The Response commits to a raft of legislative changes.
The objectives of the Act will be strengthened and will include:
Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the best available science and long-term emissions reduction target;
Building resilience of Victoria’s infrastructure, built environment and communities through adaptation and disaster preparedness action;
Management of Victoria’s natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity to promote resilience;
Promotion and support of Victoria’s regions to maximise the opportunities that arise from a transition to a low-carbon economy; and
Support of vulnerable communities and promotion of intergenerational equity and social justice.
Guiding principles will also be introduced into the Act and guidance from the Minister for Environment and Climate Change will be developed to address how the objectives and principles should be utilised across government.
The Government has agreed to a legislated five-yearly Victorian Climate Change Strategy (Strategy), the first of which will be released in 2020 (to follow on immediately from the Victorian Climate Change Framework, which will cover the period 2017-2020). The Strategy will include components for adaptation, disaster risk reduction and emissions reduction.
Schedule 1 of the Act, which sets out government decisions and actions which need to account for the potential impacts of climate change, will be reviewed and is likely to be broadened. The Response highlights the role of land use planning in climate change adaptation, and states that amendments to Schedule 1 will provide further support to planning authorities to consider climate change in decision making. Acts identified for possible inclusion in Schedule 1 include:
Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009
Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990
Planning and Environment Act 1987
In conjunction with work to identify what additional acts should be added to Schedule 1, consideration will be given to whether it is necessary to broaden legal standing for the judicial review of administrative decisions under Schedule 1. The one recommendation from the Independent Review which was not adopted was to introduce the right for merits review.
The Response also supports amendments being made to the Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act) to clarify that the Environment Protection Authority’s powers may be exercised for the purpose of achieving emission reduction targets, although it notes that any substantive changes would require a public consultation and regulatory impact assessment process. Any amendments to the EP Act will be considered in conjunction with the outcomes of the Independent EPA Inquiry, which concluded earlier this year.
Ten yearly reviews will be built into the Act, the first to take place in 2026, to ensure that the Act is achieving its stated objectives and purposes and whether additional legislative changes are warranted.