The Environmental Defenders Office comprehensive recommendations for climate-ready planning laws for NSW, published in March 2019, include a new Climate Change Act, a Minister for Climate Change and a Climate Change Division within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Our report, Climate-ready planning laws for NSW – Rocky Hill and Beyond, maps out how the NSW planning system should be addressing climate change. There are three report documents:
- The summary of recommendations
- The full report
- An additional report on implications for current projects
There are major deficiencies in NSW laws in terms of climate-readiness. Firstly, unlike other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally, NSW lacks an effective, whole-of-government legal framework for responding to climate change. We recommend a new Climate Change Act, a Minister for Climate Change and a Climate Change Division within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Secondly, the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 fails to comprehensively incorporate climate change considerations into planning and development processes, despite the NSW planning system having a key role to play in reducing contributions to greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), and planning to live with the impacts of climate change we are already experiencing and which are projected for the future (adaptation).
Inadequate legislative obligations or guidance in relation to climate change means that decision makers are in the legislative dark about how best to consider likely climate change impacts, what project approval conditions relating to climate change are reasonable and how adaptation considerations and climate risks should affect the exercise of powers and discretion.
The implication is that despite the decision in the Rocky Hill case, the assessment and consideration of greenhouse gas emissions for NSW projects will continue to be inconsistent and potentially incompatible with the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Our report maps out reforms to NSW planning laws that would ensure that today’s communities, planners, developers and decision makers have the guidance needed, including a duty to reduce emissions and limit warming to 1.5°C, to manage climate risks, protect assets, lives and livelihoods, and plan for a just transition away from fossil fuel production and use, consistent with the latest IPCC advice.