The recently tabled Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Bill 2023 proposes to legislate NSW’s net zero by 2050 target and establish an independent Net Zero Commission to monitor the State’s progress.
- The Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Bill 2023 proposes to legislate NSW’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50% by 2030 and to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050.
- An independent body known as the Net Zero Commission (Commission), consisting of commissioners and NSW’s Chief Scientist, will be established to monitor, review and report on NSW’s progress towards the targets.
- Public submissions on the Bill can be made until 25 October 2023, with a final report by a parliamentary committee to be delivered on 17 November 2023.
On 12 October 2023, the Bill was introduced in the Legislative Council by the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Sharpe (also Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage) seeking to:
- establish guiding principles for action to address climate change;
- set targets for the reduction in net GHG emissions in NSW by 2030 and 2050;
- set an ‘adaptation objective’ for NSW to be more resilient to a changing climate; and
- establish the Commission to independently monitor, review and report on progress in NSW towards the 2030 and 2050 targets, the adaptation objective and other matters.
A statutory net zero GHG emissions target for 2050
The Bill proposes to legislate NSW’s GHG emissions targets to:
- reduce net GHG emissions by 50% by EOFY 2030 (from a 2005 baseline); and
- achieve net zero GHG emissions by EOFY 2050.
The Minister’s Second Reading Speech acknowledges that these targets were established by the previous Liberal Government with Labor’s support and would now be legislated.
The Bill allows for regulations to specify how NSW will implement and measure progress towards these targets.
What will the independent Commission do?
The Bill also proposes to establish the Commission, which will be independent from the control and direction of the Minister and consist of:
- five to seven commissioners appointed by the Governor based on the Minister’s recommendation;
- three temporary commissioners appointed by the Minister; and
- NSW’s Chief Scientist.
The Commission will have powers to:
- monitor, review and provide advice and recommendations to the Minister on progress and action taken in relation to the 2030 and 2050 targets and the adaptation objective;
- monitor and review action being taken by NSW to address climate change, and identify and recommend action that could be taken;
- educate and inform the NSW Government, businesses, organisations and individuals to promote action to address climate change;
- require other government agencies to provide information to the Commission relevant to its functions;
- provide a report to the Minister when requested in relation to particular matters, in addition to preparing annual reports in relation to NSW’s progress towards the targets and adaptation objective; and
- establish committees to give advice and assistance to the Commission in connection with its functions.
What are the ‘guiding principles’?
The proposed Act sets out ‘guiding principles’ to inform action to address climate change. These principles include:
- there is a critical need to take action as soon as possible to address climate change, which is a serious threat to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of NSW;
- action to address climate change should be fiscally responsible, promote sustainable economic growth, consider the economic risks of delaying action and be consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development;
- action to address climate change should involve appropriate consultation and take into account the knowledge of Aboriginal communities, the best available science, the impact of action on consumer costs, the supply of utilities and infrastructure, and reduce the risk posed to human health by climate change; and
- the NSW Government is responsible for urgently developing and implementing strategies, policies and programs to address climate change and pursues best practice.
Other proposed changes
The Bill also proposes to:
- enable the relevant Minister to abolish the Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board established by the Minister administering the Energy and Utilities Administration Act 1987;
- enable the Governor to make regulations for the purposes of the Act, including in relation to the targets, adaptation objective, Commission, and savings provisions; and
- provide for a statutory review every five years.
The Bill demonstrates the NSW Government’s commitment to achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2050.
The Bill has been referred to a parliamentary committee for inquiry and report.
Public submissions on the Bill close 25 October 2023, followed by a hearing on 27 October 2023 and final report on 17 November 2023.
Details about the inquiry and how to make a submission are available here.
The Bill will return to Parliament in November 2023.
By Peter Briggs, Partner, Tom Dougherty, Senior Associate, and Andrew Mahler, Solicitor.