The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has revised its guidance on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from significant new or expanding proposals in Western Australia, requiring those that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year to fully offset those emissions.
The EPA says the guidance will help proponents of significant new or expanding proposals in the state to prepare for an environmental assessment by the EPA and will provide greater certainty in the EPA’s consideration of greenhouse gas emissions through its assessment process.
The WA Government distanced itself from the EPA, stating it is not a government policy, but rather sets out the approach and expectations of the EPA when considering greenhouse gas emissions related to a proposal.
Consultation on the EPA guidance will be undertaken to ensure that environmental, social and economic impacts are fully understood as part of the State Government response.
The McGowan Government says its focus is on creating jobs and economic development, and this will remain the key priority as it considers the state’s response to the advice.
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Last year, the State Government announced that a new co-ordinated Climate Policy for the state would be developed by the end of 2019 to help WA play its part in meeting national emissions targets. It is the State Government’s view that emissions mitigation is best managed through a nationally consistent approach.
The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) said the guidelines threaten to chill investment in WA’s major industries.
APPEA chief executive Dr Malcolm Roberts said the EPA’s proposal to require new or expanding manufacturing, generation and resource projects in WA to offset their greenhouse gas emissions goes far beyond previous proposals.
“While experts agree that a market-based approach is the least cost way to cut emissions, the EPA wants to use the very blunt instrument of regulation,” Dr Roberts said.
“The EPA admits that it has not considered the social or economic impact of its guidelines. Its approach targets WA’s growth industries and will deter local investment, prompting projects to go interstate or overseas.
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“WA relies heavily on its reputation as a stable investment destination – the EPA guidelines sends a worrying signal to prospective investors.
“As a general rule, APPEA does not support ad hoc state-based policies to tackle climate change – the industry sees a national, market-based approach as the sensible way to achieve our emissions targets at lowest possible cost. Selective regulation distorts markets and investment without necessarily achieving lower emissions.
“As far as the LNG industry is concerned, our exports are contributing to a cleaner energy sector in north Asia. According to recent federal government estimates, Australian LNG exports are reducing emissions by at least 130 million tonnes per year.
“APPEA urges the EPA and the WA government to put aside the guidelines while the state government completes its review of climate change policy.”