Draft legislation released this week for Australia's emissions trading scheme arrived with few surprises, say lawyers, but the 2010 start date may be a challenge.
Despite calls from the Opposition and lobby groups to delay the start-date, the Federal Government is maintaining its promise of an Australian carbon market by mid-2010, under the Carbon Pollutions Reduction Scheme.
"It's certainly ambitious, I think," said Elisa de Wit, a partner who heads up the Climate Change practice at Deacons. "Especially having seen how things have slipped - after the draft legislation was supposed to be released with the white paper back in December - we're already three months past that date."
But de Wit did note the Federal Government's determination in getting the legislation passed this year. "We know that's looking like a huge challenge for the Government," she said. "But I don't think the Government is backing away from that start date at the moment, that's still their commitment."
Grant Anderson, a partner with Allens Arthur Robinson, agreed, noting that the Government acknowledges it's an aggressive time frame - not just for getting the legislation through, but for asking industry to get up to speed with it.
"It's not the easiest legislation to get across, and there are systems that obviously need to be put in place to accommodate it," he said. "At a stretch it can be done."
Both de Wit and Anderson said that the draft legislation, in general, did not step too far from what was foreshadowed in the white paper last year.
The workload is likely to be steep for both lawyers and clients alike - even though the draft may be considerably amended later in order to have it passed through the Senate.
While there is plenty of legal work to be done in helping clients write submissions for the draft legislation as well as their current obligations under the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting Scheme, Anderson said the upsurge of work will come once the legislation is passed.
"People will then know it's binding and we need to roll up our sleeves and look at complying," he said. "People would be silly to leave it too late because the time frames are so short."
- Angela Priestley
Refer back to Lawyers Weekly online for more legal perspectives on the CPRS, and see next week's edition of Lawyers Weekly for a complete overview.