State Government initiatives to address climate change

02 Dec 2010Archived News Climate Change Matters

In this article we profile the climate change policies of Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, the ACT and South Australia. In examining the efforts of each of the states it is interesting to note the spectrum of approaches: Victoria and the ACT have legislated ambitious targets, NSW has a wide range of policy and legislated initiatives, through to Western Australia, which, although it lacks specific legislation, has nonetheless incorporated climate change considerations into recent power generation planning approvals. Clearly there is broad acceptance of a future price on carbon and the need to prepare accordingly.


The Victorian Government under the ALP provided business with certainty through to 2020 with significant opportunities in large-scale solar power, medium-scale renewables, lessening the carbon intensity of coal and energy efficiency technologies for homes and transportation.1

To quote the now-outgoing Premier, John Brumby, "the Victorian Government believes a carbon price must be part of Australia’s long-term response to climate change". The White Paper and supporting legislation (Climate Change Act 2010 passed on 14 September) set out the government’s ambitions:

  • "to reduce emissions by at least 20% by 2020 compared to 2000 levels (equivalent to 40% per capita)
  • reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of Victorian brown coal-fired generators by up to four million tonnes over the next four years, culminating in a total saving of 28 million tonnes by 2020, equivalent to the closure of two units of Hazelwood Power Station;
  • implement a plan to raise the energy efficiency of Victorian homes to an average of 5 Stars by 2020;
  • to generate 5% of our electricity from solar energy by 2020;
  • create jobs by taking advantage of the opportunities in a low carbon economy;
  • prepare Victoria for the physical impacts of climate change; and
  • to get Victoria ready for the eventual introduction of a carbon price."2

The fact that the state’s emissions reduction target and the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) extended regulatory authority has been laid out in legislation, rather than policy, is significant as the government now changes. This is because the abatement target and the extended powers of the EPA have greater protection from the vagaries of politics. However, with the change in state government questions have quickly arisen as to the Coalition’s plans to achieve the 20% emissions reduction target. To quote an article in The Age, Tuesday, 30th November: "In a pre-election interview…., premier-elect Ted Baillieu said he doubted the target - which passed Parliament without opposition in September - could be achieved.

He later clarified that the Coalition supported the target but believed it would only be met through federal support."3

Energetics believes Victoria has been leading the way in energy efficiency schemes.

"They are further ahead in terms of legislation requirements and greenhouse emissions targets than anyone else. Victorian large businesses are required to implement those low hanging fruit opportunities, and pursuing best practice energy efficiency technologies," Energetics’ Principal Consultant, Patrick Denvir said.

Receiving particular focus in the previous Government's approach were the brown coal power generators which are extensively referenced in the White Paper and subject to the closest regulatory scrutiny. However, the incoming Coalition government has already indicated that it will not support the staged closure of the Hazelwood power station, advocated by the previous government.4

Under the EPA's extended authority, it was expected that emissions-intensive industries would most likely experience more rigorous permit conditions as greenhouse gases are now regulated as 'waste' under licensing arrangements.

Also legislated are a new set of rights called "Forest Carbon rights" which are intended to promote carbon sequestration opportunities and the growth of that industry.

We await further announcements from the new Baillieu administration.


The focus on climate change mitigation lies with energy efficiency measures and also the promotion of low emitting energy sources. Unlike Victoria, there is no emissions reduction target, and certainly nothing prescribed in legislation.

ClimateQ: toward a greener Queensland (July 2009) outlines the government’s policy on a number of key climate change related areas:

Energy - measures include conditions for new coal-fired power generation, energy conservation and demand management, clean energy for remote communities, renewable energy and regulation for electricity demand management.

Business - skills development for a low carbon economy, understanding carbon impacts on small business, reducing 'green tape' and the ClimateSmart Business Service which provides $15 million to small to medium size enterprises to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for higher energy and other input costs.

Planning and building - $8 million to map areas of impact from climate change across the state, low emission energy generation in commercial buildings, lifting environmental standards for all new homes, offices and government buildings, green building skills fund and ‘green door’ for fast-tracking development approvals which demonstrate exemplary sustainability features.

