Climate Change Authority

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About the Climate Change Authority

3.1 Functions of the Authority

The Authority was established under the Climate Change Authority Act 2011 and commenced operation on 1 July 2012. The Authority is an independent statutory body established to provide expert and balanced advice on climate change policy issues, including Australia's emissions reduction goals.

The Authority had a number of functions as set out under the Act. These included conducting legislative reviews of:

  • the operation of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011 (Cth), relating to projects to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and projects to avoid emissions of greenhouse gases
  • sections 76A and 76B of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (Cth), relating to greenhouse gas and energy reporting
  • section 289 of the Clean Energy Act 2011 (Cth) (since repealed), relating to reviewing the level of carbon pollution caps, and any indicative national emissions trajectory and national carbon budget
  • section 291 of the Clean Energy Act (since repealed), relating to Australia's progress in achieving its medium and long-term targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and any national carbon budget
  • the Renewable Energy Target (since repealed by the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Act 2015), under section 162 of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (Cth).

Under section 59 of the Act, the Minister for the Environment or both Houses of Parliament may request the Authority to conduct special reviews. On 15 December 2014, the Minister requested that the Authority undertake a special review, the terms of reference for which include whether Australia should have an emissions trading scheme and any conditions for introducing such a scheme. It requires the Authority to consider whether the climate policies of other countries, including the USA, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Union are equivalent to an emissions trading scheme. The Authority must also consider what future emissions targets Australia should commit to as part of an effective and equitable global response to climate change.

In addition to the functions listed above, the Authority can conduct research about matters relating to climate change (under section 11 of the Act).

The Authority reports to the Commonwealth Parliament through the Minister for the Environment.

3.2 Organisational Structure

The Authority's organisational structure is outlined in Figure 1. A fully constituted Authority comprises a Chair and seven part-time members, plus an ex officio member - Australia's Chief Scientist. Members are appointed by the Minister for the Environment under section 18 of the Climate Change Authority Act 2011. For most of 2014-15, the Authority had a Chair plus four members, with four member vacancies.

Authority members are supported by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Authority staff. The CEO is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Authority. The Authority has an Acting CEO, Ms Shayleen Thompson, who has been appointed until 30 June 2016. Ms Thompson is supported by the General Manager Reviews, Ms Kath Rowley.

The Authority has established structures, systems and processes in place to ensure that its governance, compliance and accountability responsibilities are met (see Chapter 5).

Figure 1: Climate Change Authority organisation chart as at 30 June 2015

Figure 1: Climate Change Authority organisation chart as at 30 June 2015

3.3 Outcome and Program Structure

The Commonwealth Government requires agencies to measure their performance in terms of outcomes. In 2014-15, the Government introduced legislation into parliament to wind up the Authority and cease its operation. In line with this intention, the Authority did not receive appropriation funding in 2014-15 and there were no published outcomes for the Authority in the Portfolio Budget Statements.

However, the Authority retained some legislative obligations under the Climate Change Authority Act 2011 for the 2014-15 financial year, including statutory reviews of the RET (the Authority's review requirement for the RET was subsequently repealed) and the CFI. These reviews were completed on time, in line with the requirements of the legislation.

In December 2014, the Government agreed to retain the Authority for the life of the current parliament and provided funding until December 2016. On 15 December 2014, the Minister for the Environment requested the Authority undertake a special review under Part 3 of the Climate Change Authority Act 2011.

Outcomes and Performance Information

Outcome description

Provide expert advice to the Australian Government on climate change mitigation initiatives, including the level of carbon pollution caps, the Carbon Farming Initiative, the Renewable Energy Target and progress in achieving Australia's emissions reduction targets, through conducting periodic reviews and undertaking climate change research.

Conduct a special review into Australia's policies and future targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the context of its international commitments and the action of other countries.

Outcome strategy

The Climate Change Authority will deliver influential, independent and expert advice by:


  • engaging stakeholders to gather information and debate policy options
  • undertaking extensive and rigorous research and analysis
  • presenting insightful and practical reports
  • operating within a strong governance and accountability framework.

In performing its work, the Authority will be guided by the following principles - economic efficiency; environmental effectiveness; equity; public interest; accounting for the impact on households, business, workers and communities; supporting the development of an effective global response to climate change; and consistency with Australia's foreign policy and trade objectives.

The program attached to this outcome was Program 1.1: Reviewing Climate Change Mitigation Policies. Performance against this program is assessed in Chapter 4.