Highlights in this week's issue include:
- Rating renewables developers. Australia's Energy Infrastructure Commissioner wants renewables developers rated, and approval processes overhauled.
- New green bond. Ahead of this year's inaugural federal government green bond, the Queensland Treasury Corporation has issued its sixth green bond.
- Fuel efficiency catch-up. Australia will no longer be an OECD outlier on fuel efficiency standards, with Minister Bowen announcing the introduction of a New Vehicle Efficiency Standard.
- Australia should re-cast its climate pledge: Top UNFCCC official. By the time of COP30 in 2025, countries including Australia must have "seriously re-engineered" their international pledges, according to the UNFCCC's Simon Stiell (see our international round-up at the end of this issue).
- Coal grants. The Queensland government is offering grants to metallurgical coal miners for projects that reduce their operational emissions.
- Resource recovery funding. SA is offering circular economy grants and WA is offering e-waste infrastructure grants.
Interested in working with BlueScope, Cleanaway, The Climate Risk Group, or Powerlink Queensland? Check out this issue's jobs board!
The Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner has recommended that an independent body be established to administer an opt-in rating scheme for renewable energy infrastructure developers, which would focus strongly on their community engagement practices.
The report also recommends minimising the need for elongated community
engagement "by re-engineering planning and environmental assessment
and approval processes".
In addition, the report recommends:
- ensuring jurisdictions have the power to select which developers can prospect and develop projects in renewable energy zones, based on merit criteria.
- eliminating unnecessary community engagement by selecting the best project sites, and avoiding inappropriate sites.
- improving community understanding of the need for the transition, including what is to be deployed in their region as well as where, when and why.
- improving acceptance of transition changes and impacts by
engaging the community to identify opportunities and enable sustainable
- establishing an ombudsman in each state and territory to deal with complaints about renewable energy infrastructure projects.
- running a communications program that gives information to local communities on the reasons for the energy transition.
Consultation opportunity - fuel efficiency. The government plans to legislate a New Vehicle Efficiency Standard, which will impose a gradually strengthening limit on CO2 grams emitted per kilometre by new vehicles sold in Australia.
The standard would operate from 2025 - with one applying to cars and SUVs, and another for utes and light commercial vehicles - and by about 2028 would catch up with the US standard.
Australia and Russia are currently the only developed countries that don't have fuel efficiency standards. Comments are due by 4 March.
Parliament resumes tomorrow, and Senate Estimates hearings will run from February 12 to 16.
A new ARENA-backed 'silicon to solar' roadmap sets out a framework for Australia to become a manufacturer of solar cells and modules.
It recommends that the government declare the development of a solar PV manufacturing industry as a strategic priority, and that it streamline permitting and approval processes, as well as visa pathways for those with solar expertise.
It also recommends that the government provide concessional finance and introduce a payment-for-results production credits regime to bridge the cost gap compared to PV manufacturing in China.
The report was developed by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI) working with Deloitte and a group of key industry stakeholders including the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), AGL, Aspiradac, Energus, Siemens, SunDrive, Tindo Solar and 5B.
CEFC-backed Virescent Ventures, which was established to manage the CEFC's early stage climate tech portfolio, is raising a new fund targeting $200 million to further catalyse private sector investment in Australian climate tech opportunities.
The new fund is expected to be corner-stoned by the CEFC. To date, Virescent has backed 33 innovative climate tech businesses, funds and incubators.
APRA, which regulates the finance sector, will this year review the effectiveness of its Prudential Practice Guide CPG 229 Climate Change Financial Risks (CPG 229), with consultations likely to start in the second half of the year.
APRA will this year also ask entities to respond voluntarily to its next Climate Risk Self-Assessment survey, which will provide insights on their alignment to the principles in CPG 229.
For general insurance, APRA will this year continue its work on the Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA), involving Australia’s largest general insurers. The insurance CVA will assess the potential impacts of climate change on home insurance affordability out to 2050.
A new Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus released by the federal government showcases 52 investment-ready critical minerals projects.
Former Macquarie executive Ivan Power has been appointed the inaugural chief executive of the National Reconstruction Fund, which will support industry in seven areas, including renewables and value-added resources.
Power is also a board member of Generation Australia, which aims to place people into jobs at scale.
The Senate committee inquiry into Senator David Pocock's intergenerational equity Bill will hold its first hearing on 22 February, while the Senate inquiry into greenwashing will hold its first hearing on 4 March, with the programs for both hearings yet to be finalised.
The federal government has awarded $136.8 million to BlueScope to help finance a blast furnace reline at its Port Kembla steelworks, while Liberty Steel will receive $63.2 million to to replace the existing blast furnace at its Whyalla steelworks with a low-carbon electric arc furnace.
The grants have been awarded through the Powering the Regions Fund.
The Clean Energy Regulator has released its latest Large-scale Renewable Energy Target market data, which shows a total of 2.2GW of new capacity was approved to earn Large-scale Generation Certificates in 2023.
The Australian Energy Regulator's latest Wholesale Markets Quarterly Report shows that average annual wholesale electricity prices in the National Electricity Market (NEM) fell by between 44% and 64% in 2023, and average annual east coast gas market spot prices fell by 43%.
