Australia is set for new climate legislation after Parliament passed the Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022 (together, the Climate Bills). The Climate Bills will come into force following royal assent.

Snapshot

Details about the original form of the Bills can be found in our previous blog here. Several amendments have been made in the form of the Climate Bills now passed by both Houses of Parliament, including:

  • Increased statement of ambition and a new object of the Climate Change Act to ‘advance an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change drawing on the best available scientific knowledge’. A note has been included clarifying that the 43 per cent emissions reduction target is a floor of ambition and not a ceiling.
  • The government of the day is now expressly required to obtain advice from (or consultation with) the Climate Change Authority before setting a new nationally determined contribution with a target for 2035, 2040 or 2045.
  • Matters to be addressed in the Minister’s annual climate change statement have been expanded to include:
    • the effectiveness of the Commonwealth’s emissions reduction targets and policies by reference to sectors covered by those policies;
    • the impact of the policies on rural and regional Australia; and
    • risks to Australia from climate change impacts, such as those relating to Australia’s environment, biodiversity, health, infrastructure, agriculture, investment, economy, and national security.
  • The Climate Change Authority must include in its advice to the Minister advice on:
    • the social, employment and economic benefits of new emissions reduction targets, including for rural and regional Australia; and
    • the physical impacts of climate change on Australia, including on rural and regional Australia.
  • There are increased requirements for the Climate Change Authority to undertake public consultation to inform its advice.

During the passage of the Bills, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen signaled that a review of the new laws would occur within 12 months. This review will consider the range of government organisations that have new statutory objectives relating to climate change under the consequential legislation. The Minister indicated that the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority would be specifically considered.

Next steps

The new legislation will take effect the day after royal assent. This means that the regulatory landscape will change as government agencies and bodies begin acting on their new statutory objectives regarding climate change.

We anticipate that there will also be increased scrutiny of the targets and actions of sectors and individual private entities as to whether they align with the legislated ambition, targets and associated policies.