How do Australian environmental laws compare?

Have you ever considered how Australia’s environment and climate change laws compare to the laws of other countries? Understanding the differences between Australia’s environmental laws and the laws of other countries is important because:

  • An increasing number of companies operating in Australia are also operating in other countries. Multi-national corporations will have environmental obligations in multiple jurisdictions. In particular, liability that attaches to environmental obligations differ between different countries. For example, in NSW liability for waste generally ceases when waste is lawfully disposed at a licenced waste facility. However, in the USA, the producer of waste retains residual liability in respect of waste regardless of the liability of any transferee or ultimate disposer. These differences are particularly relevant for directors and managers of multi-national corporations who will need to consider their personal exposure to liability arising out of different environmental laws.
  • Australian environmental laws are often drafted after considering how effective similar provisions have been in other jurisdictions. For example, before amending the notification requirements in the Protection of Environmental Operations Act 1997(NSW), after the Orica oil spill at Kooragang Island near Newcastle, the NSW Government considered the notification requirements in Canada, the European Union and the USA.

Maddocks has contributed the Australian chapter to the 2014 edition of The International Comparative Legal Guide to: Environment & Climate Change Law; published by Global Legal Group Ltd, London.

The guide addresses 33 jurisdictions, and covers:

  1. environmental policy and its enforcement
  2. environmental permits and authorisations
  3. waste laws
  4. liabilities attaching to environmental obligations
  5. contaminated land
  6. the powers of regulators
  7. reporting and disclosure obligations
  8. emissions trading schemes and other climate change laws
  9. asbestos
  10. the effectiveness of environmental insurance.

You can read a copy of the Australian chapter – ENV14_Chapter-5_Australia and the complete guide here.


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