The Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 (“the Act”) was enacted in 2007 with the aim of promoting ecologically sustainable development in South Australia through the development of policies and programs that address the issues of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The Act is overseen by the Minister for Sustainability and Climate Change who is supported by the Sustainability and Climate Change Office. This portfolio is currently managed by the Premier of South Australia.
Objects of the Act
The Act sets out a number of objects aiming to encourage and promote ideals such as energy efficiency and conservation, research and development into technology to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions and adaption to climate change, reporting processes on the State‟s progress in relation to its targets as well as national and international schemes, and the recognition of bodies and persons committed to addressing climate change.
The achievement of the objects of the Act are relevant to the policies the Minister can develop in assisting in reducing or limiting climate change or greenhouse gas emissions and facilitating adaption to circumstances inevitably caused by climate change.
Target of the Act
The Act aims to set targets for the State in the lowering of levels of greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in the proportion of renewable energy being generated and consumed.
The principle target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the State by 31 December 2050 by at least 60% or to an amount that is equal or less than 40% of 1990 levels as part of the national and international response to climate change.
“Greenhouse gas emissions” are defined under the Act as emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydro fluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride.
Targets of an increase of 20% in both the renewable energy being generated and consumed in the State by 31 December 2014 have also been incorporated into the Act. Renewable energy sources include wind, solar and geothermal power.
The process by which the targets, baselines and reduction levels of greenhouse gas emissions are calculated is undertaken by the Minister. The Minister is also empowered to set sector-based targets that relate to specific enterprises and industries and sectors of the State‟s economy and community, interim targets and specific baselines for particular areas of activity. These “sector-agreements” are entered into on a voluntary basis and currently exist with organisations such as the Local Government Association, the South Australian Wine Industry Association and the Property Council of Australia (SA Division).
All of the above determinations relating to targets must be made having obtained advice from relevant experts and should be consistent with the best national and international practices in calculating and measuring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or the use of renewable energy. The Minister can however vary any target or determination made under the Act after taking into account new or updated methodologies or advice or any other factor considered relevant by the Minister. Further details of these agreements can be found in the document „Report on the operations of the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007‟ available at www.climatechange.sa,gov.au.
How to Report
The Minister must on a two yearly basis prepare a report on the operation of this Act which includes an assessment of the effectiveness of the initiatives set for the targets and any progress being made, a summary of greenhouse gas emissions and the development of technologies, offset programs and the development of significant national or international commitments or agreements as well as a report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The latest report from November 2009 has been incorporated in the Report on the operations of the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 and can be accessed via the website.
A report from the minister‟s department must also annually include a report on work done within the department in relation to the development of climate change policy and related initiatives.
Further, a review of the Act and its operation must be made on a four-yearly basis and published in a report detailing the extent to which the objects of the Act are being achieved and any extent to which further legislative measures (if any) should be taken.
The Premiers Climate Change Council
The Act establishes the Premier‟s Climate Change Council consisting of people from various expertises, to provide independent advice to the Minister on matters related to the objects of the Act, namely reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change and its findings must be published yearly.
Voluntary Offset Programs
The Act includes provisions relating to the recognition, promotion and facilitation of voluntary emission offset programs, however at this stage no action has been taken by the State Government in lieu of a Commonwealth offset program.
Provisions have also been made for the making of regulations under the Act, at this stage however no regulations have been made.
Further information about the State government initiatives concerning climate change and about the Act can be found at the website www.climatechange.sa.gov.au.
The Environmental Defenders Office (SA) inc, (EDO) is a non-profit community legal centre offering free advice to individuals and groups on all matters of environmental law. The EDO operates an advisory on Thursday evenings between 6-8PM at: 408 King William St Adelaide SA 5000 Fax +61 (08) 8410 3855. Appointments are necessary and must be made by ringing 8410 3833 or freecall 1800 337 566. It is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Important legal details have been omitted to provide a brief overview of this law. Contact the EDO or your solicitor for more detailed legal advice about your specific problem. This guide was funded by a grant from the Law Foundation of South Australia.