ESG Snapshot: Issue 27

ESG Snapshot: Issue 27

Highlights in this week's issue include:

  • Phase-out Biodiversity Conservation Fund, review recommends. The NSW government has been urged to phase-out arrangements that let developers pay into a fund, instead of buying biodiversity credits.
  • New recycling grants. Queensland is offering grants of up to $2.5 million for high-tech resource recovery projects.
  • Mandatory climate disclosure. In the next step towards a mandatory climate risk disclosure regime, Treasury has released a draft Bill.
  • Waste to energy. Victoria is consulting on new regulations.
  • Coal power licence review. NSW's EPA has completed its review of licences for the state's coal-fired power stations.

Interested in working with Visy, WSP Australia, Climateworks, or Treasury Wines? Check out this issue's jobs board!


New consultation opportunity and statutory development - mandatory climate risk disclosure. A draft Bill on climate-related financial disclosure would phase in requirements for companies, super funds, and NGER reporters to prepare annual climate statements.

Matters covered in the statements would include any metrics and targets for scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (with scope 3 metrics and targets to be disclosed from the second annual statement onwards). Comments are due by 9 February.

New consultation opportunity - offshore projects. The federal government is canvassing views on consultation requirements for assessing the impacts and risks of offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities. 

It is seeking views on how to better clarify consultation requirements, how consultation for offshore resources activities can be appropriately targeted, and how all relevant persons, including Traditional Owners and First Nations communities, can participate meaningfully. Submissions close on 23 February.

In conjunction with states and territories, the federal government is updating Australia's Strategy for Nature.

The updated strategy will be finalised before the end of the year, and will show how Australia will contribute to the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

The move follows an agreement by federal, state and territory environment ministers on the six priority areas for national targets under the strategy.

The federal government has announced three critical minerals research projects.

ANSTO will investigate ways to accelerate the discovery, extraction and processing of rare earth elements from lower grade deposits.

CSIRO will examine ways to support downstream industries to produce high purity metals and materials, extending value chains for lithium and rare earths, and supporting value adding to tungsten ores and refractory metals.

Geoscience Australia will research development opportunities for a domestic industry for critical minerals such as gallium, germanium and indium, which are often by-products from processing commodities such as bauxite and zinc.

GreenHorizon has released a report on the 2024 sustainability agenda, based on interviews with experts including Andrew Petersen (chief executive, BCSDA), Anna Marsden (chief executive, Great Barrier Reef Foundation), and Brooke Donnelly, (general manager, sustainability, Coles).


New grant opportunity - recycling. The state government has launched a $10 million ReMade in Queensland (ReMiQ) funding round, which will help small and medium-sized manufacturers and recyclers to adopt processes that reuse materials that are otherwise destined for landfill.

Projects must include advanced robotics and/or include big data, artificial intelligence analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), or digital twin aspects.

Applicants can submit an Expression of Interest for grants of between $50,000 and $2.5 million, with submissions due by 19 February.

The state government will strengthen protections for the rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin by:

  • protecting more areas in the region through better mapping sensitive and fragile rivers and floodplains,
  • maintaining existing conventional production in those rivers and floodplains, but preventing future oil and gas production in those areas as well as ruling out unconventional gas extraction,
  • better recognising and conserving the special ecological features that make the region a global icon, such as braided channel networks and wildlife corridors, and unique species, and
  • working with First Nations Traditional Custodians to ensure their Country and cultural values are better protected, that their priorities and aspirations are supported.

The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water has released a report on Queensland’s water plans in a variable and changing climate.

Open consultations:

New South Wales

The EPA has completed its review of the licences of the state's four coal-fired power stations, and will adjust air emissions limits for some metals. It will also require more frequent air and water monitoring, greater transparency, and increased community engagement.

Power station greenhouse gas emissions will be dealt with separately, through the EPA's Climate Change Action Plan, which will require the preparation of climate change mitigation and adaptation plans.

IPART has concluded NSW's Biodiversity Credits Market is not performing well and requires major changes, in its inaugural annual report on the market.

IPART concludes that allowing project proponents to pay into a Biodiversity Conservation Fund to meet their offset obligations is undermining the biodiversity credits market, and has recommended that the government phase-out the Biodiversity Conservation Fund pay-in option.

Government intervention should focus on reducing establishment and transaction costs for biodiversity credits, while allowing the market to address the remaining costs, IPART says.

In FY23, one in five project developers purchased biodiversity credits through the market, with the remainder opting to make payments into the fund, IPART notes.

The state government has entered a commitment deed with a consortium comprised of ACCIONA, COBRA and Endeavour Energy as preferred Network Operator for the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone.

The 'ACEREZ' consortium has signed on to seek approval to deliver, operate and maintain the REZ transmission network for the next 35 years.

The state government has also increased the intended network capacity of the Central-West Orana REZ to 6 GW by 2038. The initial network capacity of the transmission infrastructure is expected to be 4.5 GW.

The next step for the Central-West Orana REZ is to complete regulatory and planning approvals ahead of the final contract with the network operator being awarded and financial close, scheduled for the second half of 2024.

