Climate change legislation

On 30 November 2023 the State Government introduced the Climate Change Bill 2023 to Parliament to contribute to national and global goals for decarbonisation, provide certainty for businesses, and attract the investment required to transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
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Once enacted, the legislation will provide the framework for State Government action on climate, ensuring Western Australia is well positioned to be at the forefront and to realise the benefits of the global clean energy transition.

The legislation will ensure State Government accountability on climate action, formalising the state’s long-term target of net zero emissions by 2050 and providing statutory requirements to set interim emission reduction targets and develop policies to reduce emissions and enhance climate resilience.

The legislation will require the Minister for Climate Action to set a 2030 target for State Government emissions as soon as practicable after the Act comes into operation.

The legislation will require the Minister for Climate Action to report annually to the Parliament of Western Australia on the state’s emissions and progress against the emission reduction targets.

The development of climate change legislation underscores the State Government’s commitment to climate action and will help attract and accelerate investment and skills needed for the net zero transition.

A fact sheet and audio translations in plain English and three Aboriginal languages – Kriol, Martu and Ngaanyatjarra – have been published to help explain the legislation.

View the frequently asked questions on Western Australia’s climate change legislation below.

Purpose and benefits

What is the purpose of the climate change legislation?

The legislation will create a framework for the State Government’s response to climate change and ensure Western Australia contributes to national and global mitigation efforts.

The legislation is focused on State Government accountability in policy development and reporting, and target-setting – it does not create any additional regulation or obligations for business, industry, project proponents, local government, or households. It will enhance the stability and credibility of the state’s climate response by creating statutory requirements to develop policies to support emissions reduction and enhance climate resilience.

The legislation ensures accountability and transparency by requiring the Minister for Climate Action to report annually to the Western Australian Parliament on the state’s net emissions and progress against the emission reduction targets.

Why is legislation important?

Legislation will provide confidence that Western Australia has the stable, clear, and necessary policies to reduce emissions which will help mobilise private sector capital for the net zero transition.

While legislation is not necessary to achieve the State Government’s emissions reduction goals, it provides a clear and consistent framework for action and long-term certainty to enhance investor and business confidence and accelerate investment.

What are the main benefits of legislation for Western Australia?

The legislation will ensure the state’s commitment to climate action is enduring and consistent.

The legislation requires the State Government to develop emission reduction strategies, develop climate adaptation strategies and sector adaptation plans, set emission reduction targets, and report annually to Parliament on the state's progress in reducing emissions.

Legislation will send a strong signal about the priorities of this government, enhance the state's environmental, social and corporate governance performance, and underscore investor confidence.

When will the legislation be introduced to Parliament?

The Climate Change Bill 2023 was tabled in Parliament on 30 November 2023. 

Consultation and feedback

Was there consultation on the draft legislation?

Consultation on the legislation was undertaken over four weeks between September and October 2023. Consultation has now closed. More than 100 stakeholder groups were invited to information sessions and were able to provide feedback on the Climate Change Bill 2023.

Why did the State Government conduct targeted consultation?

The consultation sought input from a cross-section of the community to ensure a diverse range of views was considered in finalising the legislation.

Key stakeholders included First Nations people, peak representative bodies from industry, agriculture, water and conservation sectors, Australian and State Government agencies, local government, government trading enterprises, universities, advocacy groups and non-government organisations.

How was stakeholder feedback considered?

The Climate Change Bill 2023 responds to extensive feedback received from Western Australian stakeholders on climate change in recent years, including the key perspectives gained from written submissions and feedback received at information sessions during the consultation period.  The targeted engagement process ensured the State Government was able to consider key perspectives from a broad cross-sector of the community before finalising the legislation.

Feedback received through information sessions was critical in finalising the Climate Change Bill 2023. Written submissions provided to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation during the consultation period were also considered.

How many submissions were received during the consultation period?

The department received about 260 submissions on the Climate Change Bill 2023. Submissions were received from a range of stakeholders including conservation groups, government agencies, peak industry bodies, First Nations groups and members of the public.

When will the legislation be made public?

The Climate Change Bill 2023 was introduced to Parliament on 30 November 2023. It is available to view on Hansard, the Western Australian Parliament website.

Targets

What are the different targets required under the legislation?

The climate change legislation requires targets to be set for both the State Government and for Western Australia as a whole.

