Win for low emission landfills

Local Governments across Australia have won a key concession from the Federal Government under the new carbon pricing legislation, which will now exempt smaller landfills for the next three years.

Many Local Governments faced steep bills as landfills are major sources of greenhouse gases.

The original draft legislation would have seen smaller landfill facilities with direct annual emissions of between 10,000 and 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year liable under the carbon price mechanism, where they operated within a 'prescribed distance' from a larger landfill with emissions of more than 25,000 tonnes.

Landfills with direct emissions of 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year or more will be liable under the carbon price.

It will not apply to emissions from waste deposited prior to 1 July 2012, which are known as legacy waste emissions.

Australian Local Government Association President Genia McCaffery said the Association welcomed Climate Change Minister Greg Combet's preparedness to listen and give serious consideration to Local Government's concerns.

"ALGA welcomes the outcomes of the Parliamentary process and the introduction of a market-based approach to carbon pricing," she said.

"The amended legislation addresses Local Government's concerns about the impact of a carbon price on small landfills, many of which are owned by councils.

In its consultations with the Government, ALGA argued that due to existing waste disposal contracts, land use planning and other restrictions, the risk of diversion of waste was low.

The Government has listened to this feedback and decided to set the prescribed distance at zero, which will mean that no landfill facilities with direct emissions of between

10,000 and 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be liable under the carbon pricing mechanism.

The Government also amended the bills to ensure that if the prescribed distance is increased in the future, small landfill facilities are only liable for emissions from new waste and not waste deposited before the change.

In addition, the amended legislation will also allow councils and other landfill operators to discharge a larger proportion of their emissions using credits issued under the Carbon Pricing Initiative (CFI).

This will reduce the compliance burden on local councils and landfill operators who earn CFI credits by implementing landfill legacy emission avoidance projects.

Genia McCaffery has also thanked Independent Tony Windsor for his advocacy of Local Government on this matter.

The Federal House of Representatives voted to approve the carbon pricing mechanism outlined in the Federal Government's Clean Energy Future legislation.

The House voted 74 to 72 in favour of the package of 18 bills, which will see carbon priced at $23 per tonne from 1 July 2012, rising by 2.5 per cent each year during a three year fixed price period until 1 July 2015, when the mechanism will transition to an emissions trading scheme with a price determined by the market.

Federal Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet said the changes made it clear there would be no carbon price liability for landfills with emissions of less than 25,000 tonnes of carbon pollution a year for at least the first three years of the carbon price mechanism.

The Climate Change Authority will be asked to review the issue no later than 2015-16, noting that the Government's preference is to maintain the current arrangements unless there is clear evidence of waste diversion.

The Government allowed other councils and other landfill operators to discharge up to 100 per cent of their emissions using credits issued under the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) during the fixed price years of the carbon pricing mechanism where landfill emissions are the majority of their liability.

This will reduce the residual carbon price liability for councils and commercial landfill operators who earn CFI credits by implementing landfill legacy emission avoidance projects such as capturing and flaring methane emissions.

The bills will now pass into the Federal Senate for further debate where they will be expected to pass with support from the Greens.