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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

THEME: Atmosphere

Protect and sustainably manage the atmosphere

Most Australians rate air pollution as their most serious environmental concern. The state of the air we breathe is a determining factor in the quality of life for people living in the cities. Environment Australia implements national initiatives to reduce levels of air pollutants in the major metropolitan centres.

Environment Australia has concentrated on improving the environmental performance of the transport sector as it is the most significant contributor to urban air pollution. Important factors include increased congestion; longer idling times in traffic; further distances travelled by road; and increased urban sprawl. Achieving an improvement requires an integrated national response.

Three complementary strategies are being pursued: the progressive tightening of vehicle emission standards; the establishment of vehicle inspection and maintenance programmes; and the regulation of fuel quality.

Protecting and improving the quality of the atmosphere is achieved through these Environment Australia programmes:

  • Measures for a Better Environment;
  • Air Toxics element of Living Cities;
  • Ozone Protection; and
  • Air Pollution in Major Cities

PROGRAMMES THAT PROTECT AND CONSERVE THE ENVIRONMENT

Measures for a Better Environment Programme

Objective

To improve the management of transport emissions including greenhouse gases in cooperation with the Department of Transport and Regional Services and the Australian Greenhouse Office.

Result

Fuel quality

The Government put in place the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 to enable the making of standards for fuel quality. The first set of standards, to take effect from 1 January 2002, are aimed at directly reducing the environmental impacts of petrol and automotive diesel use. The standards will also ensure that fuel is suitable for use in vehicles equipped with advanced emission control technology.

For petrol and diesel fuels, reductions of up to 25 per cent of particles, 34 per cent for oxides of nitrogen, 53 per cent for benzene and 25 per cent for hydrocarbons have been estimated. Diesel vehicles contribute 73 per cent of particle pollution in urban areas and, despite increases in vehicle usage over time, the new fuel and vehicle standards are estimated to reduce particle emissions from diesel vehicles by between 65 per cent and 76 per cent in metropolitan areas by 2015. Planned standards will also regulate petrol and diesel characteristics related to operability of vehicles; liquid petroleum gas; biodiesel; ethanol blends and other alternative fuels.

Diesel vehicle emissions

The Government developed the National Environment Protection Measure for diesel vehicle emissions. This measure provides guidelines to facilitate improved performance of in-service diesel vehicles. This programme also provides funding for the establishment of in-service emission testing facilities for diesel and petrol vehicles.

Living Cities - Air Toxics Programme

Objective

To facilitate the development of national strategies to manage air toxics.

Result

Toxic chemicals

Environment Australia has prepared a state of knowledge report on air toxics in Australia as a basis for developing management responses to priority toxic chemicals and indoor air pollutants. The National Environment Protection Council has agreed to develop a National Environment Protection Measure for ambient air toxics, which may include setting standards, goals or guidelines for the following pollutants: benzene, formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene and xylenes.

Ozone Protection Programme

Objective

To fulfil Australia's international obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This programme is the central vehicle for the Government's ozone protection activities. It includes management of the National Halon Bank.

Result

Australia is regarded as a world leader in ozone protection, meeting or exceeding its obligations to phase out the supply of ozone-depleting substances. Australia also plays a significant role in international ozone protection forums.
Under the programme, Environment Australia operates the National Halon Bank - a world class facility to store, reclaim, recycle and destroy ozone-depleting substances.

Ozone Protection Reserve

Objective

To administer the Ozone Protection Reserve grants and the Ozone Protection Act 1989. A system of controls is maintained for the import and export of ozone-depleting substances. Licences and quotas are allocated to further the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances, hydrochlorofluorocarbons and methyl bromide.

Result

The reserve is funded by licence and activity fees paid by importers of hydrochlorofluorocarbons and methyl bromide. Three grants were made under the Ozone Protection Reserve to Agriculture Victoria, the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association and the Australian Institute of Refrigeration and Heating.
A more detailed analysis of activities is provided in the annual report on the Ozone Protection Act.