The State Government target will apply to government operations and cover emissions from more than 130 government agencies and government trading enterprises.

The target for Western Australia will include all emissions from activities occurring within the state’s geographic boundaries.

The legislation provides for both long-term and interim targets. The legislation will establish a long-term target for the State Government and for Western Australia of zero net emissions by 2050.

Why is there no 2030 target for Western Australia?

Western Australia has a unique export-orientated economy with a significant amount of heavy industry. Achieving the twin objectives of decarbonising the state and while supporting decarbonisation of our broader region, through our exports, will mean our pathway to net zero emissions looks different.

The State Government is focused on setting ambitious targets for 2035 as both a point target to be achieved for 2035, and an emissions budget for the years 2031 to 2035. This timeframe allows government, business and industry to make the necessary investments to deliver deep cuts to emissions and establish a pathway to net zero emissions.

The State Government is acting now to reduce emissions to 2030 and beyond. It is taking steps to substantially decarbonise the state’s main electricity grid through additional funding for Western Power to start delivery of the first stage of network investments identified in the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) Demand Assessment.

The State Government is also developing a sectoral emissions reduction strategy which will include additional commitments to reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy.

Why are interim targets not set in the legislation?

The legislation will create requirements for the responsible Minister to set interim targets for net emissions for specific dates: 2035, 2040 and 2045. The targets should be set as soon as practicable after the Australian Government sets its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for these dates. This approach links the setting of state targets to national and international frameworks and ensures Western Australia’s targets are informed by global and national action and analysis.

Setting targets in this way, by publishing notices instead of having them specified in the legislation, is a more flexible approach and enables decision-makers to be informed by the latest science and technological developments.

Does the long-term legislated target limit more ambitious action on climate change?

No. The long-term target requires Western Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to zero or below by 2050. This is not intended to limit Western Australia's ability to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero before 2050.

Will Western Australia’s emission reduction targets be enforceable?

Like other framework legislation in Australia and around the world, Western Australia’s climate change legislation will require government to set emission reduction targets, produce emission reduction strategies, and report to Parliament on its progress.

There are robust provisions in the Climate Change Bill 2023 for the Minister to take action to achieve interim targets. These include requirements for Minister to be satisfied that the emissions reduction strategy will enable targets to be met and support the transition to net zero emissions.

Targets may only be amended in exceptional circumstances and must be accompanied by a statement to Parliament.

These provisions for target setting in Western Australia’s climate change legislation are similar to legislation in other Australian states and territories and in other countries.

Are there any consequences if targets are not met?

The legislation ensures that the State Government is held accountable to the Western Australian Parliament and the community. The responsible Minister is required to make an annual statement to Parliament on progress towards relevant targets. This process will ensure transparency on progress, and the opportunity for additional action if required. If targets are not met, the Minister would be required to set out relevant reasons.

When will interim targets be set for Western Australia?

Western Australia will set interim targets for 2035, 2040 and 2045 as soon as practicable after the Australian Government sets its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for these years.

Under the Paris Agreement, each nation must set an NDC which is informed by a global stocktake of the world’s collective progress towards stabilising global temperatures at 1.5°C. The Australian Government is required to set its 2035 target in 2025.

This approach to target setting links state targets to national and international frameworks and ensures Western Australia’s targets are informed by global and national action and analysis.

When will interim targets be set for the State Government?

The legislation has requirements for the setting of State Government targets similar to those for Western Australia. Interim targets for the State Government for 2035, 2040 and 2045 will need to be set as soon as practicable after the Australian Government sets its NDC for these dates.

In addition, a 2030 target for the State Government must be set as soon as practicable after the climate change legislation comes into operation. This will formalise the State Government’s target of 80 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030.

What is the State Government doing now to reduce emissions?

Significant action is underway to reduce emissions across Western Australia’s economy.

The State Government has set ambitious targets for reducing emissions from its operations, which contribute about 10 per cent of Western Australia’s emissions. The State Government will retire all state-owned coal-fired power generation by 2030. It is also taking steps to deliver the first stage of network investments identified in the SWIS Demand Assessment and substantially decarbonise the state’s main electricity grid. Implementing the Future Ready scenario of the SWIS Demand Assessment will support a transition to 80 per cent of electricity from renewable sources in the SWIS in 2030, and 96 per cent in 2042.

