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Appendix E-Report on ecologically sustainable development

Chapter 1 ('Year in Review') briefly commented on the Department's environmental performance during 2007-08. This appendix expands on that summary and reports on our commitment to the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) set out in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The goal of ESD is to maintain ecological processes while improving total life quality, in the short term and the long term.

Under section 516A of the EPBC Act, the Department is required to report on:

  • how our activities accord with the five principles of ESD identified in the Act (that is, the integration, precautionary, intergenerational, biodiversity and valuation principles);
  • how we administer legislation in accordance with the ESD principles;
  • how the outcomes we work towards, and are appropriated resources against, contribute to ESD;
  • how our activities affect the environment and how we minimise harm to it; and
  • how we review and increase the effectiveness of measures to minimise harm.

How our activities accord with ESD principles

The Department's awareness of and response to environmental issues, and its contribution to positive environmental management, have increased over the past few years. The Department undertakes a range of activities, from corporate initiatives to departmental policies, programs and procedures, in accordance with ESD principles. The following sections provide examples of how the Department implemented each of the five ESD principles in 2007-08.

The integration principle

To integrate both long-term and short-term environmental, social, economic and equitable considerations into decision making, the Department:

  • through the Infrastructure Investment Division, worked in partnership with state and territory transport agencies to develop the AusLink 2 funding program. States and territories were required to prepare project proposal reports that considered environmental, congestion, safety and amenity issues, as well as economic, market and infrastructure considerations. In developing and approving infrastructure investments, the Department views the environment as an essential factor, the community as a key stakeholder and feedback as an important means of measuring performance.
  • through the Aviation and Airports Division:
    - assessed the environmental, social, and economic impacts of all master plans, major development plans and Airport Environment Strategies (AES) which airport lessee companies were required, by the Airports Act 1996, to prepare and submit to the Minister for approval. The Department provided advice to the Minister on the extent to which these documents met the requirements of legislation, including assessment of environmental impacts and plans for dealing with them. The Department also continued to review the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997 to ensure an enhanced focus on ESD;
    - continued to develop software to assist airports and communities to monitor and manage the environmental impacts of aircraft noise. In January 2008 David Southgate from the Department received a Public Service Medal in the Australia Day Honours list, for his contribution to the management of sensitive aviation environment issues, including his role in the development of the Transparent Noise Information Package software. The software (available on the Department's website) enables communities to access easily understood information on aircraft operations and has been adopted by key airports in Europe and the United States. In 2007-08 the Department also commenced working on a software tool to calculate aircraft emissions;
    - organised and hosted two Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) seminars on aviation emissions, in Singapore (August 2007) and Malaysia (April 2008). Interest generated by the workshops led to the establishment of an Aviation Emissions Task Force under the APEC Transportation Working Group (refer Case Study: 'APEC Aviation Emissions Taskforce' page 147), which brings together industry and governments in the region. The task force will be an important conduit in sharing information on best practice and collaborating to address the issue of aviation and climate change;
  • through the Infrastructure and Surface Transport Policy Division:
    - led the development of three pieces of Australian legislation enacted during 2007-08 to give effect to international conventions for the protection of the marine environment;
    - provided oversight of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which has the primary role in ensuring maritime safety and protection of the marine environment;
    - contributed to the development of a draft Protocol to the International Convention for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea and a draft International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, and the implementation of stringent new provisions to limit the amount of sulphur in marine fuel oil, consistent with Australia's obligations under Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Convention); and
  • through the Local Government and Regional Development Division, funded Sustainable Regions and the Regional Partnerships projects to assist communities to make structural adjustments in regions affected by economic, social or environmental change. The Department supported projects that were assessed as important to the socioeconomic and environmental wellbeing of their communities.

The precautionary principle

Lack of full scientific certainty is not used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. In 2007-08, the Department:

  • through the Aviation and Airports Division:
    - ensured the precautionary principle was embodied in the AES for each of the leased federal airports;
    - supported Australia's participation as one of 15 countries participating on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Group on International Aviation and Climate Change, which is developing a program of action to recommend to a high-level meeting of ICAO in 2009. Despite a lack of scientific certainty about some aspects of the environmental impacts caused by aviation emissions, participation in the group is based on an immediate need to identify and implement measures to address the growth in greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector;
  • through the Local Government and Regional Development Division:
    - undertook research and provided policy advice on the regional implications of a range of environmental issues, including the efficient use of water resources, the effects of drought and the adoption of alternative energy sources such as biofuels; and
    - advised other government agencies on their analysis of social, economic, governance and environmental factors for the purposes of completing Regional Australia Impact Statements for proposed projects.

The intergenerational principle

To ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations, the Department:

  • through the Infrastructure and Surface Transport Policy Division:
    - played a key role in improving mechanisms to protect the marine environment for future generations by contributing to the development of international standards and instruments in the areas of marine pollution and air quality, as well as administering the annual Australian contributions to the International Maritime Organization and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds;
    - maintained and updated the popular website www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au, which provides environmental performance ratings on all new light vehicles. The website was upgraded to include additional information on fuel consumption, based on the new fuel consumption labelling that will appear on the windscreens of new cars from October 2008. Together with the website's new fuel consumption calculator, this information will enable consumers to better estimate their annual fuel consumption and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions;
  • through the Aviation and Airports Division, assessed the extent to which each AES met the legislative requirement to include measures to prevent, control or reduce the environmental impacts associated with airport operations. Where appropriate, the Department recommended conditional approvals of major development plans to the Minister to ensure developments were managed in a manner which protected the environment for future generations. For example, a number of the conditions of approval for the Perth Airport brickworks were concerned with protecting the health of future generations.
  • through the Local Government and Regional Development Division, ensured that applicants for project funding under the Sustainable Regions and Regional Partnerships programs obtained all required approvals, including, where necessary, approvals that were related to the environment and heritage. These requirements significantly reduced the risk that projects would be implemented that threatened or caused irreversible environmental damage or negative impact on the environment for future generations.

The biodiversity principle

Including the conservation of biodiversity and ecological integrity issues as a fundamental consideration in its decision making, the Department:

  • in cases where the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) controlled access to an accident site under section 44 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003, required investigators to make the relevant authorities aware of any hazards (including known environmental hazards) identified during the on-site phase of an investigation. The ATSB's officers are always mindful of the environmental and health implications related to the unintentional release of chemicals and hazardous materials at accident sites;
  • through the Aviation and Airports Division, assessed the extent to which master plans, major development plans and AESs took into account biodiversity and ecological integrity issues, and worked with airports to ensure the biodiversity principle was respected. For example, the Department continued to work with Jandakot Airport Holdings to ensure its development plans adequately protected the Grand Spider orchid.

The valuation principle

Continuing to improve its valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms to ensure that the true cost of activities, including environmental, social and economic costs, are recognised, the Department participated in the analysis and development of policy options for domestic emissions trading for the maritime industry, as well as international debate on possible global economic measures, through the Infrastructure and Surface Transport Policy Division.

How we administer legislation in accordance with ESD principles

While administering legislation, the Department:

  • through the Infrastructure Investment Division, required states and territories to minimise negative environmental impacts and implement mitigation measures in instances where the environmental impacts of AusLink projects were subject to both national and state/territory environmental legislation;
  • through the Infrastructure and Surface Transport Policy Division, was involved in developing international instruments to protect the marine environment from any potential negative environmental effects resulting from domestic and international sea transport, and developed and implemented corresponding Australian legislation;
  • through the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, published high-quality research, including findings on economic, environmental and social equity costs and benefits, to inform decision-making processes and increase the knowledge base available to government and other stakeholders; and
  • through the Aviation and Airports Division, continued to monitor compliance with the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997, and to encourage continuous improvement of environmental management practices at leased federal airports. This was monitored through such mechanisms as the Annual Environment Report submitted to the Secretary by each airport lessee company, and through the work of Airport Environment Officers and Airport Building Controllers.

How our outcomes contribute to ESD

ESD is integral to the Department's three outcomes (refer Figure 2.2 on page 23):

  • By linking transport performance outcomes to projected economic growth and sustainable development, the Department transformed the way the development and maintenance of major road and rail system infrastructure is funded in Australia. For more information on how the Department achieved this in 2007-08, see Chapter 3.
  • On behalf of the Australian Government, the Department advised on and led national efforts to ensure that Australian transport systems are sustainable and efficient, as well as competitive, safe and secure. For more information on how the Department achieved this in 2007-08, see Chapter 4.
  • In delivering programs and providing policy advice to support the sustainable development of self-reliant, resilient regional communities, the Department placed high priority on sustainable development. For more information on how the Department achieved this in 2007-08, see Chapter 5.

