Summary of the independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, December 2006
Suggestions for future directions
The 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee made a number of suggestions in their report, based on the insights they gained from preparing the document.
Improving measurement of environmental progress
Preparing a State of the Environment report, or any other environmental report, requires data and information collected over time and from different places that are consistent and reliable. There is still not enough good quality accessible data and information on the condition of Australia's environment to prepare unambiguous environmental reports.
Adaptation is crucial to survival
Whether environmental change is caused by people, by the variable climate or by actions in restoring environmental assets, is important. However, the primary concern is that Australia should build its capability to live with its environment and respond appropriately to changes in that environment. An adaptive approach to environmental issues where we learn by doing, and modifying approaches as needed, should be the underlying basis of actions and policies. Cooperation across all levels of governance is critical for this to be effective.
Regulation and incentives
Governments should continue to encourage environmental stewardship through appropriate investment, governance and regulation at the right scale of intervention. New approaches to stewardship, including accreditation, certification and, where appropriate, markets for environmental services, should continue to be explored urgently.
Managing our land at the right scale
Much of the present regulation is not targeted at the appropriate scale, and some incentives encourage environmentally perverse results. Management at a whole-of-landscape level, integrated with the local actions of all agencies, landholders and people, is necessary to achieve landscape-scale objectives.
Maintaining and building a capability to manage
Environmental progress will depend on having more technologies, knowledge, skills and investment strategies to turn scientific knowledge into practical products. For example, Australia will need improved water use, reuse and recycling systems very quickly.
The environment is not something for which only rural and regional people have responsibility. Building understanding, knowledge and skills in environmental management for urban people, Indigenous people in their country, and rural and regionally located people would allow all sectors and people to play their part.
Australia's environment is valuable for practical reasons, such as producing food, as well as being important for its natural and cultural values. One of the implications of this, is that as environmental services are needed and valued by all, they must be paid for by all. There is also a need to manage for the benefit of future generations.
Improving Australia's environment
We can expect future pressures on the environment from population growth and from economic growth. These pressures will continue to increase unless there is some decoupling of growth from the non-sustainable consumption of resources, particularly energy, land, water and products dependent on limited natural resources (such as forestry and fisheries). This is a major adaptive challenge.
The Australian State of the Environment 2006 (SoE2006) report is a requirement of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC ACT). The report is prepared by an independent committee for the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage to table in the Australian Parliament.
The report was tabled in December 2006 and is available on the internet at www.deh.gov.au/soe/2006.
Australia State of the Environment 2006 AT A GLANCE is a summary of the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee's key findings on Australia's environment.
The Committee commissioned 8 theme commentaries and 10 integrative commentaries on aspects of the environment that are important to more than one State of the Environment reporting theme. All were independently written by identified authors and independently refereed. In addition, 33 papers on current or emerging issues were commissioned.
Australia State of the Environment 2006 is Australia's independent five-yearly report into the state of the environment - its human settlements, atmosphere, biodiversity, coasts and oceans, inland waters, land, natural and cultural heritage, and the Australian Antarctic Territory.