ESG Snapshot: Issue 36

ESG Snapshot: Issue 36

Highlights in this week's issue include:

  • New climate and penalty powers. A new Bill empowers NSW's EPA to enter into net-zero agreements, while separate provisions toughen penalties and bring in 'name and shame' provisions for environmental offences.
  • Faster renewables approvals. A Victorian pathway that can already speed approvals processes for large affordable housing, agriculture, mining or defence projects, can now be applied to renewable energy projects.
  • Draft hydrogen regulations. South Australia is canvassing views on draft hydrogen and renewables regulations.
  • Biodiversity net-gain. A Green Building Council of Australia discussion paper signals that the organisation will back a biodiversity net-gain approach for projects, and probably also for planning policies.
  • Critical, rare, and strategic. Through two federal bodies, a rare earths project will receive more than $800 million, while the CEFC will provide more than $100 million to a lithium project.
  • New grants. New climate smart agriculture grants of up to $1 million are on offer.

Interested in working for National Australia Bank, Fortescue, V/Line or Coca-Cola Europacific? Check out this issue's jobs board! Plus a federal energy sector decarbonisation paper, and two more NSW bills. International news includes an Australian PNG climate partnership.


Consultation opportunity - energy sector decarbonisation. DCCEEW has released a discussion paper for its proposed electricity and energy sector decarbonisation plan. Themes covered include:

  • mobilising investment at a time of international competition for green finance.
  • enabling electrification by substantially expanding electricity networks.
  • providing alternative low carbon fuels for industries that are difficult to electrify.
  • building Australia's clean energy workforce, and overcoming the existing shortage of technical and professional skills.
  • maximising benefits for people and businesses, and securing social licence. 

The electricity and energy sector plan is one of six sectoral decarbonisation plans under development by the federal government. Submissions are due by 12 April.

Consultation opportunity - national adaptation plan. DCCEEW has released an issues paper on a proposed national adaptation plan, with comments due by 11 April. A webinar on the proposed plan will be held on 26 March.

DCCEEW has simultaneously released a national climate risk assessment report that looks at both the 2050 and 2090 time horizons.

The federal government will provide up to $840 million to help establish Australia's first combined rare earths mine and refinery in the Northern Territory.

The mine and refinery will be operated by Australian mineral exploration company Arafura, and the funding will come from the government's Critical Minerals Facility (which is managed by Export Finance Australia) and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. 

A CSIRO-led international team has set a new efficiency record for solar cells printed onto plastic film.

The team demonstrated performances for solar cells of 15.5% efficiency on a small scale, and 11% for a 50 cm2 module, which is a record for solar cells printed onto thin plastic films. 

The solar cells contain perovskite, an emerging class of solar material which can be formulated into inks for printing. Carbon-based inks were used to replace gold in the solar cell, dramatically reducing the cost.

A public hearing was held last Thursday into a Bill that would ensure potential changes to consultation requirements for offshore oil, gas and CCS projects would not result in conflict with the terms of the EPBC delegation that makes NOPSEMA the approval body for these projects.

Those giving evidence included Chevron, Santos, the Australian Energy Producers, and the Australia Institute.

DCCEEW has released the second edition of the Australian standard for waste and resource recovery data and reporting, which aims to ensure organisations provide data in a consistent and reliable manner.

Grant opportunity - climate smart agriculture. Applications for climate smart agriculture partnerships and innovation grants of up to $5 million are capacity grants of up to $1 million are being accepted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries until 8 April.

Applications for capacity grants of up to $1 million under the same program are being accepted until 28 March.

Applications under the same program for soil capacity building grants closed earlier this month, and will result in the development of a team of regional soils coordinators and the preparation of a national soils community of practice.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has made its largest investment in the resources sector, committing up to $110 million to provide liquidity to Liontown Resources through the completion and ramp-up of its Kathleen Valley lithium project in Western Australia.

The CEFC commitment is a part of a $550 million liquidity financing package from a syndicate that includes the Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, and Société Générale. Australia’s export credit agency, Export Finance Australia, is also part of the syndicate and is providing a $120 million loan facility.

Grant opportunity - energy efficiency. Small and medium businesses can apply for energy efficiency grants valued at between $10,000 and $25,000. Applications close on 8 April.