The State Government has also announced a landmark agreement with Pilbara industry on common use electricity infrastructure, backed by a $3 billion deal with the Australian Government as part of the Rewiring the Nation initiative. The agreement will help shift electricity infrastructure to common use and help drive renewable energy development in the Pilbara.

The State Government is also developing a sectoral emissions reduction strategy (SERS) to set out pathways and priority actions for the net zero transition. The SERS will include tangible actions for reducing emissions to 2030 and beyond.

Which government agencies and government trading enterprises will be included in the State Government emissions targets?

The target covers all State Government agencies and government trading enterprises (GTEs), including Synergy, Western Power, Horizon Power and Water Corporation, as well as public hospitals, schools and the Public Transport Authority. More than 130 agencies and GTEs are included in the State Government targets.

Will targets be science-based?

Targets will be informed by the latest climate science, as well as consideration of Western Australia’s geographic characteristics and industries, to ensure they are both ambitious and achievable.

The linking of state and national target-setting will allow the State Government to have access to the latest Australian Government advice on appropriate targets and Australia’s ‘fair share’ contribution to international decarbonisation efforts. This will enhance alignment of Western Australian targets with the goals and requirements of the Paris Agreement.   

The Paris Agreement works on a five-year cycle of increasingly ambitious targets (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) by parties to the Agreement. Each successive NDC is intended to reflect a higher degree of ambition to previous targets. This is referred to as a ‘ratchet mechanism’.

The Climate Change Bill 2023 also requires each successive interim target to represent a progression beyond any previous interim target. This confirms the downward direction of travel in emissions targets towards the 2050 target of zero net emissions.

Will scope 3 emissions count towards net emissions and targets?

Scope 3 emissions that are generated within Western Australia’s geographic borders will be covered by the legislation. Emissions that occur outside of the state are excluded.

This approach avoids the double counting of emissions by jurisdictions and is consistent with the Australian Government’s development of national and sub-national inventories and the National Greenhouse Accounts, which underpin Australia’s reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Will an independent body be appointed to advise on targets?

The legislation does not establish an independent advisory body.

The State Government is committed to interim targets which are ambitious and can be practically achieved. In setting interim targets, the State Government will consider national targets and Western Australia’s contribution to Australia’s ‘fair share’ of global mitigation efforts.

Will environmental and health targets be considered?

There are several factors that could be measured to track the state’s progress in responding to climate change. The legislation will ensure the State Government’s progress is assessed against the most objective measure, being reduction of Western Australia’s emissions. 

The annual report to Parliament also requires reporting on progress in implementing the emissions reduction strategy and may consider tracking against other metrics, as appropriate. 

Offsets

Will the legislation allow offsets to contribute to targets?

The legislation requires limits to be set on the extent to which offsets can be used to meet targets.

In setting limits on eligible offsets, the Minister is required to take account of the mitigation hierarchy which considers offsets as a last resort. These requirements will address the risk of over-reliance on offsets.

Only offsets prescribed as ‘eligible offsets’ in regulations may be counted towards emissions reduction targets.

What type of offsets will be prescribed?

The prescribing of eligible offsets will be done through regulations and subject to consideration by the Western Australian Parliament and disallowance.

Regulations prescribing offsets will be aligned to international best practice for offset integrity standards to ensure that offsets represent real emissions reductions. Regulations must be tabled in Parliament and may be disallowed, providing transparency and scrutiny of proposed offsets.

Will limits be placed on the use of offsets?

Yes. Western Australia's Climate Change Bill 2023 requires limits to be set on eligible offsets when setting each interim target.

The provisions in Western Australia’s legislation go beyond that of comparable legislation in a number of other jurisdictions and will reduce the risk of overreliance on offsets.

Implications for households, business and industry

Will legislative and statutory targets create enforceable obligations for industry?

No. The legislation holds the State Government accountable to the Western Australian Parliament and the community. It places obligations on the State Government to set targets and develop and implement policies to achieve targets and enhance climate resilience.

Will the target impose costs on business and industry?

The legislation and legislated targets will not create obligations for business and industry sectors or for individual facilities.

By unlocking critical investment in clean energy infrastructure and technologies, legislation can help accelerate the transition, reduce risk for business and underpin an orderly transition to net zero emissions.

Why does the Climate Change Bill 2023 not target large emitters?

The legislation complements existing legislation covering significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the economy, such as the Australian Government’s Safeguard Mechanism.

