ESG Snapshot: Issue 46

ESG Snapshot: Issue 46

Highlights in this week's issue include:

  • Huge fines. The maximum penalty under a new environment Bill is $780 million, matching the maximum for breaking financial laws.
  • Enforcing and baselining nature positive. Related bills would establish two federal entities that will enforce and measure the move to nature positive.
  • Recycling grants. Individual grants of up to $10 million are on offer in Queensland.
  • Plastics action. A House of Reps inquiry wants an updated national plastics plan, tougher microplastics action, and a waste to energy inquiry.
  • Glad to be here. The maker of Glad Wrap, currently facing ACCC action over claims about a discontinued product, has appeared before a Senate greenwashing inquiry.
  • No more logging. A Bill to end native forest logging in Victoria has cleared the Legislative Assembly.
  • Peak rule. NSW has gazetted a new rule for its Peak Demand Reduction Scheme.
  • That's a wrap. New technology has drastically cut Mars Australia's use of plastic in its wrappers (company news).

Interested in working on Brisbane's 2032 Olympics plans, or for Norton Rose Fulbright, Toyota or Ventia? Check out this issue's jobs! Plus international news on the energy transition, carbon credits, and climate finance.

ESG Snapshot - powered by the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia and curated by Earthed.


Statutory development - new environment entities and bigger fines. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has introduced a Bill to establish an independent agency, Environment Protection Australia, as well as a separate Bill to establish Environment Information Australia (EIA).

The Minister also introduced a third Bill, dealing with environment law amendments, that introduces a much broader and stronger EPBC compliance regime, and significantly increased penalties.

The environment laws amendments Bill includes a maximum penalty provision of up to 2.5 million penalty units ($782.5 million) in some circumstances, which matches the maximum for breaching the Corporations Act.

It would also introduce a new regime of compliance audits, and a new power to issue environment protection orders.

The EIA Bill establishes an independent Head of the EIA, which will operate as a division of DCCEEW.

In what Minister Plibersek termed "a world first", the EIA Bill includes a legal definition of, and reporting measure for, 'nature positive'.

The Bill defines nature positive as an "improvement in the diversity, abundance, resilience and integrity of ecosystems from a baseline", and this baseline will be set by the Head of the EIA.

It also requires the EIA to establish a register of national environmental information assets "that are critical to regulatory decision making", and it overhauls State of the Environment reporting.

The EIA would also be responsible for establishing and maintaining "environmental economic accounts" that describe the condition of the environment and its relationship with the economy, with assistance from the Bureau of Statistics.

The Bill to establish the EPA is focused on the architecture and powers of the new organisation.

The government has appointed Dr Iain Ross as acting Chair of the Net Zero Economy Agency, and he will become its permanent chair once legislation to establish the body as an Authority is passed. Greg Combet has until now acted in the role in an interim capacity.

Debate on the establishing legislation is expected to conclude in the House of Representatives this week, and the Bill will then go to the Senate.

A House of Representatives committee inquiry into plastic pollution in oceans and waterways has recommended the development of an updated National Plastics Plan in its final report.

It also recommends that a parliamentary committee next year conduct an inquiry into waste to energy, noting that "the Committee received some evidence suggesting that waste to energy technologies could be a solution for tackling plastic pollution".

"There was a divergence of views, with support from the waste industry and concern expressed by other groups," the report says.

In addition, it says the Environment Ministers meeting should urgently initiate the development of a national microplastic reduction strategy that would strengthen regulation with the aim of stopping microplastics entering the marine environment.

DCCEEW should also investigate whether to make mandatory some of the 2025 National Packaging Targets, the report says.

Statutory development - vehicle emission standards. The New Vehicle Efficiency Standard Bill has received Assent, after passing Parliament earlier this month.

Transcript of a Senate committee greenwashing inquiry is now available, with representatives of Santos and Woodside among those who gave evidence, along with representatives of the Clorox company, which is currently being prosecuted by the ACCC.

