Posted on September 20, 2022 by

Consultation open for the EPA’s draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan

The NSW EPA has released its draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan for public consultation.

The policy and plan follow the landmark case of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Incorporated v Environment Protection Authority [2021] NSWLEC 92. In that case, the Chief Judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court ordered the EPA to develop environmental quality objectives, guidelines and policies to ensure the protection of the environment in NSW from climate change in accordance with section 9(1)(a) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991. The Chief Judge left it open to the EPA to decide how it would do so.

The EPA has developed its draft policy and action plan by building on the NSW Government’s existing climate policy foundations. These include the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework, the Net Zero Plan, Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. The EPA’s draft policy and action plan should be read with these other instruments accordingly.

The EPA’s draft policy is ‘strengthening our climate change response‘. The policy has three ‘pillars‘: information and planning; climate change mitigation; and climate change adaptation. The objectives of the policy, in support of the NSW Government’s overarching climate change objectives:

  • to maximise the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of NSW in the context of a changing climate and current and emerging international and national policy settings and actions to address climate change;
  • to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the NSW Government’s net zero targets, which are
    • a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, and
    • net zero emissions by 2050; and
  • to make NSW more resilient and adapted to a changing climate.

The draft action plan sets out how the EPA proposes to implement the draft policy. It sets out the new and continuing climate change actions to be taken from now until 2025. The actions set out, in tabulated form:

  • the policy pillars to which they refer;
  • the co-benefits of the action (for example, for Aboriginal cultural values and biodiversity);
  • the regulatory elements of the action (for example, educating, monitoring, and requiring);
  • the timeframes for delivery; and
  • the key performance indicators or deliverables.

The actions will be consequential for licensees. However, they will be ‘staged, progressive and iterative‘. The EPA proposes to:

  1. listen and gather information, for example by surveying existing licensees;
  2. set emission reduction targets for key industry sectors and provide guidance;
  3. require current and new licensees to take action, for example through emissions benchmarking and requiring licensees to prepare, implement, and report on climate change mitigation and adaptation plans (known as ‘CCMAPs‘); and then
  4. require improved performance by licensees.

The EPA proposes to report on and revise the policy and action plan in 2025 or earlier, if needed. It has also set out the stronger climate change actions it is considering taking in the future.

The EPA emphasises collaboration in the implementation of its policy, both with its ‘regulated community‘ and ‘regulatory partners‘. It specifically commits itself to the principles of environmental justice and intergenerational equity by including young people and Aboriginal people. The EPA has also indicated that the policy will co-evolve with the other approaches to climate change taken by other Australian jurisdictions and other countries.

As part of the consultation papers, the EPA has released various fact sheets. Included in these is a fact sheet specifically targeted at local government. This sets out the proposed roles and opportunities for local councils as consent authorities, co-regulators, licensees, waste facility operators, and grant and funding recipients.

The EPA will also be holding information webinars for local government, industry, and the community. More information about these webinars is available on the EPA’s consultation website.

You can review the consultation papers and provide feedback by following this link. The consultation closes at 5:00 PM on Thursday, 3 November 2022. The EPA expects to finalise the policy and action plan before the end of the year.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact us on (02) 8235 9700 or leave a comment below.