February 21, 2024

The New South Wales government’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets have been passed into law after the Greens and Coalition joined forces to strengthen the legislation to include interim targets.

The state’s target of cutting emissions 70% compared with 2005 levels by 2035, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, are now enshrined in law, and an independent advisory panel to monitor progress will be established.

Following a raft of amendments, the targets will be able to be reviewed and increased over time, and the Net Zero Commission will be able to provide independent advice on projects and policies, including approvals of any new coal and gas projects.

The state environment minister, Penny Sharpe, said Labor was taking “serious action on climate change” and governments would be held accountable for delivering on emissions targets into the future.

“This bill provides the framework for NSW to embark on the essential journey to net zero emissions and resilience to climate change,” she said.

“It shows business and industry they are not alone in responding to this challenge.”

Sharpe said she welcomed the cross-party support to get the bill passed before the parliament rises for the year.

“[I] look forward to accelerating the transition to renewable energy that will deliver cleaner and more affordable energy to households and businesses,” she said.

The legislation was a centrepiece of Labor’s election campaign. The former Coalition government had committed to the ambitious interim target – although insisted it didn’t need laws to achieve the goal.

The Minns government was roundly criticised by environmental groups for initially excluding the 2035 target from its bill. Australia’s former chief scientist Prof Penny Sackett last month urged the government to include it.

Opposition environment spokesperson, Kellie Sloane, said without the amendments, the bill would have been “an unacceptable and damaging backwards step” for the state.

The chief executive ot the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, Jacqui Mumford, described it as a milestone in the shift to energy “powered by the wind and sun”, and thanked the opposition and crossbench for strengthening the legislation.

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“The establishment of the independent Net Zero Commission will be critical to ensuring NSW is guided by the science and continues to increase ambition,” she said.

“Rarely do we see governments able to secure such broad support for reforms. The NSW parliament should be celebrated for this show of multi-partisanship for our collective future.”

Earlier in the year government confirmed it would negotiate with Origin Energy, the owner of the 2,880-megawatt coal-fired Eraring power plant near Newcastle, for a “temporary” extension of its operating life past its 2025 closure date.

The chief executive of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, Serena Joyner, said it was relieving to see the Coalition and government work together on the bill.

“While more needs to be done to protect our communities and environment from worsening climate change-driven events like the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, these sorts of commitments, that have support from all parties, are important,” she said.

“Now, as we head into another potentially devastating summer and fires already destroying homes and lives, it is vital that we see greater climate action.”

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