The Clorox representatives, appearing from the UK, noted that they have "at all times fully cooperated with the ACCC", and explained its internal processes for evaluating marketing claims.

The CEFC has confirmed its first investment via the $1 billion Household Energy Upgrades Fund (HEUF), which consists of a $60 million commitment to consumer lender Plenti.

The CEFC commitment will support cheaper finance for solar PV, home batteries and other energy efficiency upgrades via discounts on Plenti green loans of up to 2.74% annually.

In addition, eligible customers can get a further 0.6% discount on the green loan if they sign up to a Virtual Power Plant through Plenti’s point-of-sale platform, GreenConnect.

ARENA has awarded a $1.2 million grant to the Australian Energy Market Operator and AusNet to co-design a Consumer Energy Resources (CER) Data Exchange.

The CER Data Exchange aims to simplify and support CER integration into the National Electricity Market.

ARENA is also providing $337,000 to GridWise Energy Solutions for its $800,000 'Dynamic Model Validation' project.

The project will create a standardised assessment platform for project developers to self-validate their renewable energy generator models before making connection applications to network businesses and AEMO.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, in conjunction with the Queensland government, has released the Reef water quality 2021 and 2022 report card.

There was very poor progress towards the dissolved inorganic nitrogen target (0.7%) and poor progress towards the sediment target (0.8%) across the Great Barrier Reef catchments in 2021 and 2022.

Results show there was very good progress towards the particulate phosphorus target and moderate progress towards the particulate nitrogen target across the Great Barrier Reef catchments in 2021 and 2022.

Australia and the EU have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that is intended to be a platform for forging deeper links between the two economies on critical and strategic materials supply chains.

The partnership follows the recent implementation of the EU’s new Critical Raw Materials Act.

The Clean Energy Regulator has released its latest RET monthly market data.

Senate Estimates transcripts relevant to the environment and climate change portfolios are available here and here.

The Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative is inviting comments by 30 June on draft taxonomy criteria.

Click here for new submissions and reports

  • The Investor Group on Climate Change has published its 2024 State of Net Zero Investment report, which is based on survey responses from 63 firms managing A$5 trillion.
  • EY has published a report on the root causes of the poly crisis and the principles to unlock a sustainable future, and EY's Net Zero Centre has published a new report on orchestrating distributed energy resources.
  • Marking the organisation's 33rd anniversary, Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia chief executive Andrew Petersen has described the organisation's history and vision, and "the road ahead".
  • A 65% to 75% emissions reduction target for 2035 is not reflective of credible decarbonisation pathways that could accelerate Australia's emissions trajectory onto a 1.5°C compliant pathway, says a submission to the Climate Change Authority by the Australian Conservation Foundation. Net zero by 2035 is a more appropriate target, the ACF says.
  • Misleading climate-related lobbying has legal implications, says a new report by Climate Integrity.
  • An analysis by Market Forces of the default or largest investment options of 30 of Australia’s largest super funds concludes these options have collectively more than doubled their investments over the last two years in what it terms "Climate Wreckers Index" companies. The term refers to a list of 190 fossil fuels companies.
  • A paper by the Institute of Energy and Economic Financial Analysis says Australia could cut network costs and reduce electricity bills by reforming the economic regulation of distribution networks. It recommends a Productivity Commission review of the economic regulation of network services.

Click here for open consultations


New grant opportunity. The state government is offering grants of up to $10 million for recycling projects, with a focus on projects that process mixed commercial and industrial waste, end-of-life renewable energy infrastructure, and end-of-life electric and electronic products. A total of $45 million is on offer.

The state government will introduce a legislative ban on carbon capture and storage in the Great Artesian Basin in the state. The ban will also extend to oil or petroleum recovery activities that propose injecting CO2 to enhance oil and gas recovery.

Statutory development - renewable energy. The state government has gazetted the Energy (Renewable Transformation and Jobs) Regulation on the same day that key provisions of the parent Act came into force.

