and the resource industry (see background here).
  • Have your say!: Comment closes November 29 on a discussion paper about the state's proposed climate policy (see background here).

Northern Territory:

  • The Territory government has conceded emissions will grow until sometime after 2030, in a draft climate strategy (see background here).

  • The NT Assembly has passed an environmental assessment and approvals bill (see background here).

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