Prices fell due to milder weather conditions, lower fuel costs, fewer coal supply issues, and an increase in cheap wind and solar supply.
The federal government has submitted a Great Barrier Reef progress report to UNESCO, which says the Reef "remains one of the best-managed World Heritage properties". It has also released a Great Barrier Reef wetlands strategy.
Grant opportunity - reducing livestock emissions. Applications will open on Wednesday for grants of between $1 million and $3 million for projects to reduce methane emissions from livestock. A total of $9 million is available, and applications must be submitted by 20 March.
Energy Economics has published a paper titled 'Waiting to generate: An analysis of onshore wind and solar PV project development lead-times in Australia', by Thomas Clapin and Thomas Longden.
"There is an enduring knowledge gap about the capacity of regional Australia to meet the growing demand for clean energy workers," says a joint submission by the Clean Energy Council and the Australian Hydrogen Council to Jobs and Skills Australia on its FY25 work plan.
The Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence has released its latest annual report.
- Mandatory climate risk disclosure. Comments are due by 9 February on a draft Bill on climate-related financial disclosure that would phase in requirements for companies, super funds, and NGER reporters to prepare annual climate statements.
- Offshore projects. The federal government is canvassing views on consultation requirements for assessing offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities. Submissions close on 23 February.
The Queensland Treasury Corporation has issued a $2.75 billion certified green bond, with a coupon rate of 4.75%, and a maturity date of 2 February 2034.
Proceeds from QTC green bonds are allocated against qualifying state green projects and assets that support Queensland's pathway to climate resilience and a sustainable economy.
The latest issuance means QTC now has six green bonds on issue, with a total value of $13.3 billion.
New grant opportunity - low emissions. The state government is inviting expressions of interest from metallurgical coal mines for grants under its Low Emissions Investment Partnerships program.
The LEIP program supports projects that can deliver large reductions in scope 1 emissions.
Queensland’s metallurgical coal mines are concentrated in the Bowen Basin and produce about 90% of Australia’s metallurgical coal exports.
Queensland Urban Utilities and the University of Queensland have published a report on leading practice environmental management of sewage treatment plants in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.
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.
Applicants can submit an Expression of Interest for grants of between $50,000 and $2.5 million, with submissions due by 19 February.
- Landfills. The Department of Environment and Science is inviting comments by 23 February on updated Landfill siting, design, operations and rehabilitation guidance.
The Independent Planning Commission has approved Elgin Energy's $152 million Glanmire 60MW solar farm, which will be located approximately 7 kilometres east of Bathurst. The project includes a 60MW/120 MW-hour battery.
A parliamentary inquiry into undergrounding transmission infrastructure will hold its next hearing on 16 February, with the program yet to be finalised.
The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action is undertaking a review of the state's Landcare Facilitator Program.
Grant opportunity - methane. The state government is inviting applications by 29 February for grants to trial methane-reducing animal feed supplements. A total of $4 million is on offer.
- 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 - circular economy. Green Industries SA is offering grants of up to $100,000 for projects that design, apply, and scale-up innovative circular economy business models and practices, or that produce, manufacture, sell or promote South Australian recycled materials and/or recycled-content products.
Applications close on 19 February.
- Plastics. Comments are due by 11 February on proposals to ban more types of single-use plastic items.
- Biodiversity. Comments are due by 14 February on a discussion paper on the state government's proposed introduction of a new Biodiversity Act.
New grant opportunity - e-waste. Applications must be submitted by 29 March for e-waste re-processing infrastructure grants, with grants of up to $2 million on offer.
The Territory government has started consultations on its Remote Power System Strategy (RPSS), which aims to ensure that by 2030, a total of 70% of the electricity consumed in the 72 communities serviced by Indigenous Essential Services comes from renewables.
The initial consultations will involve organisations including Land Councils, regional councils, and Local Aboriginal Corporations.
The EPA has invited comments on the draft EIS for Winchelsea Mining's proposed Winchelsea Island manganese mine.
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By the time of COP30 in 2025 in Brazil, countries - including Australia - that cumulatively account for 80% of the world's emissions must have "seriously re-engineered" their international pledges (known as NDCs), according to UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell.
Speaking in Azerbaijan, which will host COP29, Stiell said their updated NDCs must be 1.5-aligned.
These countries know that "PR spin, re-branding or tinkering around the edges won’t cut it to meet their climate responsibilities, and that it would also leave them badly behind the innovation curve, not at the cutting edge", he said.
The EU has adopted strengthened rules on the use of fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances, which currently represent more than 3% of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions. The new rules will phase down sales of HFCs to 95% below 2015 levels by 2030, and will eliminate them by 2050.
Airbus, airline SAS, Swedish energy company Vattenfall and airport operators Avinor and Swedavia have signed an MoU to work together to develop infrastructure for hydrogen aviation in Sweden and Norway, reports GreenAir.
A total of 65% of those participating in Tetra-Pak's latest global survey of food and beverage consumers said sustainable eating is more expensive, 54% said that by changing their diet they can contribute to a better world, and 38% said food waste is a major concern.
Australian news items in all issues of ESG Snapshot can be searched by relevant Sustainable Development Goal category. To do this, click on the '17 SDGs' link at the top of this web page, or on any of the SDG keys below.