Community initiatives - a range of measures to support indigenous communities, bushfire management and the Queensland Solar Hot Water Rebate.

Primary industry - examining the carbon sequestration potential of native vegetation, helping primary producers adapt to climate change, identifying the carbon potential of land uses (biosequestration), rural water use efficiency, and recognising carbon rights on Leasehold Land - currently being updated.

Transport - improving traffic flow for reduced emissions, Vehicle Offsets Contribution Scheme, a range of "TravelSmart" initiatives, low emission bus trial, FreightSmart (including Port of Brisbane trial) and Greening the Taxi Fleet.

Ecosystems - climate change corridors for biodiversity and improved fire management in National Parks, and

Government - 5-Star Energy Performance Standard for new government office buildings, Climate Ready infrastructure initiative, improving energy efficiency in existing government buildings.5

Queensland also has the Smart Energy Savings Program, as provided under the Clean Energy Act, 2008. The Program targets medium to large energy users. Under the program's requirements, participants must audit their energy use, plan and report energy efficiency measures. Only companies that are registered with the Commonwealth's Energy Efficiency Opportunities program are exempt.

Queensland also strongly promotes natural gas usage and in particular, the use of gas-fired electricity generation. This is done under the Queensland Gas Scheme, 2005. Queensland electricity retailers and other liable entities are required to source a prescribed percentage (currently 15%) of their electricity from gas-fired generation. Electricity retailers meet their liability under the QGS by purchasing Gas Electricity Certificates, which come from generating electricity from natural gas, coal seam gas, liquefied petroleum gas, or waste gases associated with conventional petroleum refining.

In all, Queensland has a range of policies and incentives as the basis of its climate change approach.

New South Wales

Compared to other Australian states, NSW has the widest range of legislative and policy-based approaches towards achieving emissions reductions and greater efficiency in the use of water and energy.

One mechanism is the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme (GGAS) which is focussed on electricity retailers and requires meeting mandatory emissions reduction targets. The NSW Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme (GGAS) took effect 1 January 2003, and was one of the world's first mandatory emissions trading schemes. The benchmark target is 5% reduction in per capita greenhouse gas emissions from 1989-1990 levels, continuing through to 2021.

To meet the targets under GGAS, electricity retailers can not only undertake projects to directly reduce emissions, but they can also offset emissions through eligible forestry, renewable energy or the promotion of energy efficiency measures.

However on 4 November, 2010, the government announced a review of GGAS: "Delayed national action means that there are no clear signals to investors in the energy market regarding how Australian governments' (including NSW) emissions reduction targets are to be achieved. In this context of ongoing uncertainty around the timing, form and scope of national carbon pricing arrangements, the NSW Government has commenced a review of GGAS."6

The Energy Saving Scheme (ESS) was introduced on 1 July 2009 by the NSW Government to encourage greater efficiency of electricity use in NSW households, industry and commerce. ESCs ('Eskies') can be created for energy savings as defined under the Scheme that have been made after 1 July 2009. Each Energy Saving Certificate (ESC) represents 1 tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) avoided.

Under the ESS, certificates can be created for individual energy efficiency projects or activities. In general, ESCs are created after the energy has been saved but there are also options available to generate certificates in advance. The certificates can then be used or sold on the market.7

For further information click here

The New South Wales State Plan 2010 commits to the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Target of 20% of energy consumed will be sourced from renewables. This commitment on the part of the NSW Government is stated as policy but has not been enshrined in legislation.

Other commitments outlined in the State Plan relating to climate change include:

  • Achieving a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in line with the Federal Government targets.
  • Achieving 20% renewable energy consumption by 2020 in light of the Federal Government's expanded Renewable Energy Target.
  • Implementing 4,000 GWh of annual electricity savings through NSW energy efficiency programs by 2014.
  • Increasing participation in green skills training to 5% by 2013.
  • Increasing water recycling from 15 billion litres per year in 2005 to 70 billion litres of water per year by 2015.
  • Saving 145 billion litres of water per year by 2015, representing almost a 25% reduction from Sydney’s projected water demand in that year.
  • Commissioning Sydney's desalination plant to provide up to 90 billion litres of water per year by 2010.
  • Meeting reliability performance standards for water continuity and quality.
  • Meeting our State–wide targets for natural resource management to improve biodiversity and native vegetation, sensitive riverine and coastal ecosystems, soil condition and socio–economic wellbeing.
  • Meeting national air quality goals (as specified in the National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality).
  • Meeting the 2014 NSW waste recycling targets (as specified in the NSW Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy).8

