Amending the Climate Change (State Action) Act 2008

TCCO


Introduction

Purpose

The purpose of this Discussion Paper is to provide information on the Tasmanian Government’s proposed amendments to the Climate Change (State Action) Act 2008 (the Act), and to seek input from the community.

Climate Change (State Action) Act 2008

The Act sets the Tasmanian Government’s legislative framework for action on climate change and guides the State’s response to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Divisions of the Act establish a framework for climate change action through an emissions reduction target and regulation-making powers.

The Climate Change (Greenhouse Gas Emissions) Regulations 2012 (the Regulations) were enacted in 2013 to support the Act and require the responsible Minister to publish the State’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The Regulations prescribe the method for measuring emissions for the purpose of setting the 1990 baseline as well as methods for measuring reductions in emissions. Tasmania’s greenhouse gas emissions reporting is based on data in the State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories, which draws from the Australian Government’s National Inventory Report, which is the nation’s annual submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Act establishes a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to reduce Tasmania’s emissions to at least 60 per cent below 1990 levels by 31 December 2050.

Together, the Act and the Regulations support Tasmania to address the challenges of climate change and contribute to the broader national and international efforts.

Independent review

The Act requires an independent review of its operation every four years. The first review of the Act was completed in 2012 and Jacobs Australia Pty Ltd completed the most recent review in 2016.

The Act requires, under subsection 18(1), that the independent review address:

  • the extent to which the objects of the Act are being achieved; and
  • the extent to which any additional legislative measures are considered necessary to achieve the targets set by the Act within the periods contemplated by the Act.

In addition, the scope of the 2016 independent review included consideration of the appropriateness of Tasmania’s current target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050, and how the Act could be strengthened to drive action on climate change.

In undertaking the independent review, Jacobs Australia consulted with the Tasmanian community including industry, non-government organisations, individual community members, and state and local government. Jacobs Australia released a discussion paper in June 2016, which received 20 written responses. The independent review also took into consideration the consultation and findings of the previous review in 2012 and the submissions to the draft of Tasmania’s Climate Change Action Plan in 2016.

Findings

The independent review made the following five recommendations for amending the Act:

  1. Set a new aspirational long-term emissions reduction target of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050;
  2. Consolidate the objects of the Act around four themes;
  3. Require Tasmanian Government agencies to consider the target, objects and proposed principles of the Act in relation to relevant decisions;
  4. Include a set of principles to give greater effect to the target and objects of the Act, and provide a clear set of expectations for decision making on climate change; and
  5. Continue to prepare a plan for mitigating and adapting to climate change, and make it a statutory requirement for the Tasmanian Government to have a climate change action plan.

The independent review also highlighted key considerations relevant to the Act and action on climate change in Tasmania more generally. These include:

  • a need to take action across all sectors to reduce emissions; and
  • using an adaptive management framework to inform climate change action.

Tasmanian Government Response

In May 2017, the Tasmanian Government released its response to the independent review. In this response, the Tasmanian Government indicated its support for the recommendations from the 2016 review, noting that recommendations three and five were supported in-principle due to the need for additional consultation and analysis.

There have been a number of significant changes in the two years since the Review, most notably the release in February 2018 of the Australian Government’s State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories 2016 (STGGI).

The STGGI showed that in 2016 Tasmania was the first jurisdiction in Australia to achieve zero net emissions, with total emissions of -0.01 mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is a 100 per cent decrease from the 1990 baseline level.

This recent development has prompted the Tasmanian Government to undertake a comprehensive review of the State’s future emissions trajectory to model the potential long-term trajectories and our ability to maintain our zero net emissions status.

A summary of the Tasmanian Government’s proposed amendments to the Act in response to the recommendations of the independent review, and the 2016 STGGI, are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1. The Tasmanian Government’s proposed amendments to the Act in response to the independent review and the 2016 STGGI.

Independent review recommendation

Proposed amendments to the Act

Rationale

  1. Set a new aspirational long-term emissions reduction target of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Amend Section 5 – The State’s 2050 target.

A new target consistent with the Paris Agreement for more ambitious emissions reductions efforts. Other state governments are also committing to more contemporary targets. 

  1. Consolidate the objects of the Act around four themes.

Amend Section 4 – Objects of Act – by replacing the existing 10 objects with four new objects.

To clarify the purpose and intent of the Act.

  1. Require Tasmanian Government agencies to consider the target, objects and proposed principles of the Act in relation to relevant decisions.

Amend the Act to insert a new section stating that State agencies should consider the target, objects and proposed principles of the Act in relation to relevant decisions.

 

To ensure government decision making supports the 2050 emissions reduction target and manages climate change risks.

  1. Include a set of principles to give greater effect to the target and objects of the Act, and provide a clear set of expectations for decision making on climate change.

Amend the Act to include a set of principles that provide a clear set of standards for decision making on climate change.

To provide guidance for decision makers and promote consistent decision making across government.

  1. Continue to prepare a plan for mitigating and adapting to climate change, and make it a statutory requirement for the Tasmanian Government to have a climate change action plan.

No amendment to be made to the Act in response to this recommendation, recognising the Tasmanian Government’s policy commitment to a climate change action plan through the release of Climate Action 21.

Maintaining a policy commitment reflects the flexible and long-term approach required to take action on climate change.