EPA revises greenhouse gas policy

09/12/2019 - 14:52

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The Environmental Protection Authority has released a new draft greenhouse gas emissions guideline, which substantially softens the initial draft guideline announced earlier this year.

EPA revises greenhouse gas policy
Tom Hatton says proponents will be expected to articulate their emission reduction targets over time.

The Environmental Protection Authority has released a new draft greenhouse gas emissions guideline, which substantially softens the initial guideline announced earlier this year.

The new guideline asks all major GHG-emitting projects in Western Australia to articulate how they can avoid, reduce and offset emissions.

It comes after the EPA released its initial guidance in March, requiring all projects that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to fully offset those emissions.

The EPA withdrew from the move shortly after and commenced a formal 12-week public consultation in June to shape a new draft guideline, released today.

The guideline, shaped by nearly 7,000 submissions, was also framed by the state government’s 2050 net zero emissions target, announced in August.

EPA chairman Tom Hatton said proponents were expected to make known their emission reduction targets over time.

He said the EPA supported the public reporting of emissions against interim targets set through greenhouse management plans.

“The EPA supports proponents being publicly accountable for meeting the greenhouse gas targets set by the state, and will also consider undertaking its own public reporting on the progress of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in WA,” Dr Hatton said.

“In the nine months since the EPA released its initial guidance, much has changed in the public discourse about the impact climate change is having on our environment.

“Encouragingly, some Australian business leaders in the resources, aviation and other corporate sectors have announced their commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, which we welcome as a step in the right direction towards prioritising the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The EPA will review the guideline after the state government releases its State Climate Policy next year.

The guideline has also been given to EPA’s Stakeholder Reference Group for further feedback, which includes Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA (CME), with the final guidance to be released in March.

CME chief executive Paul Everingham said it was essential CME remains in ongoing discussions around the guideline.

“Today’s draft guideline clearly acknowledges the need to assess new proposals on a case by case basis on their merits, which is something CME advocated for in our submission earlier this year,” he said.

“CME maintains that the most efficient path to emissions reduction is through a nationally consistent approach which drives lowest cost abatement.”

Mr Everingham said the WA resources sector would play a critical role in the transition towards a lower emissions future through the provision of cleaner fuels and minerals essential for batteries, increased electrisation and renewables.

Conservation groups have also commented on the revised guideline, with Conservation Council of Western Australia director Piers Verstegen saying the policy was silent on how the net zero pollution goal would be applied to individual projects.

“We are concerned that there is too much discretion in this policy," he said.

"However, the fundamental principles remain - pollution must go down not up, and new projects must avoid adding to the problem.

“Over recent months great political pressure has been applied to the EPA to set aside the science and instead be swayed by other factors such as the cost to WA’s biggest polluters.

“During this process it has been unedifying to observe WA’s biggest polluters exert influence on WA’s highest political offices in order to block reasonable action on climate change that would create jobs for thousands of West Australians."

Mr Verstegen said the EPA had a clear obligation to provide science-based advice to protect the state's environment, regardless of political pressure.

“Governments may ignore the advice of the EPA, but the EPA also provides important signals to the market, the community and investors," he continued.

“In a situation where the Government appears to be captured by private interests which are making a global climate crisis worse, it is the public role of the EPA’s advice that becomes absolutely critical in delivering its mission to protect the state’s environment."

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