An AGS team advised the Department of the Environment this year on the central element of the Government's Direct Action Plan, the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).

The primary objective of the ERF is to help Australia meet its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The ERF has 3 elements: crediting emissions reductions, purchasing emissions reductions and safeguarding emissions reductions.

The crediting and purchasing aspects of the ERF are implemented in the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014. Under the crediting component, the Government will issue Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) (which are a form of personal property) to approved projects that reduce or sequester carbon emissions, for example, by improving the energy efficiency of industrial facilities, or by capturing landfill gas. Under the purchasing component, the Commonwealth will purchase low-cost carbon reductions from proponents of 'eligible offsets projects'. The Bill provides for the Clean Energy Regulator to enter into contracts with proponents of approved projects, for the purchase of ACCUs. The ERF's safeguard mechanism, to commence on 1 July 2015, will be introduced to ensure that emissions reductions paid for by the ERF are not displaced by a significant rise in emissions elsewhere in the economy. It will be implemented through a separate legislative package.

AGS provided a range of constitutional, statutory interpretation and public law advice on the Bill, the necessary associated legislative instruments, and the proposed safeguard mechanism. We provided advice to the Department on the early development of the contract to purchase ACCUs under the ERF and also reviewed the ERF contract once it had been developed by the Clean Energy Regulator. Our work on matters associated with the ERF continues.

The Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014 was introduced into the House of Representatives on 18 June 2014.

The AGS team included Bridget Gilmour-Walsh (Senior General Counsel), Peter Nicholas (Counsel), Kathryn Graham (Senior General Counsel), Jenny Burnett (Deputy General Counsel), Kathryn Grimes (Senior Executive Lawyer), John Scala (Chief Counsel Commercial), Leo Hardiman (National Group Leader OGC), Anna Lehane (Counsel), and Sacha Moran (Senior General Counsel).

This is an extract from the 2013–14 AGS annual report