EDO is advising a client opposed to a new Bill that would amend the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012 (Cth) to allow public funds managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to be used to support new fossil fuel projects, including gas.

The CEFC is an investment fund established in 2012 to invest in renewable energy, low-emissions technology and energy-efficiency projects.

The Bill, known as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Amendment (Grid Reliability Fund) Bill 2020, tabled by the Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, seeks to redefine what constitutes a ‘low-emissions technology’, allowing the CEFC to invest public funds in gas infrastructure as part of the Federal Government’s ‘gas-led Covid-19 recovery.’

Our client is concerned that the Bill will encourage investment in new gas projects and divert funds away from renewable energy, and is therefore incompatible with the need to make immediate and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Acting on behalf of Greenpeace, EDO has written to the Senate Legislative Committee, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, arguing that the Minister’s failure to assess the Bill’s impacts on the human rights that will be affected by climate change is a potential breach of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth).

Under that Act, a member of parliament who proposes to introduce a Bill is required to prepare an assessment of whether the Bill is in accordance with human rights, as defined by reference to seven international human rights treaties ratified by Australia. The assessment is important as it enables Parliament to make an informed decision as to whether the passage of the Bill into law would be compatible with human rights.

Our client argues that the Minister’s assessment was inadequate, and potentially unlawful, as it completely failed to consider the impact of the Bill on the human rights that will be limited by climate change. In fact, the Minister identified that only one human right was relevant to the Bill – Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – and concluded that the Bill would have a positive effect on this right by improving energy affordability.

Our client argues that because the Bill will further expose Australians, and in particular Australian children, to the effects of dangerous climate change, including negative impacts on human health and reductions in food security, it will limit several human rights guaranteed under the ICESCR, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Our client has requested that the Bill be remitted back to Parliament and/or reconsidered by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights so that its impacts on human rights in connection with climate change can be properly assessed.

Read the letter:

The Environment and Communications Legislation Committee released its report into the bill on November 4th 2020, recommending it be passed. 

The committee rejected many of the objections to the bill stating that it “strikes an appropriate balance in supporting vital grid stability technologies while at the same time encouraging the continued large-scale deployment of renewable energy technologies.”  

ALP and Greens released separate, dissenting reports. concluding that the bill dilutes both the CEFC’s focus on emissions reduction and its financial independence.

Read the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee’s report: