By Angela Dorizas
The Federal Government has removed legacy emissions generated by waste landfill from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
The decision to exclude greenhouse gas emissions from waste deposited prior to the CPRS commencement, known as ‘legacy’ emissions, was announced by Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Greg Combet, last week.
“Liability for landfill emissions under the Scheme will now only apply to emissions that come from waste that is deposited after the commencement of the Scheme on 1 July 2011,” Combet said following the introduction of the bill into Parliament.
The exclusion of legacy emissions follows on from intense lobbying from local government and the waste management industry.
“During the consultation period on the CPRS draft legislation, many submissions and representations were received from local governments and landfill operators which made it clear that there was a deep concern about the equity of imposing a liability on emissions from previously deposited waste, or so called ‘legacy emissions’,” Combet said.
“The Government has listened to those concerns.”
Local government was particularly concerned about the inclusion of legacy waste, which would have placed an added financial burden on ratepayers to cover liabilities.
Australia Local Government Association (ALGA) chief executive officer, Adrian Beresford-Wylie, said he was reassured by the Government’s decision to exclude legacy emissions.
“The decision to exclude legacy waste addresses local government’s concerns that the Scheme would unfairly impose costs on rate payers for actions that occurred before the CPRS began operating,” Beresford-Wylie said.
“No other activity was going to be treated in this retrospective fashion.
“These particular issues were the focus of ALGA’s submission to the Government on the CPRS and the Government’s decision on these points shows that it has taken our views seriously and responded to them and that is very good news for local government.”
Beresford-Wylie also welcomed the Government’s commitment to consulting with local government and the waste sector on any arrangements affecting landfills below the 25,000 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) threshold.
Under the Scheme, liabilities will be incurred by operators of landfill facilities emitting more than 25,000 tonnes CO2-e per annum, along with facilities emitting more than 10,000 tonnes CO2-e per annum that are in close proximity to sites above the 25,000 tonne CO2-e threshold.
The prescribed distance of ‘close proximity’ will be examined in the general review of the CPRS to be complete by 30 June 2014.
“The CPRS should be focused on the larger landfills above the threshold and its application to any smaller landfills should be determined only after consultation with the sector,” Beresford-Wylie said.
Chief executive officer of Sydney-based recycler and waste management business WSN Environmental Solutions, Ken Kanofski, said the decision to exclude legacy emissions “provided certainty” for the waste industry and their council clients.
“The waste sector can and should pull its weight in the fight against carbon pollution and these changes allow us to do that in a fair and reasonable way,” Kanofski said.
“Mr Combet listened to and understood our concerns, outlined clearly the government’s policy agenda and has made changes that make the scheme good for the environment and good for business.”
Delay in CPRS commencement
Combet said the delay in implementing the CPRS provided an extra year for local councils and industry to prepare for its carbon pricing and “investigate abatement opportunities for reducing their emissions and implement measurement approaches that are best suited to their circumstances”.
But according to the New South Wales president of the Waste Management Association of Australia, Mike Ritchie, the delay has created further problems for landfill operators.
“The deferral by the Rudd Government last week of the CPRS commencement really increases the uncertainty in the waste sector, because right now even though we don’t have the legislation, we are bearing a liability for disposing of waste,” Ritchie said at the NSW Sustainable Development conference in Sydney.
“That waste will be emitting from my landfill for the next 30 years and 28 years of that will be under a CPRS. I have to make a choice today whether to charge customers the CPRS liability or not.
“I imagine we’ll see in the next six months a number of companies increase their prices at landfill to cover the long-term liability under the CPRS. Local government might well consider doing the same.”
He called for greater government intervention and investment in cleaner Advanced Waste Treatment (AWT) technologies to prevent carbon pricing from crippling local communities.
“Government needs to get serious about this and fundamentally improve the roll-out of infrastructure across Australia,” he said.
Ritchie also called for landfill levies to be introduced and raised across all jurisdictions to encourage local councils and landfill operators to adopt carbon-friendly AWT technologies.
Related Story: Infrastructure critical for future waste management
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