The Regulation supports the Act by prescribing the organisations from which representatives may be appointed as members of the Energy Industry Council.

Peta Stilgoe has been appointed President of the Land Court of Queensland, after serving as a member since 2017, and acting as President since last May. Brisbane barrister Nicholas Loos, an active member of the Queensland Environmental Law Association, has been appointed a member of the Court.

Queensland Treasury Corporation has released its 2024 Green Bond annual report.

Consultation opportunity - Reef water quality. The state government is conducting a survey as part of a review of the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, which guides how the government and communities work together to improve water quality in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

The government has also scheduled an associated series of seminars. Survey responses are due by 30 September.

Consultation opportunity - reusing ferrous slag. The state government is consulting on a draft end of waste code for ferrous slag. Comments are due by 1 July.

New South Wales

The state government has given planning approval to a $207.6 million hydrogen hub in the Hunter.

The State Significant Development at Kooragang Island, led by Origin Future Fuels, will start construction in mid-2025.  The hub will initially deliver approximately 55 megawatts of electrolyser capacity by 2026, with the aim of scaling up to over 1 gigawatt of capacity over the next decade.

The majority of the hydrogen will go to Orica’s nearby ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility to help decarbonise its operations by partially substituting green hydrogen for fossil gas.

The state government has launched a tender round that is expected to provide financial support for up to 1GW of long-duration energy storage projects. The tender will take NSW closer to its target of 2GW of new long-duration storage by 2030.

The tender will also seek to allocate up to an initial 3.98GW of Access Rights in the South West Renewable Energy Zone.

Sam Maresh, former chief executive of GE Australia, has been appointed to the Board of the NSW EPA. Maresh also serves on the CSIRO Manufacturing Advisory Council, chairs the Business Council of Australia’s Future Industries Committee, and is a director of Trinity Indo-Pacific Partners.

Environment Minister Penny Sharpe has gazetted the Peak Demand Reduction Scheme (Amendment No. 1) Rule, which specifies provisions for the calculation and creation of Peak Reduction Certificates for prescribed activities.

The state government has placed on public exhibition EnergyAustralia's plan for a Battery Energy Storage System next to its Mt Piper power station, which would have a capacity of up to 500MW and duration of up to four hours.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has released its solar feed-in tariff benchmarks for FY25, which lowers the benchmark rate to between 4.9 to 6.3 c/kWh.

Open consultations:

  • Assessing and managing carbon emissions from new projects. Proponents of large-emitting projects would have to provide much more detailed information about their potential emissions, and their alignment with government targets, under two new EPA draft documents. Comments are due by 1 July.

Statutory development - ban on commercial logging. The Legislative Assembly has passed the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Repeal Bill, with the Opposition voting against it.

The Bill, which would ban commercial logging and abolish VicForests, will now go to the Legislative Council.

The Opposition opposes the Bill, and has also signalled it is opposed to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council's suggestion that a large national park be created in the state's Central Highlands.

Consultation opportunity - Marinus EIS. The state government is inviting comments on the draft EIS for the Victorian part of Marinus Link interconnecter between Tasmania and Victoria.

Key elements of the project in Victoria include subsea cables, a shore crossing at Waratah Bay, underground cables, and a convertor station. The EIS is best viewed here. Comments are due by 12 July.

Shadow energy minister David Davis unsuccessfully sought to move a motion in state Parliament calling on the state government to amend its Gas Substitution Roadmap, in particular the ban on gas connections in new homes, given that no such ban is proposed in the federal Future Gas Strategy.

The Department of Transport and Planning has accepted a referral for RES Australia's proposed Cannie wind farm, to be located near Kerang. The wind farm would have a capacity of up to 1,300MW.

The project also includes a Battery Energy Storage System with 200MW/80MWh of storage capacity.

Open consultations:

Western Australia

The EPA has released a referral made by Alliance Nickel Ltd for its proposed NiWest nickel cobalt project.

