Amending the Climate Change (State Action) Act 2008

TCCO

Proposed amendments to the Act

Zero net emissions by 2050

Recommendation 1

That Tasmania set a new aspirational long-term emissions reduction target which is achievable and consistent with international ambitions to avoid dangerous climate change. Based on best available science, this target should be to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Under the Paris Agreement, zero net emissions will need to be reached during the second half of this Century if global warming is to be limited to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement highlights the important role of sub-national governments in addressing the challenge of climate change.

Other jurisdictions have committed to a zero net emissions target by 2050 including New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia. This means that 80 per cent of Australia’s emissions are subject to a zero net emissions target.

The Tasmanian Government is committed to supporting international efforts to meet this global challenge and limit our greenhouse gas emissions. Establishing a new long-term emissions reduction target reflects this commitment and aligns with the State’s clean, green branding.

Tasmania’s achievement of zero net emissions in 2016 is a significant milestone for the State and demonstrates the important role of states and regions in meeting the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius.

The Tasmanian Government is commissioning an emissions pathway review to explore the factors that are likely to influence the State’s future emissions and model the potential long-term trajectories across different sectors of the economy and identify a likely timeframe for Tasmania to maintain its zero net emissions status, noting that there are many factors which will influence Tasmania’s emissions pathway to 2050.

Factors that are likely to influence Tasmania’s emissions profile over the coming years include changes to national and state government policies, advances in technologies, and changes to Tasmania’s population and economic profile. Ongoing emissions reduction efforts will be required across different sectors of the economy to ensure zero net emissions is maintained.

Proposed amendment

Amend Section 5 (The State’s 2050 target) of the Act to establish a new long-term emissions reduction target consistent with international agreements. Given Tasmania achieved zero net emissions in 2016, the Tasmanian Government is commissioning an emissions pathway review to model the potential long-term trajectories across different sectors of the economy and maintain Tasmania’s zero net emissions.

Consolidate the objects of the Act

Recommendation 2

That the objects of the Act are consolidated around four themes, to provide clarity on the purpose for having the legislation and a robust framework for evaluating its effectiveness, namely:

  • targets and reporting;
  • actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • adaptation to projected climate change; and
  • complementarity with national and international climate change initiatives.

The objects of an Act are designed to provide the intended purpose of the legislation. In its current form, the Act has 10 objects (see Appendix 1) that cover multiple themes and, in some instances, similar themes are addressed in multiple objects. The independent review concluded that this contributes to a lack of clarity around the purpose of the Act.

The independent review recommended consolidating the objects of the Act around the four themes listed above, to provide greater clarity on the purpose for having the Act. The independent review noted that if the objects of the Act are restructured and simplified to focus on these four key themes, the rationale and narrative for action on climate change would be improved.

The Tasmanian Government, in response to the independent review, acknowledges the value of consolidating the objects of the Act.

Proposed amendment

Amend Section 4 (Objects of Act) of the Act to replace the existing 10 objects with the following:

The objects of the Act are:

  1. to set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the State;
  2. to monitor, evaluate and report on progress made in relation to the target;
  3. to respond and adapt to the impacts and projected impacts of climate change; and
  4. to complement national and international climate change initiatives.

Statutory requirement to have regard to climate change

Recommendation 3

That the Act is amended to require State agencies and Departments to consider the target, objects and proposed principles of the Act in relation to relevant decisions. Specifically, decisions should consider:

  • risks from climate change; and
  • implications for the State’s emissions and potential to achieve Tasmania’s legislated emissions target.

The Tasmanian Government acknowledges the importance of considering climate change in relevant government decision making.

The Tasmanian Government notes that climate change is one of many considerations agencies should take into account when making decisions, alongside other factors such as community wellbeing and economic growth. Considering climate change as part of government decision making can have benefits, including:

  • ensuring appropriate due diligence around government decision making is carried out;
  • identifying potential risks climate change poses for a decision, policy, plan, strategy or program and ensuring those risks are appropriately managed; and
  • considering the potential contributions to the State’s emissions reduction target.

Considering climate change is particularly important for decision making around projects, policies and strategies with longer timeframes and implications.

There is growing recognition of climate-related risks and liabilities for organisations, partly as a result of increasing stakeholder demand for the identification, disclosure and management of climate change risks and opportunities, and a legal liability associated with failing to incorporate climate change in decision making.

