ESG Snapshot: Issue 32

ESG Snapshot: Issue 32

Highlights in this week's issue include:

  • Call of duty. Queensland is introducing a new environmental duty, and attaching new penalties of up to two years in prison to an existing one.
  • Bills round-up. A new Queensland Bill will mandate climate targets, a federal Bill would preserve existing NOPSEMA/EPBC arrangements, and an ACT Greens Bill would ban fossil fuel advertising at major sports venues.
  • Superpower status. A DCCEEW renewable superpower taskforce is helping Treasury with Budget deliberations, while a Ross Garnaut-led Superpower Institute has separately urged a new "carbon solutions levy".
  • Homeward bound. The CEFC is looking for market partners to deliver its $1 billion home energy upgrade fund.
  • Three degrees. A national climate risk assessment is examining a 1.5 to two degrees scenario for 2050, and a two to three degrees scenario for 2090.

Interested in being Woolworths' head of climate, advising Melbourne's top sports venues on sustainability, or working with NSW Treasury on its green bonds? Check out this issue's jobs board!

New events include a webinar on embracing flexibility to reduce energy bills, another on the Australian Carbon Exchange, and a Sydney event on modern slavery.


A DCCEEW-led Renewable Superpower Taskforce, which also has representatives from Treasury and the Department of Industry, is examining the intensifying global competition for clean energy industries, DCCEEW officials told a Senate Estimates hearing.

The Taskforce findings are feeding into FY25 Budget deliberations about possible additional actions.

The CEFC in December issued a market call for financial intermediaries - banks, non-bank lenders, and others - to deliver its $1 billion Household Energy Upgrades Fund, with responses due by 1 March.

"We are well prepared to start to implement the program in short order after 1 March," CEFC chief executive Ian Learmonth told Senate Estimates. 

The Safeguard Mechanism baseline that is ultimately applied to the Santos Barossa fossil gas project will depend on whether it is classified as a new project, or instead as a backfill to the existing Darwin LNG facility, a DCCEEW official told the Senate Estimates hearing.

The Clean Energy Regulator has yet to decide which of the two classifications is appropriate under Safeguard Mechanism statutory requirements.

"It comes down to the ownership and different structures," the official said.

The emissions limit, or "baseline", that applies to Barossa will be higher if it is classified as a backfill to an existing project, and lower if it is classified as a standalone new facility, the official explained.

Australia's inaugural national climate risk assessment, which is being prepared in conjunction with states and territories, will identify key climate risks on three different time horizons—2030, 2060 and 2090, officials told Senate Estimates.

The project is looking at impacts across a range of sectors, including agriculture, defence, and health. 

The project is examining a 1.5 to two degrees scenario for 2050, and a two degrees to three degrees scenario for 2090.

In other Estimate news:

  • DCCEEW officials rejected a Coalition Senator's characterisation of the proposed fuel efficiency standard as a "cap and trade scheme" on vehicle emissions.
  • ARENA advised Senate Estimates that its $176 million in grant funding to a total of eight grid batteries equated to about seven percent of the total cost of the batteries.
  • The Coalition is "desperately keen to get up an inquiry into transmission lines and where they're going", Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes said. "We're trying to get that through, but we are yet to get support in the Senate for that to occur," Senator Hughes said in an Estimates hearing.

"Our main message today is that export of zero-carbon goods can  underpin a long period of high  investment, rising productivity,  full employment and rising incomes in Australia," Ross Garnaut has told the National Press Club, in a presentation made in conjunction with Rod Sims (TVeeder transcript here).

Garnaut and Sims were speaking in their role as directors of the new Superpower Institute, and they proposed a "carbon solutions levy" on fossil fuel extraction and imports.

Resources Minister Madeleine King has placed nickel on Australia's Critical Minerals List, upgrading its former status as a strategic material.

That potentially gives the nickel industry access to concessional loans from the $4 billion Critical Minerals Facility. 

It could also prompt funding from international financing bodies, like the US Export‑Import Bank, or Japanese and Korean financing bodies, the Minister said. 

Grant opportunity - critical minerals. Minister King has invited applications for a $40 million international partnerships program to build end-to-end critical minerals supply chains. Grants of between $2 million and $20 million are available.

Eligible projects include pilot and demonstration plants, critical minerals processing technologies and the development of downstream processing capability.

The Minister said the four-year grant program would strengthen Australia's international engagement on critical minerals with global partners such as the US, the UK, Japan, India, Korea, and the European Union.

Statutory development - offshore projects. Resources Minister Madeleine King has introduced a Bill that will enable changes to be made to environmental regulations under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act while still protecting NOPSEMA's EPBC right to assess and approve offshore projects.

The streamlined NOPSEMA-led approval process for these projects is provided for through arrangements under section 146B of the EPBC Act that have been in place since 2014.

Minister King noted to Parliament that the government is reviewing the offshore environmental management framework for petroleum and greenhouse gas activities and said the Bill will support the implementation of the review findings. 