The environmental impact statement for the REZ is currently on public exhibition, allowing stakeholders to have their say on the project. Assuming state and Commonwealth planning approvals are granted in mid-2024, construction will start in early 2025, with initial operation in 2027–28.

The Legislative Council's Modern Slavery Committee has released the report of its review of the NSW Modern Slavery Act.

Two renewable energy generation projects and three long-duration storage projects were successful in the latest tender round of the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, administered by AEMO Services.

The successful projects, which will receive Long-Term Energy Service Agreement contracts, represent 750MW of renewable energy generation and 524MW/ 4,192MWh of long-duration storage 

They represent $4.2 billion in private sector investment in the state's renewable energy infrastructure, building upon the $4.3 billion in private sector investment committed in AEMO Services' 2 previous tenders.

AEMO Services will conduct biennial tenders for at least the next decade.

The state government has granted approval for Virya Energy's Yanco Delta wind farm in the state's South West Renewable Energy Zone.

The 1500MW wind farm, comprising 208 wind turbines and an 800MW storage battery, will be built about 10 kilometres north-west of Jerilderie.

Consultation opportunity - plastics. Comments are due by 4 February on a discussion paper on plastics released by the EPA.

The ACT government has expanded its ban on plastic shopping bags to include heavyweight soft plastic bags, and plastic-laminated paper and cardboard bags. There are limited exemptions.


Most Victorians are still willing to support renewable energy infrastructure in their local area, such as solar farms (69% ), wind turbines (62%), new transmission lines (64%), large batteries (64%), according to Sustainability Victoria's latest State of Sustainability Report.

But the level of support is between 10 and 20 percentage points lower than was recorded in 2017, says the report, which is based on a survey of more than 2,500 Victorians.

"Careful and well-planned community engagement processes are vital, as once lost, social licence is extremely difficult to regain," the report says.

When asked about the term 'circular economy', 46% of Victorians said they have never heard of it, and a further 26% have heard of it but don't really understand it, the report says.

The state government's new Offshore Wind Implementation Statement 3 deals with matters including procurement and ports, and provides an update on VicGrid's approach to planning the associated transmission infrastructure.

The new statement was released ahead of the federal government's decision that an EPBC referral to assemble offshore wind turbines at the Port of Hastings was environmentally unacceptable, and it describes Hastings as having major advantages for turbine assembly.

It also outlines workforce opportunities across all stages of offshore wind farm development.

The state government expects to kick off a reverse auction for the supply of offshore wind capacity through an expression of interest phase that will start towards the end of this year, followed by a request for proposal phase in 2025, and contract negotiations and the awarding of contracts in 2026.

New consultation opportunity and statutory development - waste to energy. Comments are sought by 2 February on proposed regulations on Victoria's thermal waste-to-energy cap licensing system.

The proposed regulations would prescribing the cap limit of permitted waste that can be processed through new waste to energy projects (set at one million tonnes of waste annually, as previously announced), and would prescribe the fees to be paid.

Thermal waste-to-energy operators that are either operating already or had appropriate approvals in place before November 2021. EO facilities are not required to fit within the cap limit.

Webinars on the proposed regulations will be held on January 17 and 22.

The state government has released the Port Phillip Bay Coastal Hazard Assessment, which examines and maps the likely extent of flooding, erosion, and groundwater change over the coming decades.

Victoria's Container Deposit Scheme has led to the return of more than 100 million containers since it started on 1 November last year, and has disbursed over $10 million in refunds.

The Victorian Environmental Assessment Commission has released its interim report on the values of the forests in the state's central highlands, which notes that the region's mountain ash forests are amongst the forests containing the highest density of carbon in the world. 

Statutory development - resource recovery. The state government has gazetted the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) (Risk, Consequence and Contingency Plans and Other Matters) Regulations 2023.

EPA Victoria has approved an application by Pavilion Biogas Pty Ltd to build an anaerobic digester processing almost 30,000 tonnes of agricultural waste annually into fertiliser and biogas.

Amendment VC250 to the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) is now in force, which bans new gas connections for new homes, apartments and residential subdivisions that require a planning permit.

Open consultations:

New consultation - environmental impact assessment. The state government is consulting on environmental impact assessment processes for projects on reserves managed by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. Comments are due by 8 March.

Grant opportunity - methane. The state government is inviting applications by 29 February for grants to support trials of methane-reducing animal feed supplements. A total of $4 million is on offer.

Remediating PFAS contamination at Launceston airport will cost about $24 million, according to an Airservices Australia submission to a federal parliamentary committee inquiry.

Open consultations:

Construction of the South Australian component of Project EnergyConnect, the new high-voltage transmission line between South Australia and New South Wales, has been completed.

Project EnergyConnect is the largest transmission project ever delivered by transmission business ElectraNet. The transmission line covers 206 kilometres from Robertstown to the SA/NSW state border.

Consultation opportunity and statutory development. Comments are due by 14 February on a discussion paper on the state government's proposed introduction of a new Biodiversity Act.

Western Australia

The state government's ban on the commercial logging of native forests came into force on 1 January. The ban is backed by a new forest management plan.