Recent developments include:

  • International credit ratings agencies, including Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, are now factoring climate risk in to credit rating assessments;
  • In 2017, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) announced that financial institutions need to consider climate risk as a financial risk and stress test their operations; and
  • Work by the Centre for Policy Development, an Australian independent policy institute, suggests that company directors who ignore or mismanage climate-related risks could be held personally liable for breaching their legal duties under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

There are various ways to ensure climate change is considered in government decision making. The Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Tasmanian Climate Change Office (TCCO) will work with Tasmanian Government agencies to determine the best way to support climate change consideration in decision making.

Proposed amendment

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

Principles to guide decision making

Recommendation 4

That the Act is amended to include a set of principles to give greater effect to the target and objects of the Act and provide a set of expectations for decision making on climate change. These principles should give priority to:

  • abatement in sectors and through initiatives where the greatest emission reductions can be cost-effectively achieved;
  • opportunities that deliver social and economic benefits from Tasmania’s position as a low carbon economy; and
  • adaptation in areas with communities at greatest risk from the projected impacts of climate change.

The independent review found that the inclusion of principles in the Act would provide an appropriate framework for decision makers to consistently consider climate change in Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Government supports in principle including, within the Act, a set of principles to give greater effect to the target and objects of the Act. It is intended that the proposed principles, listed below, would:

  • provide meaningful guidance for decision makers on what to consider when making decisions;
  • promote consistent decision making across government;
  • accommodate greater flexibility and responsiveness in decision making;
  • facilitate a long-term strategic approach;
  • set a clear standard for consideration of climate change in decision making; and
  • support an adaptive management approach to action on climate change.

The principles below will be considered in decision making processes which includes decisions, policies, programs and processes.

Proposed amendment

Amend the Act to include the following set of principles:

In seeking to give greater effect to the target and objects of this Act, and to set a clear standard for decision making on climate change, consideration should be given to the following principles:

  1. decision making processes take into account their possible contribution to Tasmania’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target;
  2. complementarity with national policies, programs, initiatives, standards or commitments relating to climate change is considered;
  3. decision making processes take into account the best available science and information about climate change and its potential impacts that are relevant to the decision, policy, program or process under consideration;
  4. the potential climate change risks associated with the decision, policy, program or process under consideration are assessed; and
  5. an adaptive management approach is desirable to allow for evaluation of the decision, policy, program or process and to encourage continual improvement.

Climate Change Action Plan

Recommendation 5

That the Government continue to prepare a plan for mitigating and adapting to climate change, and that the Act is amended to make the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) a statutory requirement.

The CCAP should include a clear timeframe for preparation, implementation and evaluation that, wherever possible, follows the four-yearly parliamentary terms and legislative review cycle under the Act.

In developing the CCAP, the State should take account of the:

  • long-term greenhouse gas emissions target under the Act;
  • revised objects of the Act, and principles proposed for the Act;
  • latest greenhouse gas accounts for the State, and best-available science on projected impacts of climate change on Tasmania; and
  • evidence on the effectiveness of existing initiatives to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Climate Action 21 was released in June 2017, demonstrating the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to taking action on climate change. Climate Action 21 is the Tasmanian Government’s $3 million, five-year plan to ensure Tasmania continues to play its role in the global response to climate change. It reaffirms Tasmania's position of leadership in responding to climate change and leveraging off our natural strengths, particularly in the area of renewable energy development.

The independent review recommended consideration be given to incorporating an adaptive management framework to inform action on climate change. Through the release of Climate Action 21, the Tasmanian Government has put this consideration into action. Climate Action 21 is underpinned by an adaptive management framework and is informed by ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

In response to the independent review’s recommendation that a climate change action plan should be a statutory requirement, the Tasmanian Government considers the ongoing preparation, implementation and evaluation of climate change action plans is better considered as a policy commitment rather than a statutory requirement.

Linking the preparation of a climate change action plan to the electoral cycle could prove difficult in practice. Under section 23 (Four year Parliaments) of the Constitution Act 1934, the Tasmanian House of Assembly expires every four years from an election. A four-yearly electoral cycle is not always guaranteed and could impede the ability to fully implement an action plan.

Furthermore, action on climate change is an ongoing and long-term issue, requiring long timeframes for results to be realised which extend beyond the electoral cycle timeframe. Maintaining a policy commitment to the preparation, implementation and evaluation of action plans reflects the long-term timeframes and flexibility required to respond to and plan for climate change.

Proposed amendment

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