Environment Protection Act 2017

The Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act) defines greenhouse gas substances (GHG) as a waste.

The Act also includes the general environmental duty (GED). It applies to all Victorians. The GED requires that a person who is engaging in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must minimise those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. GHG emissions may create a risk of harm to human health and the environment as they contribute to an increase in climate change risks.

Businesses and complying with the law

Businesses are duty holders and must comply with the GED. This means that businesses have responsibilities under the law.

EPA is developing guidance to support duty holders identify and minimise their risk of harm to human health or the environment from GHGs, so far as reasonably practicable.

EPA intends to provide a draft for public consultation in late 2021 and publish the final version in mid-2022.

Climate Change Act 2017

The Climate Change Act 2017 (CC Act) came into effect on 1 November 2017.  

The CC Act:

  • establishes a long-term emissions reduction target of net zero by 2050
  • requires five yearly interim targets, to keep Victoria on track to meet the long-term target
  • introduces a new set of policy objectives and an updated set of guiding principles to embed climate change in government decision making
  • requires the Government to develop a climate change strategy every five years, which will set out how Victoria will meet its targets and adapt to the impacts of climate change
  • requires Adaption Action Plans for key systems that are either vulnerable to the impacts of climate change or essential to ensure Victoria is prepared (from 2021)
  • establishes a pledging model to reduce emissions from the Government's own operations and from across the economy
  • establishes a system of periodic reporting to provide transparency, accountability and ensure the community remains informed.

Under the requirements of section 17 of the CC Act, EPA has a duty to consider climate change in its licence or permit decisions.

The duty does not alter EPA’s existing powers and obligations as set out in the Environment Protection Act 2017. Rather, it requires the consideration of additional matters when making the decisions identified in Schedule 1 of the CC Act.

Further information about the CC Act is available on DELWP’s website.

Climate change and EPA’s permissioning role

EPA’s role is to protect human health and the environment from pollution and waste.

Our role includes issuing permissions. Permissions include licences, permits and registrations. When making decisions in relation to a licence or permit EPA must consider the potential impacts of climate change relevant to the proposed decision and the potential contribution to the state’s GHG emissions of the proposed decision.

When making licensing and permitting decisions EPA must consider climate change in the following ways.

Potential impacts of climate change

  • potential biophysical impacts
  • potential long and short term economic, environmental, health and other social impacts
  • potential beneficial and detrimental impacts
  • potential direct and indirect impacts
  • potential cumulative impacts.

Potential contribution to the state’s GHG emissions

  • potential short-term and long-term greenhouse gas emissions
  • potential direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions
  • potential increases and decreases in greenhouse gas emissions
  • potential cumulative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Our Development licence application guidance (publication 2011) has more information about how we must consider climate change when making licensing decisions. The guidance also includes:

  • links to the relevant climate change projections for Victoria
  • what applicants should consider and assess (for example, demonstrate proposed design is reasonably practicable compared to best available techniques or technologies)
  • information that applicants need to provide within their development licence applications.

Any guidelines issued by the Minister under the Climate Change Act 2017

The CC Act allows the Minister to issue guidelines for a person making a decision or taking an action identified in Schedule 1 of the CC Act. This applies to EPA as a decision maker. The guidelines can cover the scope and application of the factors we need to consider when making decisions. No such guidelines have been prepared to date.

Reviewed 26 October 2021