Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

About us | Contact us | Publications

header imagesheader imagesheader images

Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1996

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 6422 4868 0

International legal instruments

Chapter 39 of Agenda 21

In 1995 Australia continued to support the development of international environmental law through a range of activities. These included treaty formulation, financial support for the effective participation of developing countries in negotiation of international agreements and promotion of the effective regional implementation of environmental treaties.

Prominent among treaty formulation activities were global and regional instruments on hazardous wastes. The Third Conference of Parties for the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal took place in Geneva, 18-22 September 1995. The main issue for the conference was whether to amend the Basel Convention to incorporate the 1994 decision banning exports of hazardous wastes from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to non-OECD countries. Australia played a constructive role in the development of a workable amendment which was adopted by consensus. The amendment to the convention will provide greater protection to countries vulnerable to unwanted hazardous waste. At the same time Australia was concerned to clarify the definitions of hazardous waste under the convention and ban amendment. The decision to amend the convention recognised this need to provide greater definitional clarity. In explaining its support for the amendment, Australia noted that its ratification of the amendment depends on the definitional work being completed to its satisfaction.

The Australian Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 is the means by which Australia implements the Basel Convention into Australian domestic law. On 29 June 1995 the Commonwealth Government introduced amendments to this Act in response to the convention changes.

Australia made a positive contribution to the development of the Regional Convention on Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes (known as the Waigani Convention) with the last negotiating session taking place in Suva, April 1995. Australia signed this convention when it was formally opened for signature on 16 September 1995, following the 26th meeting of the South Pacific Forum. Australia supports the primary purpose of this convention which is to prohibit the export of hazardous and radioactive wastes to Pacific Island Developing Parties. This convention is also concerned that any movements of hazardous waste within the convention area should be completed in a controlled and environmentally sound manner.

Australia has also continued to be an active participant in the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer, for which amendments are under consideration. In 1995 Australia provided Chairpersons for both the Multilateral Fund and the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee. Work in both capacities has been active and in April 1995, the Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency (EPA) hosted, together with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), a set of informal international consultations prior to the commencement of the year's formal Montreal protocol negotiations. Australia also provided financial assistance for the attendance of small developing countries at these consultations.

Further, Australia has been active in promoting the regional implementation of environmental treaties through the organisation of an Asia-Pacific conference on the subject from 19-21 July 1995. The conference aimed to build partnerships in the region for the implementation of environmental treaties by promoting regional dialogues on options for implementation. This was achieved by providing opportunity for comparison of experiences, promotion of awareness of opportunities for information exchange, mutual assistance, collaboration and cooperation, and for strengthening informal networks through East and South-East Asia and the South West Pacific. In particular, the conference promoted 'bottom-up approaches' which establish partnerships between government, business and the public in environmental management.

In relation to prompt and effective domestic implementation of environmental treaties, as for other environmental instruments Australia believes that community involvement and support is essential. Australia is concerned that the position of all interested parties should be taken into consideration during treaty negotiations. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government has sought to achieve domestic consensus on the formulation of Australian policy on environmental treaties under negotiation. To this end, a large number of mechanisms have been established to ensure that all interested parties are consulted in the treaty making process, promoting democracy and transparency in environmental treaty matters.