An EPA assessment report on BP’s Kwinana Renewable Fuels Project, says it is good practice to repurpose an old oil refinery for biofuel production.

The facility would process up to 1,600 cubic metres of biofuel feedstock per day, the report notes.

The EPA report proposes approval conditions that would allow the state government to advise BP that a greenhouse gas management plan is not required to be implemented, if the Safeguard Mechanism applies to the facility.

The proposed conditions include an emissions reduction trajectory reaching net-zero by 2050.

Infrastructure WA's inaugural annual implementation progress report says the challenge for climate change and sustainability is "to convert innovation into business-as-usual practices".

It also encourages the development of a short to medium-term implementation plan to support the energy transition. 

The state government has released a new Community Disaster Resilience Strategy.

Consultation opportunity and statutory development. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is seeking comment by 5 February on draft regulations to implement the federal Industrial Chemicals Environmental Management Standard (IChEMS) in Western Australia.

Northern Territory

The Territory government has awarded Major Project Status to TE H2's Darwin H2 Hub, a proposed green hydrogen production facility at Middle Arm that will at full scale produce more than 80,000 tonnes of renewable hydrogen annually.

TE H2 is a joint venture between TotalEnergies and EREN.

Applications to join the NT EPA as a Board member are now open. Applications must be lodged by 25 January.

Events, jobs, company news, and key international developments are listed below.

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February 5, ANU Climate update. An online event.
February 6, WA Clean energy conference. A conference in Perth, hosted by the Clean Energy Council.
February 8, Circular economy masterclass. An online event hosted by the Green Building Council of Australia.
February 13 and 14, The Australian energy and battery storage conference. An event in Sydney, hosted by Informa.
February 19 and 20, Queensland energy. An Informa conference in Brisbane.
February 21 and 22, The Hunter new energy symposium , hosted by NewH2.
February 26 and 27, Stakeholder capitalism and ESG. A Sydney conference hosted by Kruzade Events.
February 26 and 27, Australian offshore wind conference. An Informa conference in Melbourne.
March 6 and 7, Smart energy expo 2024. An event in Sydney hosted by the Smart Energy Council.
Jobs Board
Clough Projects has a vacancy for a Brisbane-baed sustainability and environment manager.
JBS is seeking a Brisbane-based sustainability analyst.
Mort & Co are hiring a Toowoomba-based sustainability coordinator.
Treasury Wine Estates has a vacancy for a Melbourne-based sustainability and community impact manager.
Visy is recruiting a Melbourne-based manager - carbon and climate, and sustainability analyst.
WSP Australia is recruiting a Perth-based associate director - sustainability and climate change.
Company news and resources
Biomass Projects, which aims to produce biochar from weeds and invasive species, has become the newest core member of a proposed Nature Positive Economy CRC.
Reece Group has issued its latest sustainability report.
Synlait Milk has released its latest sustainability report.
Visy has acquired the assets of collapsed Victorian plastics recycling business Advanced Circular Polymers (ACP). ACP's facility in the Melbourne suburb of Somerton has the capacity to sort and process more than 30,000 tonnes of plastic annually.

The world added 50% more renewable capacity in 2023 than in 2022 and the next five years will see the fastest growth yet, but the lack of financing for emerging and developing economies is key concern, says a new analysis of renewable energy deployment by the International Energy Agency.

Solar PV accounted for three-quarters of the additional capacity worldwide. The largest growth took place in China, which commissioned as much solar PV in 2023 as the entire world did in 2022, while China's wind power additions rose by 66% year-on-year. The increases in renewable energy capacity in Europe, the United States and Brazil also hit all-time highs.

The Canadian government has launched a consultation on a proposed Federal Plastics Registry, which will be used to monitor and track plastic from the time it is produced to its end of life.

The Registry would require producers to report annually on the quantity and types of plastic they place on the Canadian market, how that plastic moves through the economy, and how it is managed at end of life.

The World Economic Forum's latest Global Risks Report shows that 66% of those surveyed consider extreme weather is likely to present a material risk on a global scale in 2024, followed by AI-generated misinformation and disinformation (53%) and social and political polarisation (46%).

The New Jersey legislature has passed legislation that bans the disposal of EV batteries and their subcomponents as solid waste.

Producers of EV batteries will be required to develop and submit a battery management plan for approval, which must describe the methods that will be used to collect and store the used EV batteries that are returned to the producer.

UK-based carbon removals market developer CUR8, along with UNDO, a CO2 removal project developer specialising in CO2 storage through enhanced rock weathering, have teamed with British Airways and Standard Chartered to launch a debt financing pilot to help scale up the carbon removals market.

Under the pilot project, British Airways will purchase more than 4,000 tonnes of carbon removal credits delivered by UNDO through enhanced rock weathering, with Standard Chartered acting as the banking partner.

The pilot aims to create a blueprint for financing the carbon removals industry.

The Canada Growth Fund, which is a subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation has entered into a strategic investment agreement with Canadian CCS developer Entropy Inc.

The CGF has agreed to a $200 million investment in Entropy, coupled with a fixed-price carbon credit purchase agreement of up to one million tonnes per annum.

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