Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions and their answers about the Climate Change Policy and Action Plan 2023-26

The Policy and Action Plan – context

We have a critical role in protecting the environment and community from the threat of climate change and supporting industry and the community to meet the NSW Government’s net zero commitments. We are already responding to climate change induced severe weather events that impact our environment and our communities.

Our policy and the action plan set out how we will work with government, experts, our regulated community, Aboriginal people and the community more broadly to minimise, prepare for and manage the impacts of climate change.

Actions include:

  • working with industry, government and experts to improve the evidence base on climate change
  • supporting licensees to prepare, implement and report on climate change mitigation and adaptation plans
  • partnering with NSW Government agencies to address climate change during the planning and assessment process for activities we regulate
  • establishing cost-effective emission reduction targets for key industry sectors we license
  • providing industry best-practice guidelines to support them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
  • gradually introducing greenhouse gas emission limits on environment protection licences for key industry sectors, where required
  • developing and implementing resilience programs and best-practice adaptation guidance, and harnessing citizen science and education programs
  • working with Aboriginal people and our Environment Youth Advisory Council to improve our evolving climate change response.

The policy and action plan apply to all of our regulated community. That is, the people, businesses, industries and government organisations that we regulate.

We recognise that there will be some significant differences between types of activities, individual operators and different sites that we regulate. For example:

  • some activities emit more greenhouse gases than others
  • some sources of greenhouse gas emissions are easier to abate than others (due to technological and other factors)
  • some sites are more exposed to the impacts of climate change than others (and may require additional support with adaptation planning)

Our first priority will be to listen to our regulated community to understand the climate change actions already being taken and where we can best support efforts already being undertaken. We will then assess the information and evidence available to determine where we should focus our regulatory effort.

The policy and action plan applies to all greenhouse gases and related short-lived climate pollutants emitted due to human activities. 

Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), which makes up almost 70% of greenhouse gases caused by human activities in NSW. Other greenhouse gases of concern include nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), ozone (O3) and some synthetic gases. These are typically reported in terms of their ‘CO2-equivalency’ (CO2-e).

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are a group of greenhouse gases and air pollutants that have relatively short atmospheric lifetimes compared to CO2. SLCPs have a high global warming potential: molecule for molecule, they warm the Earth faster than CO2. The main SLCPs are black carbon, methane, ground-level ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons.

Results of our public consultation

We received 1,071 submissions in total, including 103 unique written submissions, 128 online surveys and 840 submissions via a GetUp survey.

Feedback from all forms of consultation indicated that our stakeholders are generally supportive of our response to climate change, with nearly 98% of submissions (or 90% excluding the GetUp! form submissions) being supportive or neutral of our draft policy and action plan. 

More information is available in the consultation summary report.

We received 108 submissions from individuals and 52 submissions from community groups (including environmental groups). Almost 89% of these submissions were supportive or neutral of the draft policy and action plan.

While generally supportive, a key sentiment from individuals, community and environment groups was that the language and actions in the action plan needed strengthening. They wanted to see strong, mandatory and enforceable greenhouse gas emission limits. They also wanted actions to happen sooner. While we appreciate these sentiments, it’s critical that we take a staged and systematic approach to developing and implementing actions to ensure they’re meaningful, feasible and cost effective for industry and the broader community. More information on community submissions is available in the consultation summary report.

We received 45 submissions from a range of industry sectors, industry bodies and other businesses.  87% of these were supportive or neutral of the draft policy and action plan.

Industry representatives raised many pertinent issues that will be addressed as we further develop and implement our proposed actions.

For example, regulated industry stakeholders stressed the need for Australian governments, at all levels, to work to minimise duplication and increase harmonisation between various plans and reforms. To ensure our work complements other existing policies and plans, we have committed to consulting, collaborating and partnering with relevant agencies, industry and experts in a meaningful way.

