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Appendix E - Report on ecologically sustainable development

This appendix reports on the Department's 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 its activities accord with the five principles of ESD identified in the Act (the integration, precautionary, intergenerational, biodiversity and valuation principles);
  • how it administers legislation in accordance with the ESD principles;
  • how the outcomes the Department works towards, and is appropriated resources against, contribute to ESD;
  • how the Department's activities affect the environment; and
  • how the Department minimises harm to the environment, and reviews and increases the effectiveness of measures to minimise harm.

How the Department's activities accord with ESD principles

The Department undertakes all its activities, from corporate initiatives to departmental policies, programs and procedures, in accordance with five principles set out in the EPBC Act.

The integration principle

The Department worked in partnership with state and territory transport agencies to implement the Australian Government's Nation Building - Economic Stimulus Plan. State and territory project proponents were required to prepare project proposals that considered environmental, congestion, safety and amenity issues, as well as economic, market and infrastructure considerations.

The Department assessed the environmental, social, and economic impacts of all master plans, major development plans and airport environment strategies which airport lessee companies were required, by the Airports Act 1996, to prepare and submit to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government for approval. The Department provided advice to the Minister on the extent to which these documents met the requirements of legislation, including assessments of environmental impacts and plans for dealing with them.

The Department continued to review the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997 to enhance their focus on ESD. The Department also continued to develop software to assist airports and communities to monitor and manage the environmental impacts of aircraft noise and emissions. The Transparent Noise Information Package software is available for free download via the Department's website.

As part of its work to ensure the sustainability of the Australian maritime industry, the Department:

  • led the development of six pieces of Australian legislation enacted during 2008-09 to protect the marine environment and 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; and
  • 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,
    • the adoption of the Hong Kong International Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships,
    • the implementation of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, which came into force for Australia on 16 June 2009, and
    • the adoption 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.

The Department administered funding for programs to benefit the Australian environment at the local level, including:

  • commencing administration of the National Bike Path Program, which is expected to have positive impacts on the environment through reduced reliance on cars and improved urban amenity; and
  • ongoing delivery of community infrastructure and regional development programs that deliver positive environmental impacts through improved infrastructure and street scaping.

The Department provided substantial secretariat, financial and other support to the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce. The taskforce is preparing a report on the sustainable development of the north and the potential impact of development on water quality, the environment, existing water users and the broader community. The report, which is due to be presented to the government in December 2009, will take account of water and soil resources, infrastructure, economic, social, cultural and ecological considerations.

The Department also assisted the Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia, the Hon Gary Gray AO MP, in framing the East Kimberley Development Package, a major investment in social infrastructure in the East Kimberley region. In tandem with Western Australian Government investments, the package will promote the sustainable and integrated development of the East Kimberley region.

The precautionary principle

The Department applies the precautionary principle in its role as a regulator: for example, the Department enured that the precautionary principle was embodied in the Airport Environmental Strategy for each of the leased federal airports; and participated in International Maritime Organization discussions of regulatory principles to address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

The Department also participates in Australian and international efforts to improve understanding of how activities in the portfolio's areas of responsibility may affect the environment. For example, in 2008-09, the Department continued to represent Australia 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 October 2009.

In its role as a policy adviser, the Department:

  • undertook research and provided policy advice on the regional implications of environmental issues such as the efficient use of water resources, the effects of drought and the adoption of alternative energy sources;
  • 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; and
  • participated in the development of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and related legislative packages, creating opportunities for the portfolio to strongly contribute to the climate change policy debate.

The intergenerational principle

The Department played a key role in protecting the marine environment for future generations, by administering the annual Australian contribution to the International Maritime Organization and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, as well as contributing to the development of international standards and instruments in the areas of marine pollution and air quality.

The Department updated and expanded the information on the popular Green Vehicle Guide website, at www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au, which provides environmental performance ratings on all new light vehicle models. The ratings include information on the models' fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution emissions. Together with the website's fuel consumption calculator, this information enables consumers to better estimate their annual fuel consumption and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and make informed decisions about their personal impacts on the environment.

The Department's approval processes for funding for regional development projects included environment and heritage considerations that significantly reduced the risk that approved projects may threaten or damage the environment for future generations.

The Department also supported constructive debate on the immediate and long-term health, diversity and productivity of the environment through the work of the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics (incorporating the Climate Change Task Force). The bureau continued to publish 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.

