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Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Page: 2

Mr TURNBULL (Minister for the Environment and Water Resources) (9:08 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am delighted to introduce the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill 2007. This bill is the first major step in establishing the Australian emissions trading scheme. On 17 July this year the Prime Minister announced that Australia would introduce an emissions trading scheme, commencing no later than 2012. This will be the most comprehensive emissions trading scheme in the world, broader in coverage than any scheme currently operating anywhere.

This world-leading scheme will cover between 70 and 75 per cent of total emissions, or almost 100 per cent of industrial energy and mining emissions. By including large emitters alone, the scheme would cover 55 per cent of total emissions. However, by including transport and other fuels, the coverage of the scheme is significantly increased. The emissions trading scheme is a major plank of the Australian government’s $3.4 billion climate change strategy.

The bill I am introducing today lays the foundation for Australia’s emissions trading scheme. Robust data reported under this bill will form the basis of emissions liabilities under emissions trading, and will inform decision making during the establishment of the emissions trading system, including with regard to permit allocation and incentives for early abatement action. The bill will establish a single, national framework for reporting greenhouse gas emissions and abatement actions by corporations from 1 July 2008.

The Australian government has invested $26.1 million to establish this system, which will also cover reporting on energy consumption and production. The bill also gives effect to the decision of the Council of Australian Governments on 13 April this year to streamline the reporting obligations of corporations. It will eliminate duplicative reporting and reduce red tape currently imposed by the patchwork of separate state, territory and national reporting schemes.

Hundreds of Australian corporations are already providing the same or similar data to multiple state, territory and national greenhouse and energy reporting programs. Each program has been developed in isolation and often subtly has different requirements, meaning that a unique report is required under every program. In some cases, corporations are preparing eight different reports, based on similar data, under eight different programs. The excessive red tape and unnecessary cost this situation inflicts on the Australian economy will be eliminated under this bill.

The government will continue to work cooperatively with state and territory governments to transition towards a single national reporting system that will meet their data needs and deliver streamlining benefits to industry in time for the 2009-10 reporting period.

The bill also removes the additional, duplicative greenhouse gas reporting requirements added to the National Pollutant Inventory by the National Environment Protection Council in June this year. Removing this duplication is consistent with the council’s decision to rescind the greenhouse gas component of the variation once the national mandatory reporting system is in force.

To enable the secure sharing of data between the Australian government and state and territory governments, the bill will establish data security and confidentiality protection arrangements. Secure access to nationally consistent data will better inform the greenhouse response and energy policies of all governments in Australia.

The bill will improve the Australian government’s ability to meet its international reporting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and to the International Energy Agency. It will also, for the first time, provide easily accessible company level information to investors and the general public on greenhouse gas emissions and energy use by Australia’s major companies.

The bill requires corporations which produce or consume more than a specified amount of energy, or emit more than a specified amount of greenhouse gases, to register with the scheme and report annually on their energy use or emissions. The thresholds for the scheme have been set at a level which will capture a significant proportion of Australia’s emissions, while avoiding significant impacts on small business.

Under the scheme provided by this bill, it is estimated that around 700 companies will report on their greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and energy production.

Reporting will be managed through a system based on the Australian government’s Online System for Comprehensive Activity Reporting, developed for the government’s Greenhouse Challenge Plus Program. The bill provides for the creation of a new statutory position, the Greenhouse and Energy Data Officer, to administer the scheme.

A corporation will report emissions or energy use from facilities over which it has operational control; that is, facilities where it has authority to introduce and implement operating policies, health and safety policies or environmental policies. This approach places the responsibility for reporting on entities which have a direct influence on the operation of facilities and is consistent with approaches taken internationally for reporting and emissions trading schemes.

The thresholds at which corporations will be obliged to register and report will be phased in over three years, to provide those companies less likely to be reporting under existing schemes with time to prepare for the scheme. From the third year of the scheme’s operation, corporate groups will be required to report on their greenhouse gas emissions and energy production and consumption for any financial year in which they emit more than 50,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured in carbon dioxide equivalent), or which produce or consume more than 200 terajoules of energy.

The bill will also require corporations to report on facilities which either emit more than 25 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas (measured in carbon dioxide equivalent) or produce or consume more than 100 terajoules of energy in a single financial year. Regulations on determining control of facilities, and boundaries around facilities, will be very detailed to ensure that industry has clarity on their reporting obligations.

In keeping with the need for the reporting system to underpin emissions trading, the bill allows for a range of enforcement approaches, including criminal offences for corporations which provide false information. It establishes a system for monitoring compliance with the scheme, including a system of infringement notices and enforceable undertakings. These provide a range of possible alternatives to heavy penalties.

It is anticipated that corporations will improve their reporting processes over time. The emphasis of the compliance and enforcement regime in the initial years of the scheme will accordingly be on encouraging compliance, rather than on punitive measures. As the scheme matures, a more stringent approach will be appropriate, particularly with regard to data that will inform emissions trading.

The government has consulted industry and the states and territories on key design elements of the national reporting system to ensure that the system delivers genuine reductions in red tape and in business costs. This government is serious about addressing climate change and is responding comprehensively, progressing the necessary detailed work underpinning emissions trading. This bill clearly demonstrates the Australian government’s commitment to an effective climate change response and the delivery of an efficient energy market based on sound and robust data and analysis. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bevis) adjourned.