Last updated 17 October 2016     This chapter is currently under review.

Climate change (or global warming) due to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels producing greenhouse gases, is now recognised as a major environmental threat by all levels of government.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992 provides a broad framework for international action to combat climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol was created under the convention to provide a more detailed agreement on reductions in greenhouse gases during 2008–2012.

Australia has responded to the need to reduce its emissions with a number of laws and many programs.

Targets for renewable energy production imposed under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (Cth) have been an important mechanism for reducing Australia’s emissions.

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) was split into two parts, the large-scale renewable energy target and the small-scale renewable energy scheme. The latter creates a financial incentive for homeowners to install eligible small-scale installations (e.g. solar water heaters, air-sourced heat pumps and small generation units such as rooftop solar panels). Eligible systems are entitled to small-scale technology certificates based on the amount of renewable electricity the system produces or displaces. These certificates can be sold to buyers (usually large electricity generators).

In 2015, the RET was revised to provide a target for large-scale generation of about 23.5 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind, hydro and solar by 2020.

The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (Cth) provides a national framework for large greenhouse gas emitters, energy producers and energy consumers to report their emissions, energy production and energy consumption. However, there is no charge imposed on emissions by that Act.

In 2012, a price was imposed on domestic carbon emissions under the Clean Energy Act 2011 (Cth). Large emitters are required to surrender eligible Australian or international units to account for their emissions of greenhouse gases each year.

The carbon price was repealed in 2014 and replaced by the Emissions Reduction Fund, which pays polluters to reduce their emissions but does not impose a price on carbon pollution.

The Queensland Government had a wide range of policies and initiatives to respond to climate change, however, most of these been wound back in recent years such as by removing the feed-in tariff for solar power from homes.