Overview

In September 2019 the Government of Western Australia (WA Government) released its Issues Paper on Climate Change in Western Australia (Climate Issues Paper) to inform the development of the new State Climate Policy. The Climate Issues Paper is open to public consultation until 29 November 2019. EDO WA has written this factsheet in response to the issues paper.

Western Australia (WA) is the only Australian state with rising greenhouse gas emissions, largely due to the expansion of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production and export.[1] It is also the only state or territory except New South Wales without an emissions reduction target or renewable energy target, with it currently only having an aspirational net zero emissions target and lagging behind the rest of the country in reducing its emissions and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.[2]

This consultation process is therefore a crucial opportunity for the WA public to contribute to the development of the new State Climate Policy and to ensure that it is capable of proactively and effectively reducing WA’s emissions and adapting to climate change risks.

What is the Climate Issues Paper?

The Climate Issues Paper outlines the WA Government’s perspective of the key issues facing WA in the transition to a resilient, low-carbon economy. The WA Government states that feedback on the Climate Issues Paper will shape its future response under the new State Climate Policy, and support development of a long‑term vision for WA.[3]

What does the Climate Issues Paper cover?

The Climate Issues Paper refers to WA’s increasing greenhouse gas emissions, current and future climate change impacts in WA, the international and national context to climate change, and issues and opportunities for WA in developing a State Climate Policy. The issues and opportunities are broken down into 11 themes:

  • TRANSFORMING ENERGY GENERATION
  • INDUSTRY INNOVATION
  • FUTURE MOBILITY
  • REGIONAL PROSPERITY
  • WASTE REDUCTION
  • SAFE AND HEALTHY COMMUNITIES
  • WATER SECURITY
  • LIVEABLE TOWNS AND CITIES
  • RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE AND BUSINESSES
  • PROTECTING BIODIVERSITY
  • STRENGTHENING ADAPTIVE CAPACITY

The Climate Issues Paper does not include an emissions reduction target or renewable energy target.

What is WA’s current climate policy?

The WA Government’s current climate policy, Adapting to our Changing Climate, was published in October 2012. It refers to the current and future impacts of climate change on WA and the need to respond to climate change through mitigation and adaptation. It also includes future directions and actions in relation to water security; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; energy; resilient infrastructure; healthy people and communities; healthy ecosystems; and climate science information. Given it was published 7 years ago, it is in urgent need of reform to reflect contemporary climate science and circumstances.

On 28 August 2019, the WA Government released its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy for Major Projects that refers to the State’s aspiration of net zero emissions by 2050. This policy applies specifically to government decision making for major projects that are assessed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and does not constitute a state-wide or whole-of-government climate policy. Further, this target is aspirational and is not supported by any strategies or plans to ensure its achievement.

What is the WA Government consulting on?

The WA Government has requested input through submissions from business, industry, local government and the community on the issues and opportunities in relation to the 11 themes listed above to inform the development of WA’s new State Climate Policy.

Many of the questions in the Climate Issues Paper are technical and detailed (see Appendix 1 below). To assist the public in writing submissions, we have summarised the issues we believe should be addressed in submissions more simply below. These questions are not comprehensive and were developed based on comparisons to climate policies in other Australian states and territories.

