Climate trigger will make it harder for renewable approvals in Nature Positive reform

Business Council of Australia

The Business Council is concerned the Government may be considering including a climate trigger as part of the Nature Positive reform, making it harder for all projects, particularly renewable energy ones, to receive approval.

BCA Chief Executive Bran Black said the BCA strongly advocates for the net zero transition, more renewables and a reduction of emissions, which is already legislated through the Safeguard Mechanism.

“I’m concerned that the Government may be about to drop its iron-clad guarantee and now include a climate trigger as part of the Nature Positive reforms.

“The Government recently dropped its commitment to fast track offshore gas approval in a deal with the Greens, which is why we are concerned about commitments given under the Nature Positive reform.

“This change could open up Pandora’s box and risk investment needed for the net zero transition and the Government’s Future Made in Australia policy.

Professor Graeme Samuel’s independent review of the EPBC Act in 2020 agreed that emissions reduction should be dealt with separately.

The Final Report of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), October 2020 states: “Successive Australian governments have elected to adopt specific policy mechanisms to implement their commitments to reduce emissions. The Review agrees that these specific mechanisms, not the EPBC Act, are the appropriate way to place limits on greenhouse gas emissions.”

Data from the EPBC shows the system is already starting to clog up with renewable energy generation and supply overtaking mining as the top projects being referred for assessment.

Over the last two years there have been 109 renewable project referrals compared to 72 for mining.

“A climate trigger will simply swell the number of projects captured by the EPBC system, subjecting more and more projects to more bureaucracy, shifting the system’s focus and resources away from protecting habitat, threatened species, and the natural environment,” Mr Black said.

Herbert Smith Freehills and the Clean Energy Investor Group have released a report which outlined the delays and difficulties in getting renewable projects approved.

It found that “EPBC Act assessments have been identified as the single biggest challenge for delivering renewable energy projects in Australia, putting investment decisions and the likelihood of Australia meeting its clean energy targets and decarbonisation goals at significant risk.”

Mr Black said the BCA is concerned because the Government is now consulting on climate related laws through the Nature Positive consultation process after previously ruling out adopting a climate trigger.

“Ironically, including a climate trigger will mean project approvals – including those for renewable energy – get pushed out,” he said.

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