With the federal government having already scrapped its climate change plan, it is clear the focus of the Coalition’s climate change strategy will now shift to managing the environment at the national and local level.
The Coalition’s proposed new climate change laws will include a range of initiatives to protect the environment.
The environment is also a key plank of the Federal Government’s election manifesto.
As well as providing a platform for environmental issues, the election promises include a commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of Australia’s economy by 80 per cent over the next decade.
This is the first step towards meeting the country’s 2050 emissions reduction target.
It is important to remember that Australia’s emissions will still be higher than the United States, which has an emissions reduction of around 40 per cent.
What is being proposed is to put more emphasis on improving environmental management and compliance in a number of areas.
The new climate law would create a new category of consultants, consultants defined as those who “are not experts in the area of environmental management, environmental management services, environmental compliance, environmental monitoring or environmental management technology” or have expertise in a “sub-category of the areas described in subsection 3(1)(a).”
What the Government will do is provide for the appointment of a special consultant to conduct the environmental assessments of companies, organisations and other entities.
The Special Consultant is a non-person employee or a member of a qualified group who is qualified in the environmental management area.
The definition of “special consultant” in this context means a person who has no relevant professional experience or experience in the management of environmental issues.
“A key element of the government’s proposed changes to the laws will be to create a special category of “consultant” to oversee the environmental compliance process for companies and organisations, including “an independent environmental consultant”.
The new rules would also require all environmental compliance consultants to be independent, with no links to their current or former employer.
This new definition is likely to lead to greater transparency around who is and isn’t an environmental consultant and what the government is trying to achieve.
However, there is some concern about this proposal and its impact on the definition of a “special consultants” to be an independent expert.
While the government may not have the power to define who is a consultant, the concept of a consultant who is not a “conservation consultant” would be the same as a consultant working for a company with a “general environmental management function”.
The definition of the term “conserving land” in the new definition of environmental consultants is very vague, leaving the potential for people to engage in illegal activities or to mislead the government.
However, as the Federal Parliament is in session, it could also mean that the definition would be very broad and it is possible that some people who work for a private company would be required to disclose information about their environmental activities in a way that would not be allowed by the government under the existing law.
The consultation will not begin until early 2018.
The first round of consultations has already begun.
The government will then publish a draft legislative bill and begin drafting a final legislative bill, which could take up to two years to finalise.