Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335
Management and accountability (continued)
Protection of the environment has increasingly become a whole-of-government activity, with ecologically sustainable development requiring inputs on environment, social and economic aspects of policy development. The Department has had an Environmental Economics Unit since 1992. The role of the unit is to provide sound economic analyses of the costs, benefits and impacts of environmental policies. In developing these analyses the unit works closely with the Productivity Commission, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Great Barrier Reef
A major focus in 2003-04 was the Great Barrier Reef. The unit helped to develop the structural adjustment package for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park's Representative Areas Programme to address impacts on fishers and related industries affected by the re-zoning. The unit examined economic aspects within the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.
Market development for water and wastes
Also significant was the unit's contribution to various initiatives to improve markets for water and industry wastes. The unit provided input to water property rights and water markets and pricing processes including the National Water Initiative. It advised on the application of market-based instruments to natural resource and waste stream management issues, for example, overseeing projects examining the potential for market mechanisms for waste tyres and oil.
The unit represents the Department on the Market Based Instruments Working Group that oversees the National Market Based Instruments Pilots Programme under the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. The programme involves the Australian, state and territory governments jointly funding 11 innovative natural resource management projects to the value of $5 million. The projects are now under way and strategies are being implemented for consolidating and communicating results from the programme about the challenges and benefits of using market-based instruments.
The Department sponsored, and the unit co-organised with the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, a symposium on market-based tools for environmental management. The symposium was attended by practitioners, policy makers and academics, and provided a forum for debate and discussion on these innovative mechanisms. A proceedings report is due to be published in the second half of 2004.
Energy and other policy development
A third major area of activity for the unit was providing advice on the development of the Energy White Paper process that resulted in the Securing Australia's Energy Future report, which was launched on 15 June 2004.
The unit also:
- advised on aspects of the economic modelling of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement and the incorporation of environmental factors; and
- prepared and coordinated the Department's submission to the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into National Competition Arrangements.
The Environmental Economics Unit, together with the Department's legal, strategic policy and budget areas, forms the Policy Development Branch. In 2003-04 the unit had an operating expenditure of approximately $400 000.