The biodiversity principle

The Department includes the conservation of biodiversity and ecological integrity issues as fundamental considerations in its decision-making and the way it approaches its work. For example:

  • The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) requires investigators to make the relevant authorities aware of any hazards (including known environmental hazards) identified during the on-site phase of an accident 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.
  • In its oversight of the leased federal airports, the Department assesses the extent to which master plans, major development plans and environmental strategies take into account biodiversity and ecological integrity issues, and works with airports to ensure that the biodiversity principle is respected.

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.

How the Department administers legislation in accordance with ESD principles

While administering legislation in 2008-09, the Department:

  • required states and territories to minimise negative environmental impacts and implement mitigation measures, in instances where the environmental impacts of the Nation Building - Economic Stimulus Plan and Nation Building Program projects were subject to both national and state/territory environmental legislation;
  • was involved in developing international instruments to protect the marine environment from any potential negative environmental effects resulting from domestic and international sea transport activities, and developed and implemented corresponding Australian legislation; and
  • 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.

How the Department's outcomes contribute to ESD

ESD was integral to the Department's three outcomes - infrastructure, transport and regional development and local government - and to the Department's work throughout 2008-09.

  • 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 2008-09, 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 2008-09, 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 2008-09, see Chapter 5.

How the Department minimises harm to the environment

During 2008-09, the Department continued to seek ways to minimise the environmental impact of its day-to-day activities, including by:

  • maintaining staff environmental awareness, through information sessions held as part of the Department's induction program;
  • contributing to the Online System for Comprehensive Reporting, a tool designed to report energy use under the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy;
  • 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 2009, by shutting down power for an hour in the Canberra and interstate offices.

No breaches of environmental laws or licences by the Department were reported during 2008-09.

How the Department ensures 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. Because of a difference between reporting timeframes for the energy use data and the Department's annual report, energy consumption data for the Department for 2008-09 will be provided in the annual report for 2009-10. Data for 2007-08 and previous years appear in this year's report, in Table E1.

In 2007-08:

  • There was a 3 per cent decrease in overall staff numbers and a 4 per cent increase in floor area. Despite this, the energy consumption in office buildings decreased by 5 per cent to 13,857 gigajoules. The energy usage intensity (EUI) decreased by 2 per cent to 8,253 megajoules per person.
  • Departmental passenger vehicle energy consumption decreased by 8 per cent to 3,418¬†gigajoules, with distance travelled decreasing by 14 per cent to 840,820 kilometres. This reduction was, in part, due to the Department using vehicles with greater fuel efficiencies and increasing the proportion of pool vehicles which meet the Green Vehicle Guide rating of 10.5 or greater.

The Department's environmental management system is compliant with ISO14001:2004, the international standard for environmental management systems. The system is focused on the Department's office-based activities in Canberra; initiatives are applied at territory and state premises where appropriate.

Table E.1 Trends in departmental energy consumption, 2003-04 to 2007-08

  2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08
Buildings and electricity
Office buildings
Area occupied (m²) 25,864 28,235 30,080 34,273 35,515
Occupantsa 1,114 1,326 1,531 1,734 1,679
Area per person (m²) 23.2 21.3 19.7 18.9 21.15
Electricity used (GJ) 11,041 12,259 14,887b 14,662 13,857
Electricity used per person (MJ)c 9,911 9,254 9,723 8,455 8,253
Electricity used by area (MJ/m²) 427 434 495 428 390
Electricity sourced from renewable sources (%) not reported 3.50 3.00 8.00 6.13
Other buildings
Area occupied (m²) 1,306 1,306 1,306 1,306 1,306
Electricity used (GJ) 91 118 68 72.5 96
Electricity used by area (MJ/m²) 69.7 90 51.8 55.23 73
Passenger vehiclesd
Total petrol used (L) 135,269 124,425 126,999 109,191 81,691
Average fuel economy (L/100 km) 8.8 11.1 11.0e 11.0 10.36
Total fuel used (GJ) 4,657 4,267 4,598 3,710 3,418
Vehicle fleet compliance with green vehicle guide (%) n/a 35 20 18.5 58
Total of the above
Direct energy consumed (GJ) 15,789 16,644 19,553 20,018 17,371
Greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) not reported 3,777 4,736 5,000 4,700

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

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