Federal Labor is to attempt to balance the environment and business as it responds to a two-year-old blunt and scathing review of Australia's national environmental protection framework, overhauling National Environment Standards and holding onto controversial Regional Forestry Agreements.
The Greens are calling for "immediate action" and a "climate trigger" in environmental laws as the Minister for Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek outlines on Thursday the long-awaited response to the Samuel Review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
There are also calls to radically increase funding to address biodiversity loss, but there are concerns reforms are being pushed out to the end of 2023.
Labor is referring to the response as its "Nature Positive Plan: good for the environment, good for business".
"The environment crisis we are in is the worst in history. It needs immediate action. And it's only made worse by climate change," Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told The Canberra Times.
"So anything that pushes reform out in future years is not going to be good enough."
Professor Graeme Samuel's independent review, released in October 2020, made 38 recommendations to fix and strengthen the EPBC Act as he blasted the 23-year-old laws as "ineffective", "outdated" and not fit for purpose.
"The EPBC Act is ineffective. It does not enable the Commonwealth to effectively protect environmental matters that are important for the nation. It is not fit to address current or future environmental challenges," the former consumer watchdog chief said.
"Good outcomes for the environment, including heritage, cannot be achieved under the current laws."
Under the EPBC Act, projects or developments such as mines, land clearing and forestry that might impact "animals, plants, habitats and places" of national significance require federal assessment and approval.
The Morrison government attempted some changes, such as proposed legislation to streamline decision making in development applications, but did not address the widely accepted problems with the laws.
"There's an almost universal consensus that change is needed," Ms Plibersek said in July, when she also released a damning, but delayed five-yearly report on the nation's environmental health.
Among the recommendations, the Samuel Review called for the establishment of a national agency to enforce environmental law, as well as initiating effective, stronger National Environmental Standards for development proposals.
Senator Hanson-Young wants any new standards to factor in the impact on the climate, setting up a potential stoush in the Senate over environmental laws.
"We will be disappointed if there is not a climate trigger in it, and if new coal and gas projects can continue to be given the green light by the environment minister," she said.
"There is no way the Greens are going to be rubber stamping legislation, we will go through this with a fine tooth comb, and make sure it's delivering protection for our environment."
Professor Samuel recommended against a climate trigger in his review, as emissions reduction regulation is dealt with elsewhere, and it is unlikely Ms Plibersek will go against his advice.
Independent ACT senator David Pocock has called for proper investment into dealing with and halting Australia's biodiversity loss.
It is understood that any government EPBC Act reform legislation is set for the second half of next year, at the earliest.
While the Samuel Review called for an increase in the level of environmental protection afforded in Regional Forest Agreements, the federal-state agreements covering native forests are set to continue.