The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) is undergoing a ‘once in a decade’ review (Review).
In this article we take a look at the key environmental law issues raised in the Review. You can read our summary of the issues in relation to Indigenous knowledge and culture here.
Immediate challenges and stated aim – is the EPBC Act fit for purpose?
A discussion paper for the Review was released in November 2019 (Discussion Paper). It acknowledges that, since the commencement of the EPBC Act, there has been a consistent decline in the state of the Australian environment and biodiversity. Current trends of population growth, economic growth and increased international trade impacting the environment will not merely continue, but will increase.
Australian ecosystems are therefore expected to experience ‘widespread ecological change’ as a result of various factors, including:
It is in this context that the Discussion Paper recognises concerns that the EPBC Act has been unable to ‘protect and conserve the environment’ to date and asks: “Is the EPBC Act sufficient to address future challenges?”
Proposed changes to the EPBC Act
To answer this question, various ideas are raised by the Discussion Paper, including proposals to:
Streamlining the EPBC Act
Importantly for industry stakeholders, the Discussion Paper also indicates that streamlining regulatory processes under the EPBC Act will be a focus for the Review. The Discussion Paper notes that widespread inefficiencies in the current regulatory framework frequently cause delays in development projects and create significant compliance costs for businesses. In particular, the following concerns are raised:
The Discussion Paper outlines various proposed solutions to improve administrative efficiency by simplifying regulatory processes, increasing public access to information, coordinating decision-making processes nationally and promoting greater stakeholder participation in the development of the regulatory framework.
Critically, the Discussion Paper notes that improving the efficiency of the EPBC Act would ‘deliver benefits for both the economy and the environment.’
Submissions to the Review close on Friday 17 April. The Review process is ongoing notwithstanding the current COVID-19 pandemic. We will provide further updates as they become available.
Authors: Breellen Warry, Clara Edwards & Clare Giugni
 Commonwealth of Australia, Independent review of the EPBC Act, Discussion Paper (2019) 11.
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The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.
Published by Breellen Warry, Clara Klemski-Edwards, Clare Giugni