QLD’s EIS Generic Terms of Reference (ToR) amended to give more importance to Climate and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Written by Plistina Almeida and Simon Welchman
The American Meteorological Association defines Climate Change as any systematic change in the long-term statistics of climate elements sustained over several decades or longer. The most obvious evidence of Climate Change in the world is undoubtedly the global warming, which is led by an increase in the temperatures worldwide.
The Paris Agreement is a major landmark that aims to address climate change and its negative impacts. The agreement includes commitments of all countries towards substantially reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in an effort to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
Global warming occurs because GHGs trap the sun’s energy as it radiates from the Earth’s surface back into space. Human activities such as burning fossil fuels, agriculture and land clearing increase the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere, which increases the Earth’s temperature.
As one of the signatories to the agreement, Australia aims to decarbonise its economy. The management of GHGs plays a vital role in reducing the potential impacts of climate change.
New developments play an important role in helping us manage future GHG emissions. Consequently, it is sensible that GHG emissions should be considered at the planning and assessment phase of approval so that GHG emissions are minimised. State and territory governments have varied approaches to this. Recently, the Queensland Government amended its Generic Terms of Reference (ToR) to accommodate for the increasing importance GHG and Climate assessment of projects requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We examine this change further in this article.
The Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) has been progressively assigning more importance to GHG assessments in its EIS process.
Since 2019, in addition to producing a GHG inventory for each year of a project’s operation and GHG abatement measures, proponents are now required to:
- describe the proposed measures and alternatives to avoid and/or minimise Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions of the proposed project (and Scope 3, if possible)
- assess how these preferred mitigation measures minimise emissions and achieve energy efficiency
- benchmark the preferred measures for emission controls and energy consumption against best practice environmental management in the relevant sector of industry
- describe any opportunities for further offsetting GHG emissions through indirect means. (Air – EIS information guideline, 2021)
DES also provides suggestions in relation to some of the measures that may be implemented by the company in order to reduce GHG emissions such as using less carbon-emitting transport modes or fuels and maximising the use of renewable energy sources.
GHG emissions are also required to be addressed through an environmental management plan, including:
- commitments to abate GHG emissions from the proposed project
- the setting of periodic energy audits to measure progress towards improving energy efficiency
- a process for regularly reviewing new technologies to identify opportunities to reduce GHG emissions and use energy efficiently, consistent with best practice environmental management
- information on any voluntary initiatives or research into reducing the lifecycle and embodied energy carbon intensity of the proposed project’s processes or products.
Greenhouse gas and carbon footprint studies are critical to decision-making. Organisations need to understand their carbon footprints with confidence so they can quantify risks and carbon price liabilities, ensure compliance, optimise investment and plan for the future. Carbon footprint studies for expansion and development projects should include option testing so that carbon and energy implications are well understood and used to inform feasibility and impact assessments.
Katestone has been helping clients with the development of practical carbon management strategies that support decision making processes at an executive level. We are also able to help develop special abatement projects associated with the Emissions Reduction Fund (e.g. for Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs)). Our team members have effectively collaborated with clients not only in the development of strategies and plans but helped in bringing them to life in implementation (e.g. energy efficiency, carbon mitigation, procurement or staff engagement).
The TOR for an EIS also include the implications of climate change on a proposed development. In the past (around 2012), requirements were limited to the description of the site’s climate patterns that are relevant to the environmental assessment, with particular regard to discharges to water and air and the propagation of noise. Climate data was generally presented in a statistical form including long-term averages and extreme values, as necessary.
In August 2020, DES released a Climate-EIS information guideline that now requires consideration of the following:
- existing climate and how it impacts the other major components of the EIS such as air, water, noise and ecology
- the assessment of the potential change in climate at the project site over the expected life of the project, which is to include a conservative approach and assumption of worst-case scenarios for climate change projections at the project site.
Assessments of Climate Variability and Adaptation assist with long term planning so that the risks due to climate change can be quantified and, where necessary, mitigated.
How can Katestone help you?
Katestone’s clients benefit from a detailed analysis of the range of probable future climate scenarios for the region. This analysis is a critical tool for effective planning of climate variability and mitigation strategies far into the future. Katestone ‘s clients have reported:
- better understanding of local and regional climate, including longer term periodic influences such as El Niῆo and La Niῆa and dominant seasonal synoptic influences
- ability to take practical steps beyond risk assessment using localised analysis of climate parameters to optimise adaptation investment, better quantify residual risk and engage staff
- capacity to anticipate and respond to weather events with customised forecasting, including for rural and remote locations, combined with decision support tools.
Qld.gov.au. 2021. Air – EIS information guideline. [online] Available at: <https://www.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/140004/eis-tm-air-information-guide.pdf> [Accessed 5 August 2021].
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This article featured in the Katestone’s Clear Skies 2021 Winter edition. Click here to view other featured articles.