Air Pollution in Major Cities Programme - Natural Heritage Trust

Objective

To develop and implement national initiatives to minimise the adverse impacts of urban air pollution. In addition, this administered programme is intended to advance national and regional initiatives to improve urban air quality. It achieves this aim through national standards, national action strategies, increased monitoring, targeted research projects and community education.

Result

Transport

Environment Australia implemented 27 projects under the programme. The major focus of these projects was the transport sector in support of the Measures for a Better Environment Programme. The aims were to reduce vehicle emissions by improving fuel quality and ensuring vehicles continued to meet emission standards.

Woodheaters

Among other key air pollution issues, woodheaters and particles have been a focus of action. Environment Australia undertook research to better understand woodheater emissions and to design cost-effective management actions. Work was completed to improve the understanding and monitoring of particle pollution in urban areas. The information will be used in the current review of the particle standard National Environment Protection Measure for ambient air quality.

DEPARTMENTAL OUTPUTS THAT SUPPORT THESE PROGRAMMES

Output group 1.1 - Policy advice and accountability

Domestic | International | State of the environment | Corporate reform

Fuel quality

Environment Australia completed a year-long public consultation process to develop national fuel quality standards. Government proposals, developed following research and technical advice, were outlined in a series of public discussion papers on which public submissions were invited.

Policy advice was provided on initiatives contained in the Measures for a Better Environment package. These initiatives related to vehicle emission standards, fuel quality standards and the National Environment Protection Measures for diesel emissions and for ambient air quality.

Air quality

Technical support and policy advice from Environment Australia assisted the development of the ambient air quality National Environment Protection Measure monitoring framework. All governments have now completed their monitoring plans under the measure. The plans, approved by the National Environment Protection Council in June 2001, will ensure consistent reporting and promote equivalent protection for all Australians from air pollution.

Environment Australia provided policy advice to assist in the making of the National Environment Protection Measure for diesel vehicle emissions and for the establishment of facilities for in-service vehicle testing.

Ozone protection

The review of the Commonwealth's ozone protection legislation included the most recent and comprehensive economic and cost-benefit analysis of ozone protection activities anywhere in the world. The report concluded that Australia's efforts in minimising the impact on the stratospheric ozone layer will provide an economic benefit to cost ratio in excess of 7 to1, with the legislation delivering benefits of more than $7 billion over its effective life.

In partnership with the Australian Greenhouse Office, Environment Australia developed an inventory of ozone-depleting and synthetic greenhouse substances used by industries affected by the Montreal Protocol.

Output group 1.2 - Programme administration

Grants | Schemes

Toxic chemicals

State of Knowledge Report: Air Toxics and Indoor Air Quality in Australia was produced as a collaborative effort of governments and non-government organisations and is the primary single resource for information about air toxics in Australia.

Ozone protection

All contracts associated with the National Halon Bank were reviewed and renegotiated to better position the bank as a regional management facility for ozone-depleting substances.

The Ozone Protection Programme administered five environment protection grants. These included annual contributions to the trust fund of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the trust fund of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; a grant to Refrigerant Reclaim Australia to assist with the legal fees required to gain approval of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to extend the scope of its charter to include hydrofluorocarbons; a grant to the National Asthma Campaign to promote the use of chlorofluorocarbon-free metered dose inhalers; and a grant to Grainsmith Pty Ltd for participation in the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee and the Montreal Protocol technical and economic assessment panel.

Fuel quality

Environment Australia managed consultants who provided advice on the development of national fuel quality standards for petrol, diesel and liquid petroleum gas. Consultants also investigated the costs and benefits of establishing in-service emission testing capabilities in each State and Territory.

Output group 1.3 - Strategies

Agreements | Codes | Coordination

Ozone protection

The Commonwealth chairs and provides secretariat services to the Ozone Protection Advisory Committee. The committee was established as the principal advisory committee on ozone protection to the Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. The Ozone Protection Advisory Committee comprises officials of State and Territory environment agencies. It first met in June 2001 following a restructure of its composition and role.