Northern Territory

The Territory government is offering businesses grants of up to $20,000 to invest in equipment or technology which improves recycling. A total of $500,000 is available, and applications close on 30 June next year, or sooner if funds are exhausted.

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

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Coming up on 1 July - BCSDA's Fiona Wain Oration. To be delivered by inaugural Grattan Institute chief executive Professor John Daley AM, in honour of former BCSDA chief executive and sustainability pioneer, Fiona Wain.
June 5 and 6, Tasmanian energy development conference. An event in Devonport, hosted by Informa.
June 14, NABERS + CBD 2024. In Sydney and virtual, hosted by the NSW government and NABERS.
June 18, 2024 Australian dialogue on business and human rights. An event in Sydney, hosted by the UN Global Compact Network.
July 10, Aligning Policy Engagement with Net Zero - a spotlight on Australia. A webinar hosted by groups including Better Futures Australia and InfluenceMap.
August 23, Climate governance forum. An event in Sydney, hosted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
August 27 and 28, Impact X Melbourne summit. An event on the future of ESG data and disclosure.
October 10, Serving solutions: Building sustainable food systems. A conference in Melbourne, presented by Food Frontier.
November 5, Sustainability leaders summit. An event in Auckland.
November 7 and 8, Investor Group on Climate Change 2024 summit. An event in Melbourne, hosted by IGCC.
Jobs Board
DT Infrastructure is hiring a Brisbane-based environment and sustainability manager.
Molycop has a vacancy for a Newcastle-based vice-president of sustainability.
Norton Rose Fulbright is recruiting a Sydney-based social impact and sustainability manager.
The organising committee for the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane is recruiting a principal program officer, sustainability.
SA's Department for Environment and Water has a vacancy for a senior policy officer.
Tasmania's Department of State Growth is hiring a specialist policy analyst, climate change.
The Toyota entity that supports distributors in the South Pacific is hiring a sustainability officer, based in Brisbane.
Ventia has a vacancy for a Sydney-based sustainability manager.
Company news and resources
Commercial real estate company CBRE has released its latest global corporate responsibility report.
Glencore's 2024-2026 climate action transition report received support from 90.07% of voting shareholders, at last week's AGM in Switzerland. However, 34.45% of the issued share capital abstained from voting, up from 25.37% in 2023.
Mars Australia has provided a blunt description of the complex - but ultimately successful - measures taken at its Ballarat factory to phase out plastic wrapping for its chocolate bar lines. Wrapping for the confectionary bars is now 86% paper-based, and the company aims to reach 100% by the end of next year.

Speeding up the move to clean energy technologies improves the affordability of energy and can relieve pressures on the cost of living more broadly, according to a new IEA report.

The White House, the US Treasury, the US Department of Energy, and the US Department of Agriculture have issued a joint policy statement and principles on voluntary carbon markets.

"High-integrity voluntary carbon credit markets (VCMs), as well as carbon credit
markets more broadly, have the potential to support decarbonisation efforts within
the United States and globally, accelerating net emissions reductions while reducing their cost," it says.

New research published by Ecosystem Marketplace shows that, in 2023, the volume and value of the voluntary carbon market (VCM) contracted for the second year in a row from its 2021 peak.

There was a 56% year-on-year decline in the volume of reported transactions. And the total reported transaction value of the VCM was $723M USD, down 61% on last year.

Disclosures from market participants indicate that negative media coverage and a pause in purchasing as buyers awaited guidance from integrity initiatives were key reasons for a pullback in buyer investment.

Developed countries provided and mobilised USD 115.9 billion in climate finance for developing countries in 2022, reaching and exceeding the annual 100 billion goal for the first time, according to new OECD data. The goal was supposed to have been met by 2020.

The Paris Aligned Asset Owners initiative has published its 2023 Progress Report, which explores how signatories are implementing their voluntary net zero commitments.

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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