RECOMMENDED ISSUES TO ADDRESS IN SUBMISSIONS

  • WHAT ARE THE KEY CLIMATE RISKS THAT WA FACES?
  • HOW CAN WA MITIGATE EMISSIONS AND ADAPT TO THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE?
  • WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DOES CLIMATE CHANGE PRESENT IN WA?
  • IS THE FRAMEWORK PROPOSED IN THE CLIMATE ISSUES PAPER SUFFICIENT TO REDUCE WA’S GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND ADAPT TO CLIMATE RISKS?
  • SHOULD WA’S CLIMATE POLICY INCLUDE:
  • SHOULD CLIMATE CHANGE BE EMBEDDED IN LEGISLATION, POLICY AND DECISION-MAKING IN WA AND HOW?
  • SHOULD A CLIMATE CHANGE FUND BE ESTABLISHED IN WA?
  • HOW CAN WA’S CLIMATE POLICY SUPPORT COMMUNITY CAPACITY AND ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE?
  • HOW CAN ABORIGINAL KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICES BE APPLIED TO HELP WA MITIGATE AND ADAPT TO CLIMATE CHANGE?
  • HOW SHOULD WA’S CLIMATE POLICY INTERACT WITH FEDERAL POLICIES AND REGULATION?
  • WHAT MONITORING, REPORTING AND EVALUATION MECHANISMS SHOULD EXIST?
  • SHOULD WA CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION BE INTRODUCED TO SUPPORT POLICY INITIATIVES?

MITIGATION

  • HOW CAN WA REDUCE ITS GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND TRANSITION TO A LOW-CARBON ECONOMY?
  • HOW CAN WA ENSURE A JUST TRANSITION TO A LOW-CARBON ECONOMY?
  • HOW CAN WA ENCOURAGE CLIMATE MITIGATION EFFORTS (FOR EXAMPLE THROUGH STRATEGIES, PATHWAYS OR ACTION PLANS)?

ADAPTATION

  • WHAT CHALLENGES DOES WA FACE IN RESPONDING AND ADAPTING TO CLIMATE RISKS AND HOW CAN THESE BE OVERCOME?
  • HOW CAN WA ENCOURAGE CLIMATE ADAPTATION EFFORTS (FOR EXAMPLE THROUGH STRATEGIES, PATHWAYS OR ACTION PLANS)?
  • SHOULD WA HAVE A SEPARATE ADAPTATION STRATEGY OR PLAN?

SPECIFIC ISSUES

WHAT ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES ASSOCIATED WITH CLIMATE MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION EXIST IN RELATION TO:

  • ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND PRODUCTIVITY;
  • INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION;
  • TRANSPORT EMISSIONS AND FUTURE MOBILITY;
  • VULNERABILITY INCLUDING PROSPERITY OF REGIONAL AND REMOTE COMMUNITIES;
  • WASTE MANAGEMENT AND EMISSIONS;
  • IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH AND WELLBEING AND COMMUNITIES;
  • WATER SECURITY;
  • LIVEABLE TOWNS AND CITIES;
  • RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE AND BUSINESS;
  • LAND MANAGEMENT, BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEMS;
  • ADAPTIVE CAPACITY;
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY CAPACITY;
  • CARBON OFFSETS;
  • ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSITION.

How does the Climate Issues Paper compare to climate policies in other states and territories?

While the Climate Issues Paper acknowledges that WA’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, in our view it does not substantially address how these emissions can be effectively avoided, managed or reduced. Instead, it focuses on adaptation and preserving WA’s economic development. The Climate Issues Paper does not propose to introduce an emissions reduction target or renewable energy target in WA or pathways to achieve these targets, like other Australian states and territories. While it refers to the aspirational net zero emissions target included in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy for Major Projects, it is unclear whether this target will be incorporated in the new State Climate Policy.

This means that WA will continue to be one of the only Australian states or territories with no emissions reduction target or renewable energy target formally included in policy or legislation.

The greenhouse gas emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for each state and territory are summarised in the table and graphic below:

  ACT VIC QLD TAS NT SA NSW WA
EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGET 40% BY 2020; 50-60% BY 2025;
65-75% BY 2030; 90-95% BY 2040; 100% BY 2045
15-20% BELOW 2005 LEVELS BY 2020 AT LEAST 30% REDUCTION IN GHGE ON 2005 LEVELS BY 2030 60% BELOW 1990 LEVELS BY 2050 (LEGISLATED) AT LEAST 60% TO AN AMOUNT THAT IS EQUAL TO OR LESS THAN 40% OF 1990 LEVELS BY 31 DECEMBER 2050 (LEGISLATED)
NET ZERO EMISSIONS TARGET NET ZERO BY 2045 NET ZERO BY 2050 NET ZERO BY 2050 (LEGISLATED) NET ZERO BY 2050 (ACHIEVED) NET ZERO BY 2050 NET ZERO BY 2050 NET ZERO BY 2050 NET ZERO BY 2050
RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET 100% BY 2020 25% BY 2020 40% BY 2025 50% BY 2030 100% BY 2020 50% BY 2030

Can and should the WA Government establish climate policies?

Sub-national governments (including state and local governments) are recognised as being at the forefront of climate action.[4] While sub-national governments are not able to implement policies on a federal level, they are uniquely suited to taking climate mitigation and adaptation action and contributing to national action on climate change.

Here in Australia, most climate action has come from state and local governments.[5] Some participants in the discussion argue, however, that responding to climate change is the responsibility of the Commonwealth government. While both the Commonwealth and state government have powers relating to the environment, protection of the environment has historically been the responsibility of state governments.[6]

All other Australian states and territories have emissions reductions targets and/or renewable energy targets that are more ambitious than Commonwealth targets.[7] This has resulted in Australian states and territories being commended for driving the increase in renewable energy generation[8] and being expected to deliver Australia’s Paris Agreement target, even without action from the Federal Government.[9]

The WA Government therefore can and should establish a state policy on climate change. This policy can be ambitious and developed in a way that is complementary and responsive to Commonwealth policies and regulation to address concerns relating to inconsistency and duplication.

How does the Climate Issues Paper relate to Australia’s international obligations?

The Climate Issues Paper refers to Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement to limiting warming to well below 2℃ above pre‑industrial levels and actions to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change. Australia’s target under the Paris Agreement is to reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target has been criticised as being insufficient to achieve the goals under the Paris Agreement,[10] and Australia is not on track to meet this target, with its emissions continuing to increase.[11]

In order for WA to contribute to Australia’s efforts in achieving its obligations under the Paris Agreement, emissions need to be decreased, not increased. Despite this, the Climate Issues Paper expressly acknowledges that “new resource sector proposals are likely to drive increases to WA’s emissions in the short term”.[12]

Contacts and further information

APPENDIX 1

ISSUES PAPER CONSULTATION QUESTIONS

TRANSFORMING ENERGY GENERATION

  1. What are the main challenges for decarbonising Western Australia’s electricity supply while ensuring adequate generation capacity, security and reliability?
  2. What are the most effective ways to overcome these challenges by 2030?
  3. Should the electricity sector make a pro-rata (or greater) contribution to Australia’s national greenhouse gas emission targets?
  4. How fast do you think the transition of the electricity sector should occur?

INDUSTRY INNOVATION

  1. What measures have been implemented by your business to lower energy use or emissions?
  2. What are the barriers to decoupling energy use and emissions in the resources sector?
  3. Have you assessed the implications of the low carbon transition for your business or sector? How are these risks disclosed to stakeholders?
  4. What exemptions should apply to trade-exposed sectors in reducing our emissions?
  5. How can the Government of Western Australia foster clean industries and technologies?

FUTURE MOBILITY

  1. What are the barriers to purchasing a low-emissions vehicle for your household or business?
  2. What can be done to facilitate the uptake of electric and other low-emission vehicles in Western Australia?
  3.  How can we further encourage use of public transport and active transport, such as walking and cycling?
  4. How can we ensure that Western Australia isn’t left behind in the transition to cleaner transportation?

REGIONAL PROSPERITY

  1. How will climate change affect your regional community?
  2. What steps can we take to further enhance the resilience of our regions and our primary industries?
  3. How can we support the agricultural sector to participate in the low-carbon transition?
  4. What opportunities do carbon offset markets present for Western Australian land managers, including Aboriginal groups?
  5. What matters should the State Government take into account in developing a strategy for carbon farming in Western Australia?

