Embracing a Nature Positive Future: Unveiling Environmental Reforms in Australia
In response to the Independent Review of the EPBC Act released in December 2022 and in a bid to usher in a more environmentally conscious era, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment (DCCEEW) is spearheading the Nature Positive Reforms program. This comprehensive initiative introduces key elements such as National Environmental Standards, Regional Planning, and the establishment of the independent Environmental Protection Australia agency (EPA). The overarching goal is to fortify environmental protections and simplify approval procedures, setting the stage for a greener and more sustainable future.
At the heart of the program are six National Environmental Standards, covering a spectrum of concerns including Matters of National Environmental Significance, Regional Planning, and Community Consultation. These standards are bolstered by Conservation Planning Instruments, such as Listing Reforms and Recovery Strategies, which play a pivotal role in the Environmental Approvals process. These Standards are currently being developed in consultation with the industry such as EIANZ and will be ready for consultation in 2024.
Regional Planning will take center stage in facilitating development while addressing environmental pressures on a broader scale. Particularly focused on priority areas like renewable energy and urban expansion, this approach aims to streamline actions in accordance with regional plans, minimising the need for additional assessments.
A game-changer in this reform landscape is the formation of the EPA, designed as an independent agency to assess projects comprehensively. From upfront consideration of impacts and adherence to National Environmental Standards to a potential "fast track" pathway for projects with no significant residual impacts, the EPA will aim to revolutionise project approval processes. Operating with a high degree of independence, the EPA's functions will span environmental assessments, project approvals, and the administration of various regulatory responsibilities.
The Compliance and Enforcement Branch has been established to ensure adherence to environmental legislation, conducting investigations and engaging with stakeholders to foster compliance.
As the Nature Positive Reforms unfold, public consultation remains a key component. The public will play a crucial role in this paradigm shift. An online tool will empower individuals to report potential breaches of environmental law, initiating investigations by the Compliance and Assessment Branch. Meanwhile, the DCCEEW is conducting an EPBC Offsets Audit Process and a ground-truthing program to assess the compliance status of approved actions, aiming to refine offset assessment methods.
With an exposure draft package slated for release in 2023 and legislation anticipated in 2024, these reforms seek to strike a balance between robust environmental
protection and a streamlined approval process, paving the way for a sustainable and harmonious coexistence with nature.
If you want to learn more about the reform, you can register to a webinar organised by the Department on 23th November 2023 and on 28th November 2023. They will
explain how the proposed changes are designed to work and how they compare to existing laws. You can register here.
Green Tape Solutions will definitely attend the session and will report on our website!
You can also find more information on the DCCEEW website under EPBC Act reform - DCCEEW