Unsupportive industrial submissions generally sought a stronger Commonwealth-led approach on climate matters or were concerned about regulation being duplicated. We will ensure implementation of the action plan complements, rather than duplicates or conflicts with these other approaches.

More information on what we heard from industry sectors is available in the consultation summary report.

No substantive changes have been made to our Climate Change Policy and Action Plan. Minor editorial changes have been made to align with updated government commitments and policies, in addition to clarifying the intent of some of the actions as raised during consultation.

However, we provided additional information within the documents, including being more specific about the broad range of stakeholders we’ll consult with in future. We have also committed to establishing sector-specific advisory groups to inform the further development and implementation of actions under the plan.

Alignment with other jurisdictional requirements

Yes, we have undertaken extensive work to ensure our policy and action plan complements, supports and builds on the NSW Government’s robust climate change policy frameworks.

This includes important climate change policies and strategies, such as the Net Zero Plan, NSW Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, NSW Hydrogen Strategy, Sustainable Farming ProgramCoal Innovation Fund, the NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy and the Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program.

The Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC) is the lead NSW Government agency on strategic NSW climate change policy. We are working closely with the OECC and all other government agencies delivering climate change policies and programs.

We have considered the approaches of global and Australian environmental regulators. Our action plan incorporates and builds on the best current and proposed approaches from these regulators. We will also continue to work closely with other jurisdictions and the Commonwealth to seek alignment where possible.

In particular, we are committed to ensuring that our regulation of greenhouse gases considers the reporting, performance and other obligations imposed by the Commonwealth Government. That includes the Clean Energy Regulator’s Safeguard Mechanism.

We will consider the role of greenhouse gas emission offsets as we develop emission limits and industry sector or site-specific performance requirements. We will be looking to ensure that our regulated community is making genuine efforts to reduce and minimise their emissions before relying on offsets. 

Where offsets are needed and allowed, we will ensure they are sourced from accredited schemes, such as those overseen by the Commonwealth Clean Energy Regulator. 

The goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The UN Net Zero Coalition has recommended a 45% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement. NSW has a more ambitious target of 50% by 2030 and 70% by 2035.

Implementation of the policy and action plan

We’ll partner with DCCEEW, to seek to ensure that climate change mitigation and adaptation has been adequately considered as part of all planning proposals for activities we’ll regulate, and that proponents are bound by appropriate performance requirements. Together we’ll:

  • develop climate change guidance and place-based policies to support the planning approvals process, including guidance and advice for other consent authorities and businesses
  • require and support proponents to adequately consider climate change in their applications
  • develop appropriate climate change conditions for development approvals.

Actions will be staged so that they are well-informed and properly paced to enable regulated industries time to adjust, where needed.

It will take time to set sector emission targets and related performance requirements to ensure they are reasonable and feasible, informed by expert advice and global best practice.

This will be decided in collaboration with industry sectors, NSW Government and climate change experts. However, everyone has a part to play. Our initial focus will also be informed by the information we receive through our licensee survey, an early action in the action plan.

We have committed to ongoing consultation with regulated industry to ensure reasonable and feasible solutions are identified. We will consult with sector-specific advisory groups, experts, the Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board, the Chief Scientist and Engineer, NSW Government departments, relevant agencies, to name a few. 

We will be consulting broadly and deeply across government, industry and the community to ensure any new requirements are reasonable, feasible, cost-effective and designed to minimise regulatory burden and compliance costs.

A clear regulatory framework for climate change will encourage industry and business investment as well as innovation opportunities in decarbonisation, renewables and resilience.

We will take a staged approach in implementing our action plan and will assess the social, economic and environment costs and benefits of any proposed requirements for industry. This staged approach will enable us to work with industry to minimise potential compliance costs.

The policy itself provides information about what we expect our regulated community to do. However, we will be developing guidance (and other support materials such as templates) to assist our regulated community to meet new actions under the plan.

