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Australia to bolster the renewables sector with proposed new environmental legislation

Building on initial steps to overhaul the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Australian Federal Government has advanced towards Stage 2 of its proposed Nature Positive Laws. The new legislative package includes three bills, with a pledge to streamline environmental approvals for renewable energy projects. 

03 July 2024 | 3 min read

RPS welcomes Nature Positive Laws commitment to sustainable development

Continuing its revamp of the nation’s environment laws, the Australian Federal Government is taking significant strides towards promoting sustainable development with the introduction of Stage 2 of its Nature Positive Laws. 

The legislative package introduces three critical bills, with the third bill designed to streamline environmental approvals to boost green projects. The highlight of the package, the Nature Positive (Environment Law Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2024, pledges a $100 million investment to accelerate environmental approvals for renewable energy and critical mineral projects. It’s a move designed to support the rapid development of infrastructure to accelerate Australia’s transition to a clean energy economy.   

RPS’ Megan Davis, General Manager - Cairns says RPS supports the investment to fast-track environmental approvals. 

“Expediting environmental approvals is key to delivering renewable energy targets, particularly ambitious 2030 targets in Queensland.” 

“RPS is actively involved in various environmental approvals for renewables across the country, which this legislation will significantly support.” 

To enhance the efficiency of environmental assessments and approvals the Government is expected to increase its staff numbers. 

“Streamlining the approvals process for our clients and reducing approval times will allow RPS to support our clients to deliver some of the most important infrastructure and renewables projects in the country, addressing urgent ecological sustainability needs,” explains Megan.  

According to RPS’ Victorian Practice Lead – Environment & Approvals, Catherine O’Riordan, the Stage 2 reforms will be important in providing greater clarity and transparency in the way projects are assessed. 

“The reforms should provide greater confidence and encourage further investment in the renewable energy sector by creating a more efficient environmental approvals process. It will also ensure high environmental standards are maintained, consistent with the objectives of the Nature Positive reforms.”  

“We’re committed to global energy security, and we work across the growing renewable energy market – from offshore to onshore. These proposed environmental reforms align with our core goals in delivering robust environmental impact assessments at RPS.”    

The legislative package also includes two other bills. The first bill, the Nature Positive (Environment Information Australia) Bill 2024, establishes a new body called Environment Information Australia (EIA). It’s set up to develop an online database providing standardised and streamlined access to environmental data, reducing the need for repetitive scientific studies. This new agency will also be responsible for publishing State of the Environment reports every two years, instead of five. 

The second bill, Nature Positive (Environment Protection Australia) Bill 2024 sets a new standard for environmental protection by seeking to establish a national, independent statutory Environmental Protection Australia (EPA). This agency will possess extensive powers to enforce strict penalties for breaches of environmental approvals and federal laws, marking a sharper focus towards stringent environmental accountability. The EPA will also be responsible for issuing permits and licences and making decisions on development proposals.

The Government delivered Stage 1 of the Nature Positive Plan last year which included establishing the Nature Repair market and expanding the water trigger. In October 2023, the proposed changes opened for targeted stakeholder consultation followed by a public consultation period which ended in March 2024.  

The Nature Positive Laws are the largest proposed change to Australia's national environmental laws since the introduction of the EPBC Act in the year 2000. 

If the three bills from Stage 2 pass through both houses of Parliament, they will be ushered in on 1 July 2025.  

RPS is ready to help you navigate what these changes will mean for your projects. Contact us to understand how these developments can benefit your initiatives.  

About RPS

Founded in 1970, RPS, A Tetra Tech Company (RPS) is a leading global professional services firm of 5,000 consultants and service providers. Operating in 125 countries, working across six continents we define, design and manage projects that create shared value to a complex, urbanising and resource-scarce world.

RPS delivers a broad range of services in six sectors: property, energy, transport, water, defence and government services and resources. Services provided across RPS' six sectors cover twelve service clusters: project and program management, design and development, water services, environment, advisory and management consulting, exploration and development, planning and approvals, health, safety and risk, oceans and coastal, laboratories, training and communications, creative and digital services.

RPS stands out for its clients by using its deep expertise to solve problems that matter, making them easy to understand. Making complex easy.

For further information, please visit www.rpsgroup.com.