Further climate change initiatives in New South Wales include:

  • A framework to permit trading in carbon sequestration rights arising from approved forestry projects.
  • New South Wales Biodiversity Banking and Offsets Scheme (BioBanking Scheme) which is a voluntary programme intended to create a market for 'biodiversity credit'.
  • Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) which "ensures homes are designed to use less potable water and be responsible for fewer greenhouse gas emissions by setting energy and water reduction targets for house and units."9

Western Australia

Interestingly while Western Australia does not have legislation to support specific climate change initiatives it has most recently awarded approvals to projects dependent upon the fulfilment of a number of conditions relating to climate change mitigation strategies. These projects included the coal fired Bluewaters Power Station Expansion and Coolimba Power Station Project.

In a statement from the then Minister for the Environment, Donna Faragher she said: "Consistent with advice from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), a greenhouse gas abatement program will require the power stations to achieve continuous improvement in net greenhouse gas emissions through the adoption of advances in technology and process management.

This includes consideration of carbon capture and storage and the use of new technologies to improve the efficiency of the generator units."

Furthermore, she considered, "it appropriate for proponents to implement greenhouse gas abatement programs to address carbon emissions, prior to the introduction of a national approach."10

The conditions imposed stand until such time as the head of the Western Australian EPA decides that the conditions are no longer complementary to any national emissions trading scheme. 12

Australian Capital Territory

The Climate Change Greenhouse Gas Reduction Bill was brought before the parliament in August of this year. The Bill features a target to cut emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050, against 1990 levels. Significantly the Bill aims to ensure zero net emissions by 2060, which is one of the most ambitious targets nationally. It is intended that emissions reductions will be achieved through avoidance and mitigation activities, and offsets outside of the ACT may be granted.11

The Government states, "the legislation mandates regular reporting to the Legislative Assembly on the ACT's greenhouse gas emissions trends; establishes a Climate Change Council to provide independent advice on climate change issues as they affect business and the wider community; and encourages private organisations and industries to take action through voluntary sector agreements with Government."12

Energetics welcomed the ACT Government introducing its 40% greenhouse emissions reduction target, which will see significant changes in the state. Energetics' Principal Consultant Patrick Denvir stated, "Obviously the ACT does not have the energy intensive industries that Victoria has, but it is good to see that they are starting to act on energy efficiency with ambitious targets."13

South Australia

South Australia led the way with legislation specifically intended to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and more broadly address the challenges of climate change. This was done through the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007. The Act adopted a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60% by 2051, against 1990 levels.

Since the introduction of the Act, the Rann Labor Government has increased the renewable energy generation target to 33%. The state is also tracking well against its renewable energy generation and consumption targets.14

Written by Helen Wetherell

1 Elisa De Wit, Norton Rose, Australia: Victorian Climate Change White Paper – The Action Plan, Legally Green, 9 August 2010.
2 Message from the Premier, the Hon John Brumby MP: "Taking Action for Victoria’s Future", Victorian Climate Change White Paper - The Action Plan, July 2010.
3 “Coalition has explaining to do on climate targets”, Adam Morton, The Age, 30 November, 2010.
4 “Coalition has explaining to do on climate targets”, Adam Morton, The Age, 30 November, 2010.
5 ClimateQ: towards a Greener Queensland, Office of Climate Change, Queensland,
10 Office of the Minister for the Environment: “Minister determines environmental appeals on power stations”, 12.7.2010,®ion=
11 How are our states and territories tackling climate change? Freehills, 8 November 2010,
12 “ Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets in the ACT”, Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water,
13 EMN - by Max Pichon. “Energetics to play waiting game on energy efficiency target”, 29 October 2010.
14 How are our states and territories tackling climate change? Freehills, 8 November 2010,> 


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