ABOUT 450 high greenhouse gas-emitting Australian companies are now required to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and report them to the Federal Government in October next year.
The obligations arise under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (Cth) and supporting regulations, which both came into effect on 1 July.
While the framework Act was released late last year, the regulations were released only on 26 June — just three business days before the regime’s commencement.
According to Deacons partner and head of the firm’s national climate change practice, Elisa de Wit, many of the important deals of the scheme were left for these regulations, and their release has been eagerly anticipated by both businesses and climate change lawyers.
“In my view, there was a great deal of uncertainty before the regulations came out,” De Wit said. “The Act basically just cross-referred to the regulations in terms of the definitions and the approach to be taken, so, until we had the regulations in place, it was hard to know the exact details.”
One of the main concerns for company heads was working out whether or not their company would even be captured by the scheme — and for good reason. CEOs of captured companies that fail to register or report their emissions can be personally fined, De Wit explained.
“We had requests before the regulations came out, [and] we’ve had a number of [new] requests since the regulations have come out from companies trying to understand the impact of those,” de Wit said. “So we’ve been advising clients on whether the Act affects them, and what they’ve got to do [if it does].”
The reporting regime requires corporate groups emitting more than125 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases or producing-consuming 500 terajoules or more of energy, to measure their emissions over the 2008-2009 financial year and report them to the government in October 2009.
The same applies to companies that control “facilities” emitting more than 25 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases, or producing-consuming 100 terajoules or more of energy.
Those reporting thresholds will be lowered over the next three years, and by 2010 the government expects that a total of 700 companies will be captured.
De Wit explained that the government has developed an online calculator that can be used to determine whether a company or facility meets the reporting thresholds. It has also released the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (Measurement) Determination 2008, which outlines the methodology to be used for measuring energy production and consumption.
It is expected that this reporting regime will underpin the national emissions trading scheme which is due to come into effect in 2010.