WASTE REDUCTION

  1. What areas can we target to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from waste?
  2. What can households, businesses and government do to reduce their waste and compost more?

SAFE & HEALTHY COMMUNITIES

  1. What are the main climate risks for your household or your community? What can be done to manage these risks?
  2. What are your biggest concerns about Western Australia’s future climate?
  3. What could be done to ensure your community is better prepared for possible climate impacts?

WATER SECURITY

  1. What can we do to encourage Western Australians to use water more efficiently and adapt to a drying climate?
  2. Are there policies adopted in other jurisdictions we should consider for Western Australia?
  3. What are the best management options to deal with water security implications of climate change for our agricultural sector?

LIVEABLE TOWNS & CITIES

  1. What are the key barriers to improved energy efficiency for our built environment?
  2. What information or tools do you require to improve energy efficiency in your household or workplace?
  3. What energy efficiency standards or disclosure measures do you support for our homes and offices and the appliances we use in them?
  4. How do you think climate change will affect the liveability of your neighbourhood or region?
  5. How can we improve the retention of vegetation, particularly tree canopy, in our cities and suburbs?

RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE & BUSINESSES

  1. What are the key climate risks for the primary industry or resources sectors?
  2. Do you currently assess the impact of physical climate risks on your business, assets or infrastructure?
  3. Is there information which would assist you to do this better?
  4. What are the best ways to enhance the resilience of public and private infrastructure?

PROTECTING BIODIVERSITY

  1. Can existing land use and biodiversity management practices be modified to reduce vulnerability and improve resilience?
  2. Are there opportunities for new collaborations with landholders or communities to address climate risks and improve biodiversity outcomes?

STRENGTHENING ADAPTIVE CAPACITY

  1. Are there gaps in the availability of adaptation knowledge, climate information or skills for your community, organisation or sector? How can these be addressed?
  2. What are the main barriers to the adoption of effective climate change adaptation?

  • [1] Climate Analytics, ‘Western Australia’s Gas Gamble – Implications of natural gas extraction in WA’ (Report, March 2018) https://climateanalytics.org/media/climateanalytics-report-westernaustraliasgasgamble-2018.pdf
  • [2] Climate Council Australia, ‘Powering Progress: States Renewable Energy Race’ (Report, 2018) https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/States-renewable-energy-report-1.pdf
  • [3] Government of Western Australia, Issues Paper: Climate Change in Western Australia, V.
  • [4] The Climate Group and Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development, ‘Subnational governments at the forefront of climate action’ (Report, 2010) https://seors.unfccc.int/applications/seors/attachments/get_attachment?code=6DTDMM8OJPR1X4Q3ILP6CAZZB3HTGI32
  • [5] Jacqueline Peel, ‘Climate Change Law: The Emergence of a New Legal Discipline,’ (2008) 32(3) Melbourne University Law Review 922, 943.
  • [6] Daniel Goldsworthy, ‘Re-stumping Australia’s Constitution – A Case for Environmental Recognition,’ (June 2017) 4 Australian Journal of Environmental Law 54, 64.
  • [7] Climate Action Tracker, ‘Australia: Country Summary’, Climate Action Tracker (Web Page) https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/australia/
  • [8] Climate Council Australia, Renewables Ready: States Leading the Charge (Report, 2017) II https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/9a3734e82574546679510bdc99d57847.pdf
  • [10] Climate Transparency, ‘Brown to Green: The G20 Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy’, Climate Transparency (Infographic Summary) https://www.climate-transparency.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/BROWN-TO-GREEN_2018_Australia_FINAL.pdf
  • [11] Climate Action Tracker, ‘Australia: Country Summary’, Climate Action Tracker (Web Page) https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/australia/
  • [12] Government of Western Australia, Issues Paper: Climate Change in Western Australia, 7.