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CO2 finally treated as pollution in NSW

The NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan, released for public comment today, is an important step toward protecting the state from dangerous climate change. [1] 

“When this policy is implemented, NSW will lead the nation in tackling dangerous climate change,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Jacqui Mumford said.  

“As surprising as it may seem, this will be the first time an environmental watchdog in Australia has regulated CO2 as a pollutant. 

“This is an important step towards eliminating climate pollution across our whole economy.”  

The EPA developed the Draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan after the Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action took legal action arguing the EPA had a duty to regulate CO2 to protect the people and the environment from climate change. 

The court agreed and in September 2021 directed the EPA to develop policies, procedures and programs to fulfil that duty. [2] 

“The people of NSW are already dealing with dangerous climate change, so we must act now,” Ms Mumford said.  

“It’s crucial that companies in NSW and globally rapidly reduce climate pollution so floods and bushfires don’t continue to intensify. 

“We must take these first steps as a state and then continue to ratchet up our efforts to meet the scale of this challenge. 

“Meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will require Australia to cut emissions by 75% this decade, so we’re calling on the NSW Government to ratchet up its ambition and track progress against science-based targets. [3] 

“Every tonne of emissions avoided literally saves lives and our beautiful environment. 

“Ultimately, we’ll only know this policy is succeeding when damaging proposals like coal and gas mines are rejected and NSW companies are on a rapid path to zero emissions.” 

Public submissions on the policy close on November 3.  

Key elements of the plan include: 

  • supporting licensees to prepare, implement and report on climate change mitigation and adaptation plans 
  • establishing cost-effective emission reduction targets for key industry sectors  
  • providing industry best-practice guidelines to support them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 
  • phasing in the introduction of greenhouse gas emission limits on environment protection licences for key industry sectors  



[1] NSW EPA Draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan September 2022   

[2] Bushfire Survivors secure landmark change after NSW Minister declines to appeal court win, September 2021 

[3] Multiple independent assessments find that Australia must reach 60% to 75% reductions by 2030 to align with a 1.5 degrees trajectory, including Climate Targets Panel (2021), Climate Analytics, Climate Goals: Analysis (2022), The Climate Council “Aim High, go Fast” (2021), and the global Climate Action Tracker (2022). 

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