A line-up of experts will tell industry that emissions targets and reporting deadlines set by the federal government demand instant action.
The call for action will come during a series of seminars sponsored by Victoria's Environment Protection Authority during Australian Exhibitions & Conferences' (AEC) Australian Carbon Trading Expo 2008 next week at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.
Among the speakers will be representatives of the EPA; the Australian Climate Exchange; Carbon Reduction Institute; energy providers AGL, Pacific Hydro and Origin; as well as emission management specialists, Carbon Focus, Carbon Planet, Ecos Corporation and Mtech Australia.
The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act will come into force from July 1 but Carbon Planet executive director, Dave Sag, said few businesses understood the implications.
"Corporations using or producing 500 terajoules of energy are caught under the NGER Act this year," Dave Sag said, "but most people don't know what that means. It's not on the balance sheet and it's certainly not as simple as checking your electricity bill. Industry needs to take everything from their vehicles to their boilers into account."
"Something like only 14% of affected businesses are even remotely prepared. The penalties allowed for under the legislation are stiff and I expect there will be a flurry of calls made to lawyers soon after the deadline passes."
EPA director of sustainable development, Terry A'Hearn said the new environmental regulations demanded a shift in thinking that would bring fresh opportunities.
“The most successful companies in the future will be those that work out how to deliver improved environmental and economic outcomes in tandem," Terry A'Hearn said. "Those companies that continue to focus on trade-offs between the environment and the economy as their main way of operating will get left behind."
Australians, said Marc Barrington, head of Eco Markets for AGL Energy, should learn from the UK experience.
"The key messages for me are around the need for a coordinated approach across jurisdictions, open access to pertinent market information, a balanced view on compensation for trade affected industries and those entities facing disproportionate loss of economic value," he said.
"I believe that in the end, science will drive the argument for the level of action required. This will need to be balanced with physical and economic constraints as industry and the economy come to terms with emissions trading."
Carbon Focus director, Jan Brandjes, said the most important step for any Australian business was to investigate the challenges and opportunities that emissions trading would bring.
"Readying your business for carbon trading and carbon mitigation will be much more involved than the preparations you had to make for the introduction of the GST," he said. "Come and hear what the experts have to say, uncover the technologies available to help you and ask lots of questions."
Sponsored by Carbon Planet, MTECH Australia and Origin Energy, the Australian Carbon Trading Expo 2008 will run from April 29 to May 1 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.