Climate-related initiatives kept AGS specialists in a number of practice areas busy this year. AGS assisted the government with a variety of matters – from developing legislation such as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme framework and the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act, to drafting and negotiating a wide range of funding agreements.

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme

A team of AGS lawyers consisting of Susie Brown, Helga Mossop and Peter Nicholas, outposted to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE), supported by Kathryn Graham and Susan Reye worked on the revisions to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation. Those revisions were debated in the Senate in November and December 2009. The team also assisted with the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation in February 2010 together with the development of regulations under that Scheme until the Government announced its deferment at the end of April 2010. AGS lawyers outposted to the DCCEE were involved in all aspects of the legal implementation of the scheme and did considerable work on the auctions regime, assistance arrangements and offsets framework.

Enhanced renewable energy target amendments

In June 2010 significant amendments were made to the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 to split the scheme into large-scale and small-scale components and introduce additional compliance and enforcement powers. The Act provides for an increasing amount of electricity generation in Australia to be done from renewable sources. Peter Nicholas worked closely with the DCCEE in the policy development process, and was deeply involved in the drafting and development of the amendments and their passage through Parliament. He was supported by Helga Mossop, Kathryn Graham and Leo Hardiman. It is intended that the amendments will be complemented by extensive regulations, and AGS lawyers have commenced work on these.

Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act

AGS lawyers Leo Hardiman, Catherine Sainsbery and Grant Follett, along with a team of AGS lawyers across the Office of General Counsel and Commercial Group, assisted the DCCEE with the legislative passage and implementation of the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010. The Act establishes a new national energy efficiency disclosure scheme for commercial offices.

In general, if an office is covered by the scheme, the office's current energy efficiency rating must be included in any advertisement for the sale, lease or sublease of the office. The rating, and other energy efficiency information, must also be included in the publicly accessible Building Energy Efficiency Register. The disclosure provisions of the scheme are expected to commence on 1 November 2010.

AGS has assisted the Commercial Building Disclosure Team in DCCEE with preparing explanatory material for the Bill and subordinate instruments, as well as providing advice on the operation of the scheme and preparing and reviewing a range of implementation materials (including inter-governmental MOUs, contracts, template notices, website materials and seminar presentations).

Funding programs

AGS's funding team, including Kenneth Eagle, Kathryn Grimes, Lynette Lenaz, Stuart Hilton, Stella Chu and Fleur Katsnelson, continued to advise on a wide range of funding programs related to climate initiatives. AGS worked with the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, DCCEE and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism advising on such programs as Solar Cities, the National Energy Efficiency Initiative and the Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. We assisted with the development of program guidelines and application documentation, negotiation of funding agreements, ongoing management of funding agreements, as well as advising on issues such as risk management and community consultation.

This is an extract from the 2009–10 AGS annual report