We will develop a guideline for preparing climate change mitigation and adaptation plans. This will recognise the various types of reporting requirements, disclosures and plans that our licensees may already have prepared, for example:

  • Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosure statements, which are sometimes required or recommended via the financial/insurance sector and reported in organisations’ annual reports; and
  • Greenhouse gas management plans, which may be required through the planning process. 

No, we are not proposing to charge fees for greenhouse gases in LBL at this time. However, we’re committed to strengthening our regulatory response in the medium- to longer-term if it is required to support the NSW Government’s climate change actions and commitments, including the NSW net zero targets.

Sector targets, and licence limits and conditions

The operating environment for emission intensive trade exposed businesses is changing rapidly and no one knows for certain how the markets will evolve.

We are seeking to identify reasonable and feasible measures to support industry to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions, and we have committed to ongoing consultation with regulated industry to remain responsive to issues such as this.

If the European Union brings in the planned Carbon Border Adjustment mechanism, greater efficiency measures supported by us and other government policies and strategies will benefit trade exposed companies competing with European Union producers.

As we work to support NSW to reduce emissions to meet the state government’s 2030, 2035 and 2050 net zero targets, it will not be appropriate to expect all licensees to reduce their emissions at the same rate. What’s possible will vary due to many factors. Examples of these factors for consideration include the type and age of the facility and available technology. We will consider what’s reasonable and feasible at the sector and facility level and ensure that the requirements are reasonable and feasible while also encouraging proactive abatement.

The purpose of setting industry sector targets is to help us focus our regulatory effort where we can achieve the greatest gains by using the suite of regulatory approaches available to us, such as information and guidance, behavioural change programs, education and (where appropriate) enforceable requirements and licence conditions.

Sector emission reduction targets will help contribute to the broader NSW net zero targets. They will be feasible, evidence-based, and complemented by related emission reduction pathways. 

No. The targets themselves will not be enforceable, as they will apply to the industry sector (or sub-sector) as a whole (not to an individual licensee). However, our targets will provide tailored and transparent signals for the industry sectors in question, as we work with them to influence and require greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Industry sector targets will help us decide where to focus our regulatory efforts and guide and inform planning and licensing decisions. This will include working towards the development of enforceable greenhouse gas emission limits and other requirements that we propose to progressively place on licences.

No. However, the sector targets along with any relevant best-practice guidance developed for industry sectors are likely to guide and inform planning and licensing decisions.

We are committed to developing greenhouse gas emission limits and other licence requirements to help NSW meet its net zero targets. We will not be adding these requirements to all licences immediately; we’ll do it progressively, for the key industry sectors we license. It will take time to consider what is reasonable and feasible, including what cost-effective technologies and practices exist to reduce emissions. We will seek expert advice, monitor global actions, consult broadly and deeply and give industry time and support to adjust.

We have also committed to developing emission targets for key industry sectors that we licence. These targets, along with any relevant best-practice guidance developed for industry sectors are likely to guide and inform planning and licensing decisions.

This will be determined in consultation with the Department of Planning and Environment. It is common for relevant conditions of consent to be reflected in the development’s environment protection licence (once it is applied for and granted). This helps make the environmental performance related requirements more transparent and enforceable by us and enables continuous improvement under our regulatory framework.  

We will progressively place feasible, evidence-based greenhouse gas emission limits and other requirements on environment protection licences, for key industry sectors that we regulate. We’ll develop these emission limits and other licence requirements to help NSW meet its net zero targets. Our requirements will also be informed by any sector emission reduction targets we have developed for the industries we license.

We will ensure any emission limits or other licence requirements complement NSW government actions already taking place under the NSW Net Zero Plan, and any actions being taken by the Commonwealth Government (e.g. under the Safeguard Mechanism). We will also consider how to future-proof our approach, so that it recognises and allows for any future changes to Commonwealth policies or initiatives.

We, in collaboration with agency partners, will track and report on how sectors are performing against the relevant sector target.