A new Vehicle Emissions Star Rating website, developed with the involvement of federal, state and territory governments, uses a 6-star rating system to compare the CO2 emissions of new and second-hand cars, utes and vans.

The Green Building Council of Australia has released a discussion paper on its proposed Nature Roadmap, and will host a webinar on 11 April. Comments on the paper are due by 30 June.

"The roadmap will advocate for net biodiversity gain on all sites, and for the protection of ecologically sensitive areas in and outside the site," the paper says.

It adds that the roadmap "will likely endorse biodiversity net-gain in planning policies and potentially set minimum expectations for Green Star".

Open consultations:

  • Innovation. The Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) has opened a new $7.5 million funding round for small and medium enterprises targeting three key sustainability challenge areas. Applications close on 3 April.

The state government is reviewing the Gulf Water Plan, with an initial round of consultation open until 17 July. The Gulf Water Plan area covers 317,048 square kilometres in far North-West Queensland.

The review will identify the best ways to allocate and manage water within the Gulf water plan catchments, and will examine ways to unlock more water for agriculture and critical minerals.

Grant opportunity - bioenergy. A $4 million Bioenergy Fund is offering matched financial assistance of between $250,000 and $2 million. Applications close on 11 April.

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.

New South Wales

Statutory development - omnibus environment Bill. A NSW Bill significantly increases penalties for a range of environmental offences and establishes that it is an objective of the EPA to take action on climate change.

The Bill also establishes that the Authority has the power to enter into arrangements - including commercial arrangements - in relation to carbon neutrality or achieving net zero emissions, and has the power to purchase property for the purposes of carbon neutrality or achieving net zero emissions.

Other specific elements of the Environment Protection Legislation Amendment (Stronger Regulation and Penalties) Bill 2024 include:

  • Doubling maximum penalties for Tier 1 serious offences to $10 million for companies and $2 million for individuals.
  • Doubling maximum penalties for Tier 2 asbestos-related offences to $4 million for companies and $1 million for individuals.
  • Increasing maximum penalties for breaching resource recovery orders and exemptions from $44,000 to $2 million, or $4 million for offences by corporations involving asbestos waste.
  • Introducing new product recall powers for materials that may be contaminated with harmful substances across an entire supply chain, to quickly safeguard human health and the environment and warn the public.
  • Establishing a public ‘name and shame’ process to issue public warnings about poor environmental performers and sub-standard practices.
  • Providing a framework to establish a new waste accreditation scheme to ensure accurate assessment, classification and disposal of waste.

Statutory development - hazardous chemicals. Parliament has passed the Environmental Legislation Amendment (Hazardous Chemicals) Bill 2024, which incorporates national chemicals reforms into state law.

Statutory development - seabed mining ban. Parliament has passed a Bill that bans seabed petroleum and mineral mining off the NSW coast, making NSW the first state in Australia to prohibit seabed petroleum and mineral exploration and mining.

Almost 95% of councils that took part in the NSW government's 2023 Climate Change Action Survey are feeling the impacts of climate change, and a record number are prioritising action to reduce their emissions and help their communities adapt. A webinar on the findings will be held on 26 March.

The NSW Resources Regulator has released a report on mining industry compliance with rehabilitation requirements.

Consultation opportunity - koalas. The state government has released a discussion paper on its NSW Koala Strategy, ahead of a 22 March koala summit. The feedback from the discussion paper and summit will be used to develop a new koala plan. Submissions on the discussion paper are due by 26 April.

The 2024 Community Zero Emissions Grants program is now open for applications from individuals and not-for-profit community groups. Funding of up to $50,000 per single application and up to $75,000 per joint application is available, and applications close on 4 April.

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.


Statutory development - renewable energy. Premier Jacinta Allan has announced renewable energy projects will be eligible for an accelerated planning pathway under the Development Facilitation Program.

The move means third party appeals to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal against these projects will no longer be possible.

"Right now, there is currently around $90 billion worth of investment value in renewable projects in the pipeline," Allan said. "It is expected these renewable projects would create a massive 15,000 jobs for our state."

The change means that decisions on whether to approve state significant renewable energy projects could be made within four months of a complete application being lodged.

