Climate Change & Energy
Our environmental, social, and economic systems are all expected to be affected by what are now considered to be the unavoidable impacts of climate change. These include an increase in temperature and sea levels, changes to rainfall patterns and evaporation rates, and more unpredictable weather patterns
Regulatory responses to climate change exist at the international, national and State levels. Climate change, being a global issue, is primarily the subject of international agreements which seek to place obligations on individual nations to take steps to address climate change by reducing their emissions. The national and State laws enacting these obligations in Australia include:
Responding to government proposals
The Australian and NSW governments regularly invite input from the community on proposed changes to environmental laws.
- To comment on the Australian Government’s consultations relating to climate change and energy, visit the Australian Environment Department's public consultation website.
Responding to applications
To comment on applications for environment protection licences, visit the EPA website. The EPA must consider your comments in deciding whether to grant a licence. This includes any public submissions made under the development assessment process. Certain polluting activities require a licence. The EPA is required to keep a public register of all environment protection licences. For more information about pollution, see our Fact Sheet on air, water and noise pollution.
To comment on applications to vary environment protection licences, visit the EPA website. You can also comment on existing licences at any time. Licences are required to be reviewed by the EPA or other responsible authority at least every five years. You can write to the EPA and request a statement of reasons explaining why the EPA granted or refused an environment protection licence application. This includes applications for transfers or variations. For more information about environment protection licences, see our Fact Sheet on air, water and noise pollution.
Notifications about opportunities to comment on proposals are often required to be published. The NSW Government is required to publish notices for some proposals in a locally circulating newspaper, and sometimes a newspaper that circulates throughout NSW (often The Land). You can keep an eye on the papers to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to comment. For more information about notification of proposals, see our Fact Sheet on DAs and consents.
Monitoring and enforcement
Both governments and proponents have responsibility for monitoring the impacts of activities on the environment. You can also monitor the impacts of activities on the environment, such as water and air quality.
Before reporting suspected breaches of environmental laws you will require evidence. It is also important to remember that the law contains certain exceptions and defences to offences. The most common defence is that a person has a permit or licence to take the action which would otherwise be an offence, such as an environment protection licence (a licence to pollute). If you are unsure whether an action is an offence or not, call the EPA Environment Line on 131 555.
National and State enforcement authorities can issue stop work notices in many cases where unauthorised activities are occurring that threaten harm to the environment.
To complain to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about false or misleading claims made by companies about the carbon price, visit the ACCC website.
To report pollution incidents to the EPA, visit the EPA website. If you are concerned about a pollution incident, you should first contact the individual or company to request an explanation and ask them to fix the problem. You should also report the pollution incident to the EPA Environment Line on 131 555.
Report chemicals offences to the Environment Line on 131 555. Offences include:
Breaching a chemical control order.
Breaching the conditions of an environmentally hazardous chemicals licence.
Carrying out a prohibited activity such as manufacturing, processing, storing, or distributing a chemical without permission from the EPA.
Under certain environmental laws, any person has the right to bring proceedings in a Court to remedy or restrain a breach. For breaches of national environmental law, this is the Federal Court. . In NSW, this is mainly to the Land and Environment Court. See How can I have my say? for more information. You should contact the EDO NSW Environmental Law Line to request some initial legal advice if you would like to take this step.
Shaping environmental laws
Many environmental laws merely set out the framework for protecting the environment and rely on community involvement for proper protection. You can proactively seek to improve environmental laws through these processes.
- Submit an Emissions Reduction or Carbon Farming Initiative Methodology for assessment. Indigenous Australians are also encouraged to engage in the Carbon Farming Initiative.
- Join the NSW Boards and Committees register, which is a list of people interested in serving on NSW Government boards and committees, such as reserve trusts for the protection of certain areas of environmental and heritage significance.
- Contact your local council to speak to them about joining a committee. Many councils have community advisory and consultative committees which may act as a liaison between the council and the community, or advise the council on matters such as the environment, heritage, and building and development.
The national and State governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect native plants and animals.
- The Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) is a NSW program designed to reduce energy and water consumption in NSW homes. The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is a national program designed to measure energy efficiency, waste management, and water use in homes across Australia. There are ongoing opportunities for the public to participate in these programs. Some are compulsory and some are voluntary.
- Visit the Australian Government’s public consultation portal, where a range of proposals are exhibited for public comment.
- Engage in the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Community Engagement Forum, where a range of environment and heritage initiatives are discussed.
- Visit the NSW Government’s Have Your Say website, where a range of proposals are discussed, and exhibited for public comment.