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Climate Change Act 2017
The Climate Change Act 2017 (CC Act) came into effect on 1 November 2017 after being passed by the Victorian Parliament.
When assessing a works approval application, the particularly relevant sections of the CC Act are:
- Section 17(1) requires EPA to consider climate change in works approval decisions (to issue or refuse a works approval), as identified in Schedule 1 of the CC Act.
- Section 17 (2) requires EPA to have regard to:
- the potential impacts of climate change relevant to the decision or action
- the potential contribution to the State's greenhouse gas emissions of the decision or action
- any guidelines issued by the Minister (Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change) under section 18. To date, no such guidelines have been issued.
- Section 17 (3) sets out the relevant considerations for EPA in having regard to the potential impacts of climate change. These are the potential biophysical impacts, the potential long and short term economic, environmental, health and social impacts, the potential beneficial and detrimental impacts, the potential direct and indirect impacts, and the potential cumulative impacts.
- Section 17 (4) sets out the relevant considerations for EPA in having regard to the potential contribution to the State’s greenhouse gas emissions. These are the potential short-term and long-term greenhouse gas emissions, the potential direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, the potential increases and decreases in greenhouse gas emissions, and the potential cumulative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.
These duties set out in the CC Act do not change EPA's existing powers and obligations set out in the Environment Protection Act 1970. Rather, it requires the consideration of additional factors when making works approval decisions.
As with EPA's existing works approval application process, we require the applicant to provide sufficient information within the works approval application to enable us to make an informed and robust decision.
The CC Act also includes a net zero greenhouse gas target for Victoria by 2050, and provides a mechanism to achieve this by setting interim targets, as well as monitoring and reporting of performance against these targets. The works approval process helps to ensure appropriate consideration is given to greenhouse gas emissions during the planning stage of future development of scheduled premises. There is no change in the need for generators of greenhouse gases to avoid and minimise their emissions in accordance with the waste hierarchy and apply best practice and continuous improvement in energy and greenhouse gas management as required by the State Environment Protection Policy (Air Quality Management) (clauses 18, 19 and 33).
Key climate change concepts
The following are key climate change concepts we consider when making decisions relating to works approval applications:
- Climate change will result in altered environmental conditions, for example from sea-level rise, changes in flood plains, more frequent and pronounced droughts, or more extreme wet weather and storms.
- Climate change resilience and adaptation - managing the effect or potential effect of climate change impacts on the proposed facility's design to be resilient to those impacts. For example, is the proposed facility at risk from increased flooding and what design changes have been made to mitigate this risk? Will the process or facility be able to operate as planned with the projected changes in climate and what adaptation measures (design changes and future contingencies) are proposed?
- Potential impacts of proposals under a changed climate will be different - for example, from reduced dilution of pollutants within a river in 2030, flowing at 70 per cent of current flow.
- Potential impacts will be varied and complex - impacts may:
- be beneficial or detrimental
- be direct or indirect
- be cumulative
- have interactions with other economic, health and social considerations
- have different durations (long-term changes in climate and environmental conditions, contrasting with temporary extreme storm events).
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions - managing activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example:
- by switching to renewable energy sources
- through installation of more energy efficient plant
- regular maintenance of plant to ensure it is operating efficiently.
Information for applicants
Climate change projections
For the most recent (2016) regional climate change projections (for 2030 and 2070), applicants can access the Victorian Government's Climate Ready Factsheets and Regional Data Sheets (DELWP) as well as the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology's projections on the Commonwealth Government's Climate Change in Australia website.
Information on future surface water availability under a changed climate was published by the Victorian Climate Initiative (a Victorian Government launched research initiative with research partners CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology) in 2016 which includes hydroclimate predictions for 2040 and 2065.
Further detailed information on sea level rise projections for 2100 under low, medium and high emissions scenarios (for Victorian central coastline between Bells Beach and San Remo (including Port Phillip Bay and Westernport Bay) can be accessed at Geoscience Australia's OzCoasts.
For further background and detailed explanation of climate change projections in Australia, projections, the use of projection data and key consideration in the use of the data, please refer to the Department of Environment and Bureau of Meteorology's Climate Change in Australia website.
Climate change adaption, resilience and impact assessment
Information on potential climate change impacts can be found in Protecting our future environment in a changing climate (publication 1293). This contains information on predicted changes to the Victorian climate (at the time of publication) and potential impacts arising from future changes to the climate. For more up to date climate change projection information, refer to Victorian Government's Climate Ready Factsheets and Regional Data Sheets (DELWP).
While there are numerous published guidance documents about climate change adaptation, resilience and impact assessment, there are no published guidance documents that are applicable to all environmental segments, economic, health and social considerations or industrial sectors. Use the DELWP factsheets as a starting point and have a further discussion with EPA at the pre-application stage.
Greenhouse gas emissions
In the absence of any sector-specific greenhouse gas emission calculators, such as Australian Pork's PigGas Calculator, information to support the calculation of emissions of greenhouse gases can be found in the National Greenhouse Accounts (NGA) Factors webpages (Climate Change - Department of the Environment and Energy). The NGA Factors are designed for use by companies and individuals to estimate greenhouse gas emissions and are updated annually.
Applicants should also refer to Protocol for environmental management: greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency in industry (publication 824), which provides guidance for business on the SEPP (Air Quality Management) (SEPP (AQM)) and its requirements for the management of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. The protocol specifies the steps that will need to be taken by businesses to demonstrate compliance with the policy principles and provisions of SEPP (AQM) related to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, and how EPA will assess compliance.
When considering the potential contribution applications may have to Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions, applicants should refer to the Australian Greenhouse Gas Emissions Information System to obtain the latest greenhouse gas emission data.
Information to be provided by applicants
In preparing works approval applications, EPA requires applicants to include sufficient information to enable EPA to consider potential climate change impacts and the contribution of the proposal to Victoria's emission of greenhouse gas. Failure to include sufficient information may result in EPA not accepting the application for assessment and / or EPA requesting further information, which could result in delays.Applications should transparently include information on and demonstrate that consideration and assessment has been given to:
- potential impacts of climate change on the proposal (that is, how resilient the proposal will be to future environmental conditions under climate change and what (if any) climate change adaptation measures are proposed. If measures are considered necessary, these should be clearly identified in a discrete Climate Change Adaptation Management Plan (CCAMP). This should include a schedule of the proposed measures, details of the regular monitoring and review of key parameters that will trigger the implementation of the adaptation measure(s).
- potential impacts of a proposal under future climate scenarios with reference to the Victorian Government's Climate Ready Factsheets and Regional Data Sheets
- potential contribution to Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions and adoption of best practice measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with reference to Demonstrating best practice (Publication 1517).
Applicants seeking further guidance on information they need to provide within their applications demonstrating how they have considered climate change should discuss the information required with EPA at the pre-application stage.
Reviewed 8 September 2020