Independent Report to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Australian State of the Environment Committee, Authors
CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06745 0
Australia's environment in context (continued)
Since 1996, there have been some important national administrative reforms. Those discussed in the following paragraphs are relevant to SoE reporting.
- The EPBC Act came into force in July 2000. The Act provides protection for matters of national environmental significance (e.g. World Heritage properties, Ramsar wetlands, nationally threatened animal and plant species, and ecological communities). The process for environmental assessment of actions that may affect matters of national significance has improved through providing greater certainty to proponents, ensuring assessment is done early in the planning process, and reducing duplication between the Commonwealth and states in assessing projects. The EPBC Act promotes ESD through formally requiring the principles of ESD to be taken into account when considering project approvals. Compliance with the Act remains a challenge.
- The COAG Water Reform Framework's goal is an efficient and sustainable water industry. In February 1994, COAG agreed to implement the Framework that includes provisions for water entitlements and trading, environmental requirements, institutional reform, public consultation and education, water pricing and research. The time and complexity involved in implementing the necessary legislative change to enact the Framework has generally been greater than expected and further implementation will also be complex and demanding.
- The National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 established a system for making environment protection measures through a statutory instrument - National Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs). The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) NEPM was formalised in 1998. The agreement resulted in implementation of the NPI in a nationally consistent manner. Since 1996, the Commonwealth has committed more than $12 million to develop and support the Inventory. The publicly accessible database provides a comprehensive record of major pollutants entering the air, land and water throughout Australia.
- To implement Australia's National Forestry Policy, Commonwealth and state and territory governments agreed to negotiate 20-year RFAs. The objectives were to:
- establish a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) reserve system based on nationally agreed criteria
- facilitate an internationally competitive wood and wood products industry
- ensure the ecologically sustainable management of the native forest estate.
The RFAs have provided a level of certainty for the forest industries and have resulted in more than 2.5 million hectares being added to the national reserve system.
- The Mandatory Renewable Energy Target program commenced on 1 April 2001. The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 requires the generation of 9500 gigawatt hours (2%) of extra renewable electricity per year by 2010, enough power to meet the residential electricity needs of four million people.