Output group 1.4 - International participation

Forums | Obligations | Representation

Ozone protection

Australia continued to have a key role in international ozone protection forums with Environment Australia filling a number of key positions, including president of the meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol; chair of the principal working group of the Montreal Protocol; executive member of the Multilateral Fund; and chair of the production sector group of the Multilateral Fund.

In addition to full participation in the regular international meetings, Environment Australia officers were invited to deliver keynote addresses to a number of international workshops and seminars.

The Ozone Protection Programme prepared 19 delegation briefs, attended eight international meetings, prepared and submitted three reports to international bodies and made two financial contributions to international ozone protection organisations.

Output group 1.5 - Information

Databases | Websites | Education

Air toxics website

A major upgrade of the air toxics website was implemented and the publication A Status Report to the Community on the Living Cities - Air Toxics Programme was prepared.

Output group 1.6 - Legislation

Reforms | Standards | Regulations

Diesel vehicles

The National Environment Protection Measure for diesel vehicle emissions was made. The measure will improve the in-service emission performance of diesel road vehicles. The National Environment Protection Measure sets out guidelines for audited maintenance programmes, test and repair programmes, smoky vehicle programmes, engine retrofit programmes and engine rebuild programmes. These guidelines will help jurisdictions ensure that in-service vehicles meet diesel emission standards and are adequately maintained. The measure will result in reductions in emissions of particles, oxides of nitrogen and smoke from diesel vehicles.

Fuel quality

Environment Australia developed Australia's first mandatory national fuel quality standards for petrol and diesel. Announced in May 2001, the standards will be enforced under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000, and take effect from January 2002. Introducing cleaner fuels and introducing improved vehicle technology through implementation of the standards will save an estimated $3 billion in health-related costs over the next 20 years.

Ozone protection

The review of the Commonwealth's ozone protection legislation has identified a series of important changes which will provide an effective and relevant framework for Australia's ozone protection activities. Environment Australia is working on these issues with relevant stakeholders.
Through Environment Australia's administration of the Commonwealth's ozone protection legislation, Australia continues to meet, and in some instances exceed, its obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

ACTIVITIES AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF LEGISLATION THAT ACCORD WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

All of Environment Australia's programmes to protect and sustainably manage the atmosphere contribute to achieving ecologically sustainable development. Specifically the Ozone Protection Act 1989 implements Australia's international commitments under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The legislation provides for staggered phase-out schedules for ozone-depleting substances, and the Ozone Protection Reserve provides for a structured transition to non-ozone-depleting alternatives for traditional applications such as solvents, refrigerants, foam and fumigants. Reductions in Australia's consumption of ozone-depleting substances will contribute toward the global effort to reduce depletion of stratospheric ozone and repair the ozone layer.

These actions reflect a precautionary approach and concerns for intergenerational equity in response to a comprehensive body of scientific research establishing depletion of stratospheric ozone as a result of the manufacture, use and emission of ozone-depleting substances.

With the gradual reduction in emission of ozone-depleting substances, levels of stratospheric ozone will gradually increase over the coming 100 years. This will reduce destruction of stratospheric ozone and reduce pressure on biological diversity.

Environment Australia's implementation of the Air Pollution and Major Cities Programme and the Living Cities - Air Toxics Programme supports national strategies and standards, within a framework of sustainable development, to minimise the adverse impacts of urban air pollution. These programmes also address key threats to the sustainability of air quality as identified in the 1996 national State of the Environment Report.

Approaches include air and fuel quality standards, strategies to improve emissions performance of the Australian vehicle fleet, air quality monitoring, research and education.

Taken together, the air quality, air toxics and in-service diesel National Environment Protection Measures, along with other actions to address fuel quality, air quality and air toxics contribute to achieving a more sustainable approach to activities which affect the quality of air in Australia's major cities.