How our activities affect the environment and how we minimise harm

While the Department's activities in 2007-08 often had a positive impact on the environment, its day-to-day operations used resources - such as electricity, water, fuel and paper - and created waste. The Department continued to seek ways to minimise the environmental impact of its operations.

Through its active and ongoing work on its environmental management system (EMS) and the Green Lease Schedule (GLS), the Department maintained a strong focus on environmental outcomes. This commitment was evident in actions such as:

  • maintaining staff environmental awareness, through information sessions held as part of the Department's induction program;
  • ensuring that major cleaning and waste removal contracts contained clauses requiring specific reporting on volumes sent to landfill and diverted from landfill;
  • contributing to the Online System for Comprehensive Reporting (OSCAR), a tool designed to report energy use under the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy;
  • using electrical check meters to monitor major computer room facilities, to allow more specific and accurate reporting;
  • contributing to an annual report on the government's implementation of environment protection measures, in accordance with the National Environment Protection Measures (Implementation) Act 1998; and
  • participating in Earth Hour in March 2008, by shutting down power for an hour in the Canberra and regional offices.

No breaches of environmental laws or licences by the Department were reported during 2007-08.

How we review and increase the effectiveness of environmental measures

The Department contributed to the detailed annual report on energy use in Australian Government operations published by the Australian Greenhouse Office (available online at www.greenhouse.gov.au. The most recent report covered data for 2006-07, as shown in Table E.1.

In 2006-07:

  • Although there were increases in the Department's staff numbers (13 per cent) and floor area occupied (9 per cent), the Department achieved reductions in both total electricity use (2 per cent) and electricity use per person (13 per cent).
  • Departmental passenger vehicle energy consumption and distance travelled by employees decreased by 19 per cent to 3,710 GJ and 976,424 km respectively.

The Department's EMS is compliant with ISO 14001:2004, the international standard for environmental management systems, and is focused on its office-based activities in the National Office, with initiatives being applied at territory and state levels where appropriate.

Table E.1 Trends in departmental energy consumption, 2002-03 to 2006-07

  2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
Buildings and electricity
Office buildings
Area occupied 29,159 m2 25,864 m2 28,235 m2 30,080 m2 34,273 m2
Occupantsa 1,128 1,114 1,326 1,531 1,734
Area per person 25.9 m2 23.2 m2 21.3 m2 19.7 m2 18.9 m2
Electricity used 10,785 GJ 11,041 GJ 12,259 GJ 14,887 GJ 14,662 GJ
Electricity used per personb 9,561 MJ 9,911 MJ 9,254MJ 9,723 MJ 8,431MJ
Electricity used by area 370 MJ/m2 427 MJ/m2 434 MJ/m2 495 MJ/m2 476 MJ/m2
Electricity sourced from renewable sources not reported not reported 3.5% 3.0% 8.0%
Other buildings
Area occupied 1,306 m2 1,306 m2 1,306 m2 1,306 m2 1,306 m2
Electricity used 101 GJ 91 GJ 118 GJ 68 GJ 72.5 GJ
Electricity used by area 77.7 MJ/m2 69.7 MJ/m2 90 MJ/m2 51.8 MJ/m2 55.2 MJ/m2
Passenger vehicles
Total petrol used 122,828 L 135,269 L 124,425 L 126,999 L 69,231L
Average fuel economy/100 km 10.3 L 8.8 L 11.1 L 11.0 L 11.0L
Total fuel used 4,201 GJ 4,657 GJ 4,267 GJ 4,598 GJ 3,710 GJ
Vehicle fleet compliance with green vehicle guide n/a n/a 35.0% 20.0% 18.5%
Other transport
Total automotive diesel used 4,233 L 0 L 0 L 0 L 0 L
Total petrol used 2,656 L 0 L 0 L 0 L 0 L
Total fuel used 254 GJ 0 GJ 0 GJ 0 GJ 0 GJ
Total of the above
Direct energy consumed 15,342 GJ 15,789 GJ 16,644 GJ 19,553 GJ 20,018 GJ
Greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalents) not reported not reported 3,777 t 4,736 t 5,000 t

GJ = gigajoules L = litres MJ = megajoules

a Occupants may include contractors and employees of contracted service providers as well as staff.
b The Australian Government's energy consumption target is no more than 10,000 MJ per person per year.
c Transport statistics include senior executive vehicles and other departmental vehicles, but do not include vehicles that staff receive in lieu of remuneration under salary packaging.

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