A net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 for Victoria passed through Parliament last week as part of the new Climate Change Act 2017 (Vic).

In February 2016, we reported on the proposed changes to the regulatory framework for climate change in Victoria. These changes were recommended in the report prepared by the Victorian Independent Review Committee regarding the effectiveness of the Climate Change Act 2010 (Vic). The review made 33 recommendations, of which 32 were accepted by the State Government in its response in June 2016. In relation to the recommendation that was not supported, the State Government stated that although it supports the intent of increasing the level of independent expert scrutiny for significant decisions under the framework, it did not consider merits review to be appropriate at this time as the intent of merits review can be met through other mechanisms.

The Bill was introduced by the current Labor State Government on 22 November 2016, and passed through Parliament unamended with the support of the Greens, despite the Coalition voting against the Bill.

The new Act came into force last week and repeals and re-enacts the Climate Change Act (Vic) to give effect to some of the recommendations, including:

  • amending the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic) to allow the Environment Protection Authority to regulate the emission and discharge of greenhouse gas substances;
  • establishing greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for Victoria, including net-zero emissions by 2050;
  • introducing a new set of policy objectives and an updated set of guiding principles to embed climate change in Government decision making; and
  • establishing a system of periodic reporting to provide transparency and accountability, as well as to ensure that the community remains informed.

The Government is currently working on implementing the other recommendations, such as assessing whether the decisions and actions currently listed in Schedule 1 (which lists certain Acts and the specific decisions or actions which must consider climate change) are appropriate, and to identify what amendments should be made to broaden Schedule 1.