The Safeguard Mechanism covers about half of Western Australia’s emissions and has now been amended to impose declining baselines on facilities with annual scope 1 emissions of more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The State Government will adopt a range of policy and regulatory measures to meet statutory and legislated emission reduction targets for Western Australia. The legislation provides for the development of an emissions reduction strategy to enable achievement of targets. Individual measures contained within the strategy will be developed through a process of public consultation.

How will the legislation impact cost of living?

The legislation will enhance certainty for investors and help attract financing for renewable energy projects and infrastructure.

Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy. Increasing the share of lower-cost renewable energy in the state’s main electricity grid, as modelled in the SWIS Demand Assessment, will put downward pressure on electricity costs, relieving cost-of-living pressures affecting Western Australian households.

Does the proposed legislation duplicate the Australian Government’s Climate Change Act 2022?

No. The legislation is focused on enhancing accountability for government, and creating a clear, stable policy framework for climate action in Western Australia.

The legislation complements the Australian Government’s policies and legislation, while ensuring Western Australia can continue to attract the investment required for the transition to net zero emissions. 

Will the Climate Change Bill 2023 create opportunities for renewable energy projects?

The legislation will support business certainty and help mobilise finance for large-scale renewable energy projects which will underpin the net zero transition.

The legislation will complement a range of other State Government initiatives supporting renewable energy adoption, including the Green Energy Approvals Initiative, which provides a streamlined pathway for green energy projects, and the SWIS Demand Assessment. 

Adaptation planning

What are sector adaptation plans and how will they enhance climate resilience?

Sector adaptation plans will identify sector-specific climate impacts and adaptation actions, enabling the State Government and community to work together to build a shared understanding of climate impacts and prioritise adaptation responses.

Sector adaptation planning will support effective climate adaptation by leveraging local knowledge and perspectives and developing solutions in consultation with communities and local government.

The legislation requires sector adaptation plans to be prepared for health and human services, emergency management, primary production, infrastructure and built environment, small and medium enterprises, natural environment, and water security. Sector adaptation plans may also be developed for other sectors prescribed in regulations.

What industries will be included in sector adaptation plans?

The industries to be included in the development of sector adaptation plans have not been defined in the Climate Change Bill 2023.

The Minister/s responsible for developing the sector adaptation plans will define the scope of the plan and relevant stakeholders and industries. 

The Minister may consider sector adaptation planning requirements in other jurisdictions in defining the approach to the relevant sector. For example, the responsible Minister may consider Victoria’s Primary Production Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan, which includes agriculture, plantation forestry, productive fisheries and the infrastructure workforce and communities supporting them.

Can sector adaptation plans be developed for other sectors?

Yes. The legislation allows for “any prescribed sector” to be identified for the development of a sector adaptation plan.

Will Sector Adaptation Plans be broken down into sub-sectors?

It is not intended that sector adaptation plans will be broken down into sub-sectors. The responsible Minister will define the scope of the relevant sector adaptation plan and determine what activities should appropriately sit within each.

Annual reporting

When will the first annual climate change report be tabled in Parliament?

The first annual report to Parliament on Western Australia’s progress in achieving its emissions targets must be tabled in Parliament as soon as practicable after 30 June 2025 and not later than 31 December 2025.

Can the annual climate change report include progress on adaptation activities?

The annual report to Parliament must report certain matters, including emissions attributable to the state, and progress towards reducing emissions and implementing the emissions reduction strategy.

The Minister may also report on any other matter considered appropriate, such as adaptation progress. 

Strategies

When will the strategies required under the legislation be developed?

The first emissions reduction strategy must be prepared within three years of the legislation coming into operation. The first climate adaptation strategy must be prepared within five years of this date.

How will provisions in the legislation, including for development of strategies, ensure timely action on climate change?

While the first emissions reduction strategy is required within three years, the State Government is taking action on climate change now.

Western Australia’s first Climate Adaptation Strategy was released in July 2023 and ensures our communities, environment and economy are resilient to future climate change.

The State Government is also developing a sectoral emissions reduction strategy (SERS), for release in December 2023. The SERS will address emissions from electricity, industry, transport, agriculture and land use, buildings and waste and will include tangible actions for reducing emissions.

The legislation will ensure an ongoing focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation, with requirements for ongoing policy development, review and reporting.