The EPA has received a development licence application from Olam Orchards Australia Pty Ltd to process almond waste into biochar.

The facility would process up to 36,000 tonnes of waste almond hulls and shells and produce up to 9,000 tonnes of biochar annually, for use on site.

Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D'Ambrosio has announced six projects will share in $6 million to deliver 25 neighbourhood batteries across 20 towns.

The batteries will jointly deliver about 4.2MWh of new storage capacity.

The EPA has released a new guideline on recycled water use in surface waters.

Open consultations:

  • Clean energy jobs. The state government has issued a consultation paper on its proposed Victorian Energy Jobs Plan. Submissions are due by 3 April.
  • Tesla and CEP. Tesla Energy Ventures Australia Pty Ltd has applied to the Essential Services Commission for a licence to sell electricity in Victoria, and so has CEP Energy Retail Pty Ltd. Submissions are due by 29 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.

Consultation opportunity and statutory development - hydrogen and renewables. The state government is consulting on draft regulations under its recently passed Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act.

A webinar is scheduled for 20 March and comments close on 15 April.

Open consultations:

  • Climate change. The state government has released a draft Bill to amend the state's Climate Change Act, with comments due by 5 April.

Western Australia

The Legislative Assembly has passed the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill, which deals with the regulation of carbon capture and storage projects, and it is now before the Legislative Council. An explanatory memorandum is available here.

The state government has awarded more than $2 million in grants to waste infrastructure projects, with a focus on food and garden organics and textiles recycling.

Grant opportunity - carbon farming. The state government is offering a further $2.77 million in carbon farming grants. Applications close on 20 May.

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.

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

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March 20, Climate investor forum 2024. An event in Melbourne, hosted by Zeitgeist.
April 17, Sustainability forum 2024. An event in Adelaide hosted by the National GS1 Traceability Advisory Group.
April 22 and 23, Impact X summit - climate and nature 2030. An event in Sydney supported by the NSW government, WWF and Impact X.
May 29 and 30, Fourth annual Australian renewable energy zones conference. An event in Sydney, hosted by Informa.
June 5 and 6, Tasmanian energy development conference. An event in Devonport, hosted by Informa.
Jobs Board
Alex Fraser Group has a vacancy for a Melbourne-based sustainability advisor.
Coca-Cola Europacific is hiring a Sydney-based sustainability program manager.
Fortescue is seeking a Perth-based environment advisor.
Great Southern Bank has a vacancy for a Brisbane-based sustainability manager.
National Australia Bank is hiring a Melbourne-based senior analyst and senior consultant, focused on the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) and climate transition.
V/Line is recruiting a manager, sustainability programs.
Company news and resources
Shell has released an updated energy transition strategy.
Logistics and parcel company Team Global Express has released its inaugural sustainability review. Highlights include launching Australia's largest electric truck trial, in conjunction with ARENA.
Unilever's first climate policy review of the industry associations to which it belongs calls out not only associations with climate policy stances unaligned with its own, but also those that have failed to actively lobby for strong climate action.

"Unilever is looking for more than a 'do no harm' stance on climate policy from its industry associations," the review says.

A legal opinion commissioned by climate investment and advisory firm Pollination and the Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative has advised that English and Welsh company board directors could be personally liable, if they fail to consider relevant nature-related risks.

The governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea, and the Global Green Growth Institute, have launched a new climate partnership program, known as the Climate Finance Initiative for Resilience and Sustainable Transition or “Climate FIRST.”

The project aims to mobilise and secure significant international and domestic climate financing for climate adaptation and mitigation for Papua New Guinea.

A new International Energy Agency analysis shows that fully implementing existing pledges on methane would deliver the majority, but not all, of the emissions cuts needed this decade to align with 1.5°C.

Methane emissions from the energy sector remained near a record high in 2023, but recent policies and regulations, as well as fresh pledges stemming from COP28, have the potential to put them into decline soon, the analysis concludes. 

To limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C, methane emissions from fossil fuels need to decline by 75% this decade, according to the IEA.

If all methane pledges made by countries and companies to date are implemented in full and on time, it would be sufficient to cut methane emissions from fossil fuels by 50% by 2030, its analysis shows. 

The US EPA is offering US$3 billion in grants under a new Clean Ports Program.

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.

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