Licensees will continue to be required to report on compliance with their licence conditions and publish monitoring results in accordance with our published guideline

We will consider both scope 1 and 2 emissions, which is consistent with the NSW Government’s Net Zero Plan, and National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Scheme requirements. We want to work with our licensees to understand all of their emissions, including scope 3, to help them account for emissions along their value chains. However, we are unlikely to focus on setting targets and licence limits for scope 3 as an initial priority.

Our climate change actions will be staged to enable us to take a measured and evidence-based approach to setting requirements, and to work with our regulated industries to adjust.

We will consider enforceable licence conditions once feasible and reasonable opportunities have been identified. Licence conditions would be enforced in accordance with our Regulatory Policy and Regulatory Strategy.

Engaging with Aboriginal people and youth

We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the enduring custodians of the land, sea, waters and sky of NSW. We are committed to incorporating Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives into our work and in important environmental issues by building relationships and working to maintain them so that there is long-term collaboration.

 We want to ensure that our climate change response respects and aligns with Aboriginal people’s cultural values and responsibilities for protecting Country as well as our Statement of Commitment to Aboriginal People of NSW (see our policy).

The action plan commits us to active, regular and meaningful engagement with Aboriginal peoples to inform our evolving regulatory response to climate change. Our engagement will be guided by Aboriginal people to ensure we’re working in respectful partnership, consistent with the NSW Government’s commitment under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

We are committed to listening to young people on our climate change approach, to seek their views, look to address their concerns and provide opportunities for them to provide their ideas and to get more involved. We’ll initially provide these opportunities through our Environment Youth Advisory Council.

The Council represents a diversity of young people living in NSW with inaugural members from across the state including northern Sydney, western Sydney, inner Sydney, Blue Mountains, Young, Albury, Mudgee and Central Coast regions.

Local government

We will support councils in their roles as consent authorities, co-regulators of environmental legislation, and as licensees (e.g. as operators of waste facilities and sewage treatment plants).

We will be working with local government licensees to support them in considering various greenhouse gas reduction pathways and the climate risks for their licensed facilities.

We will be carefully considering what councils are already doing to address climate change and will be asking them about what types of support they need to adapt and be more resilient.

See Factsheet: Opportunities for councils

We will be encouraging and supporting our licensees, including our council licensees, to access existing government funding and grants.

Funding opportunities include, for example, the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy, the Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program, the Emissions Intensity Reduction Program and Sustainability Advantage.

We will also consider whether our licensees need targeted assistance and will report back to the Government on this.

Resources which may be useful are:

The action plan proposes that all licensed facilities, including those managed by councils, develop climate change mitigation and adaptation plans. We will work with all of our licensees to support the development and implementation of these plans.

We know that some councils are already developing their own climate change strategies and plans that apply beyond their licensed premises, across their entire local government area. This is a sensible approach to ensure councils and the communities they service are more resilient to climate-related impacts and are decarbonising their own operations.

We are happy to discuss how we might be able to support all these approaches.

Court order

Before the Land and Environment Court handed down its ruling, we had released our Strategic Plan 2021–24, which identifies climate change and ecological sustainable development as two of our key focus areas. Within this plan, we committed to:

  • take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate climate change impacts and build greater environmental and community resilience aligned with the principles in the NSW Net Zero Plan
  • champion sustainable approaches to mitigate the cumulative impacts of industry on local communities and environments.

On 26 August 2021, in the matter of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action v EPA, the Land and Environment Court ordered the EPA to fulfil its statutory duty to develop environmental quality objectives, guidelines and policies to ensure environment protection from climate change.

This duty is found in section 9(1)(a) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991. Under this section, we are required to “develop environmental quality objectives, guidelines and policies to ensure environment protection”. The Court found that this statutory duty extends to protecting the environment from climate change.

For more information see: Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Incorporated v Environment Protection Authority [2021] NSWLEC 92

The court ruling has further informed and guided our development of the climate change policy and the action plan.