Fact sheet: Climate Change Policy and Action Plan - opportunities for councils

Councils play an important role in supporting the EPA to protect the environment from the threat of climate change, and in supporting the NSW Government’s net zero commitments.

Our Climate Change Policy and Action Plan

Our Climate Change Policy and Action Plan 2023–26 adopt, support and build on foundations set by the NSW Government. Furthermore, they set a clear path towards strengthened regulatory approaches to address climate change.

These foundations include the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework, Net Zero Plan, Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, and supporting policies and strategies.

The action plan sets out new and continuing actions to help regulate carbon emissions over the next three years and beyond. As part of this process, we will work collaboratively with industry and all levels of government to ensure actions are meaningful, feasible and cost effective.

Role of local government

Councils play many roles in supporting the rollout of the action plan. They can be consent authorities, co-regulators of environmental legislation, community leaders and advocates, and licensees (for example, as operators of waste facilities and sewage treatment plants). Many actions in our action plan are relevant to these roles and we are committed to supporting councils in implementing them.

Opportunities for local government

Councils as consent authorities and co-regulators of environmental legislation

We will develop new guidance that may help councils. This will include guidance to:

  • support EPA officers in making climate-related decisions (action 4 in the action plan)
  • support the development of climate change mitigation and adaptation plans (action 5b)
  • inform planning processes (action 5c)
  • lead to better pollution incident response management plans (action 5d)
  • support additional emission reductions from the waste sector (action 10)
  • support emission reductions from other key sectors (actions 17 and 24)
  • help councils reduce their own climate change risks and those of the premises they regulate (numerous actions).

In addition to the above, we will develop and implement behavioural change programs to encourage activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions (action 12).

We will also work with councils and other partners to:

  • support the whole-of-government streamlining of project approvals in renewable energy zones (action 11)
  • help communities and other parties respond to, recover from and better prepare for climate-change-related disasters (action 20).

Councils as licensees

For all licensed councils, we will:

  • survey licensed council facilities, to understand councils’ current actions and plans to reduce emissions, and support them to further decarbonise (actions 5a and 17)
  • help licensed council facilities adapt and be more resilient to a changing climate (action 24)
  • develop and provide user-friendly templates and guides to help licensed councils comply with new requirements (actions 17 and 24)
  • provide transitional arrangements to allow licensed councils to consider and respond to new information, and to plan for and adjust to new obligations (action 5b)
  • continue to support councils in managing the clean-up from climate-change-induced disasters, such as floods and fires (action 20)
  • develop sector-based initiatives to build climate resilience and protect the environment (action 23).

For waste facility operators, we will:

  • develop and implement programs to reduce emissions from the waste sector (action 10)
  • continue researching the impacts of climate change on waste transportation, storage, processing, disposal and legacy sites (NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041; WaSM)
  • develop advice and guidance to ensure appropriate climate risk management protocols are in place (action 24)
  • provide links and support to NSW Government-funded programs if councils face financial challenges in minimising their emissions or exposure to climate risks (WaSM)
  • if requested, provide additional targeted assistance to reduce emissions or exposure to climate risks (actions 17 and 24).

Councils as grant and funding recipients

Under the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041, the NSW Government will provide:

  • $65 million to support the rollout of new food and garden organics collection services and organics processing
  • $4 million for food donation infrastructure and equipment
  • $37 million Carbon Recycling and Abatement Fund, to reduce NSW carbon emissions through greater use of recycled materials in construction and manufacturing
  • $7.5 million to support the installation of gas-capture infrastructure at landfills.

Next steps

We are preparing to survey licensees to better understand their maturity and general progress in identifying and reducing their climate risks and the steps they are already taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We will also be asking about the sorts of support they need. This survey will be sent out in the first part of 2023. The results of the survey will inform the design of other actions under the plan.

Within the finalised policy and action plan, we have committed to developing sector-specific advisory groups. These advisory groups will have representation from a mix of stakeholders with knowledge about sectoral practices, issues and opportunities.