Greens leader Adam Bandt criticised the provision in the Bill, saying it would "effectively hand the Minister King broad-ranging powers to reduce environmental and consultation obligations, without oversight from the Environment Minister".

Grant opportunity - energy efficiency. Small and medium businesses can start preparing applications now for energy efficiency grants valued at between $10,000 and $25,000.

GeoNadir and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) have completed a project to make all TERN's current and future Australian drone-mapping data available on the GeoNadir global map.

TERN is Australia's national ecosystem observatory and has over 1,000 sites around Australia where drones are used to capture changes in vegetation and landscape characteristics. GeoNadir is a data repository allowing users to search, access, visualise, analyse, and share drone data.

"TERN is leading the way here for ensuring that drone Earth observation data collected using public funds are disseminated widely," said GeoNadir co-founder Dr Karen Joyce. 

The federal government has awarded a $14 million grant to Powering Australia Ltd to establish the Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre, which will help Australian businesses commercialise and manufacture clean energy technologies locally.

Powering Australia Ltd played a key role in establishing the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre.

The federal government has awarded a total of $8 million to projects delivering innovative solutions for lower-cost biodiversity monitoring. Grant recipients include CSIRO and WWF.

Open consultations:

  • 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. Comments are due by 4 March.
  • 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.

Statutory development - environmental duties. The state government has introduced a Bill that strengthens the existing "general environmental duty" in the Environmental Protection Act.

The Environmental Protection (Powers and Penalties) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 makes breach of the duty a specific offence, with wilful breaches carrying a penalty of up to two years imprisonment.

The new offence can be applied if someone fails to take reasonably practicable action to prevent or minimise material or serious environmental harm.

The Bill also introduces a new, stand-alone 'duty to restore environmental harm'.

This will require operators to restore the environment to the condition it was in prior to an incident involving contamination.

The Bill will clarify that environmental 'nuisance' can be considered 'serious or material environmental harm', and it will also combines various existing compliance notices into a new tool called an Environmental Enforcement Order.

"The changes will ensure there is appropriate emphasis on human health, wellbeing and safety in Queensland’s environmental laws and shifts the focus to proactive prevention of environmental impacts," Environment Minister Leanne Linard said.

Statutory development - clean energy. Premier Steve Miles has introduced the Clean Economy Jobs Bill, which will mandate an emissions reduction target of 75% on 2005 levels by 2035, and net-zero by 2050.

"The '75 by 35' emissions reduction target positions Queensland as a world leader on the pathway to net zero," Miles told Parliament.

The Bill requires the development of sector plans, and by the end of this year the government must publish details of which sectors will be covered, and when the plans will be prepared.

The Bill also imposes a requirement to publish an annual statement on progress towards the emissions reduction targets, and provides for the establishment of an advisory Clean Economy Expert Panel.

Grant opportunity - Reef water quality and natural capital. The state government is offering a total of $5.5 million for projects aimed at improving water quality in reef catchments.

Individual grants of up to $2.5 million, or possibly more, will be considered. Applications close on 30 April.

An additional notional allocation of up to $750,000 is potentially available for applications that demonstrate a capacity to undertake natural capital projects.

Grant guidelines define natural capital projects as those that use carbon and environmental markets, or such things as impact funds or natural capital accounting, to help connect private capital to the restoration or protection of natural assets.

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.

New South Wales

In FY23, the NSW Climate Fund spent a total of $268.6 million, according to its latest annual report.

In the same year it received a total of $294.8 million in revenue from electricity retailers.

The NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water has released its science, economics and insights strategic plan for 2023–26.

The NSW DCCEEW has also released guidelines for voluntary house-raising schemes, which deal with house-raising and relocation to higher ground on the same lot.

The guideline has been prepared for councils that are seeking state government funding for voluntary house-raising schemes.

Open consultations - better use of Crown Land. The state government is seeking views by 19 March on potential reforms to the Crown Land Management Act.

Statutory development - banning fossil fuel advertising. Greens Assembly member Jo Clay has introduced a Bill that would ban advertising by fossil fuel companies at major ACT sporting venues.

Statutory development - biosecurity. The ACT government has introduced an amendment Bill to its Biosecurity Act 2023, which aims to streamline biosecurity processes and facilitate cooperation with NSW.

Grant opportunity. The ACT government is inviting applications by 9 April for environmental grants, with $350,000 available. The government is also offering 'Nature in the City: Cooling your Suburb' grants, with $150,000 available.

The ACT government is consulting on a new draft disaster resilience strategy (comments due by 13 March), and a new drought resilience plan (comments due by 14 March).


Subsidy opportunity - solar for apartments. Applications close 15 April under round one of Solar Victoria's new Solar for Apartments program, which is partly funded by the federal government.

About 12% of Victoria's 2.5 million households live in apartments, with around 63% of these occupied by renters.

Successful applicants will receive rebates of up to $2,800 per apartment, or up to $140,000 per building. 

Owners corporations will have the choice to install either multiple individual solar PV systems, a single large solar PV system coupled with solar sharing technology, or a combination of both.

