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NSW set to enshrine net zero emissions by 2050 in law and create monitoring panel

New South Wales is poised to have its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 50% by 2030 and net zero by 2050 enshrined in law and an independent advisory panel created to monitor the state’s progress.

The Minns government will on Thursday introduce its centrepiece climate change legislation to NSW parliament to entrench the targets and set up the Net Zero Commission and fulfil two election commitments.

NSW will also follow the federal government in creating a new standalone Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water.

While the legislation is yet to be released publicly, Guardian Australia understands the Net Zero Commission would comprise between five and seven part-time members who are academics or industry representatives working in fields such as decarbonisation or renewable energy.

The commission would present an annual report to parliament that would be considered by the government as well as politicians from different parties and could be viewed by the public.

The government of the day would be legally obliged to respond to the report and any recommendations, but the commission’s advice would not be binding.

The commission could provide advice on a wide range of topics, such as any interim emissions reduction targets it believed NSW should aim for between 2030 and 2050.

It could also advise on emissions “budgets” for specific sectors, such as energy and manufacturing, in consultation with those industries.

But Guardian Australia understands it would not have the power to advise the government on whether or not to approve individual fossil fuel projects.

The introduction of NSW Labor’s climate legislation comes amid heated debate over whether taxpayers should prop up Eraring, Australia’s biggest coal-fired power station.

The government confirmed last month it would negotiate with the owner of the 2,880-megawatt plant near Newcastle, Origin Energy, for a “temporary” extension of its operating life past its 2025 closure date.

Labor’s climate change legislation would also enshrine nine principles to guide the state in addressing climate change, including recognising the “urgent need” for “swift” action while considering a “variety of stakeholders”.

NSW would have to strive to become more resilient to climate change and take this objective into account when rebuilding after natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.

The state’s climate change and energy minister, Penny Sharpe, said extreme weather events were already costing NSW.

“These laws are a down payment on securing the future for the people of NSW,” she said.

The government expects the legislation to pass parliament before the end of the year. Labor needs the support of the crossbench and the Greens or the opposition to pass laws in NSW.

While Labor and the Coalition share a bipartisan commitment to transitioning to clean energy and reducing carbon emissions, it’s not yet known if the Coalition will support the legislation.

In December last year, the then treasurer and energy minister Matt Kean promised the Perrottet Coalition government would achieve an ambitious new emissions reduction target of 70% by 2035 if it was re-elected.

But he said the Coalition wouldn’t legislate the targets and that these could be achieved through its existing policies.

The premier, Chris Minns, said enshrining the targets in law showed his Labor government was “serious” about driving down emissions and moving towards more affordable renewable energy.

“The people of NSW expect their government to act on climate change and power bills,” he said.

NSW Labor’s goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 is slightly more ambitious than federal Labor’s target of a 43% reduction within the same timeframe.


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