The state government has appointed Therese Ryan as the new chairperson of the board of the Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority. Jon Crosbie has been appointed deputy chairperson.

The Authority is responsible for facilitating the rehabilitation of the state's declared mine sites - which so far comprise the three Latrobe Valley coal mines.

A state election will be held on 23 March.

Grant program - tree plantings. Grants of up to $2,500 per hectare will be provided by state government-owned Private Forests Tasmania to support tree plantings by Tasmanian farmers. Expressions of interest close on 1 March.

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.

Open consultations:

  • 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.
Western Australia

The state government will offer royalty relief to Western Australia's nickel industry in the form of a 50 per cent royalty rebate.

It will be available for an 18-month period through a new Nickel Financial Assistance Program, and will apply if the average price of nickel in concentrate is below US$20,000 per tonne for a given quarter.

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.

Northern Territory

The Territory government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to further strengthen cooperation on financing energy and infrastructure projects.

The MoU enables the Territory to hold regular dialogue with JBIC officials, on projects such as oil and gas, carbon capture, critical minerals infrastructure, hydrogen, ammonia, renewable energy, and sustainable aviation fuels.

The NT government has released the latest Independent Monitor's audit report on the environmental performance of Glencore's McArthur River Mine.

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

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February 20, The shifting sands of ESG. An online event hosted by The Fifth Estate.
February 21 and 22, The Hunter new energy symposium , hosted by NewH2.
February 22, Myth busting renewable energy. An online and in-person event hosted by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions.
February 24, Investment & the Australian Carbon Exchange. An online event hosted by the Carbon Market Institute.
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.
February 27, Embracing flexibility to reduce business energy costs. A webinar hosted by A2EP.
February 28, Modern slavery: from legislation to action. A breakfast event hosted by Ethixbase360.
March 6, High-temperature heat pumps update. A webinar hosted by A2EP.
March 6 and 7, Smart energy expo 2024. An event in Sydney hosted by the Smart Energy Council.
March 20, Climate investor forum 2024. An event in Melbourne, hosted by Zeitgeist.
April 22 and 23, Impact X summit - climate and nature 2030. An event in Sydney supported by the NSW government, WWF and Impact X.
Jobs Board
The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy is hiring a senior policy advisor - environment and sustainability.
DCCEEW is recruiting for an assistant director in its Office of the Capacity Investment Scheme.
Lucid Consulting is seeking a Perth-based energy and sustainability consultant.
Melbourne and Olympics Parks is recruiting for the new role of sustainability advisor.
NSW Treasury is hiring a senior associate for its sustainability bond program.
Stockland is recruiting a Sydney-based group environmental sustainability manager.
Woolworths is recruiting a Sydney-based head of climate.
Company news and resources
Cleanaway continues to make good progress on its landfill gas capture and monetisation program, chief executive Mark Schubert said when presenting the company's half-yearly results.

"Since its commencement in July 2022, we have drilled and reconnected approximately 500 wells, and our monthly capture rates have increased by 66%," he said.

"This flows through to reduced emissions, increased ACCU generation and electricity sales."
Commbank has started a pilot program with emissions platform Ruminati that provides farmers with tools to calculate baseline emissions and to model the benefits of changes in farming practices.
Bio-energy start-up Jet Zero Australia Pty Ltd has finalised an agreement with US sustainable fuels company LanzaJet Inc, that will allow Jet Zero's proposed Project Ulysses sustainable aviation fuel project to use LanzaJet's technology.
QBE Group has set a formal engagement target to engage with more than 50 priority customers on a regular basis to assess their net-zero ambitions, and to work more closely with them on their transition, according to its FY23 full-year announcements.

It also now offers 'cradle to grave' insurance for Australian renewables projects.

To help drive reductions in its own operational emissions, it has set an internal carbon price of $65 per tonne for FY24.
Telstra's head of environment Tom Penny has given a run-down on the telco's sustainability initiatives in a new podcast.
Australian headquartered Vast Renewables Ltd, which specialises in concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) energy systems has announced it has signed funding agreements for up to $40 million for its proposed 'SM1' solar methanol plant. 

The SM1 project will be colocated in South Australia with a CSP plant, and will comprise a 10 MW electrolyser for hydrogen production, and a co-located lime plant that will supply CO2 using Calix technology. The hydrogen in combination with the CO2 would be used to synthesise up to 7,500 tonnes of solar methanol annually.

Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, along with former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former UNFCCC head of climate change negotiations Christiana Figueres are among the signatories to an open letter calling on world leaders to show long-view leadership on "existential threats" including the climate crisis.

China's three major stock markets - the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE), and Beijing Stock Exchange (BSE) - have published new sustainability reporting guidelines for listed companies, including a new requirement for hundreds of larger cap and dual-listed issuers to begin mandatory disclosure on a broad range of ESG topics in 2026.

The new guidelines released by the Chinese exchanges encompass four "core content" topics - governance, strategy, impact, risk and opportunity management, reports ESG Today

Singapore and Indonesia have signed a Letter of Intent to collaborate on carbon capture and storage.

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