Appendix D - Report Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

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 the total quality of life, 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 that 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 the five principles set out in the EPBC Act.

The integration principle

The Department worked in partnership with state and territory transport agencies and the Australian Government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) 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. Under the Nation Building-Economic Stimulus Plan the ARTC received an equity injection for its 17 projects. The projects were and are subject to the requirements of state and territory planning and environmental law.

Environmental issues were appropriately considered in the short, medium and long term in the identification, design and delivery of infrastructure projects in receipt of Australian Government funding. The focus was on the Australian Government's investment in major land transport infrastructure projects.

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 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. Work on software to compute the carbon footprint of aircraft operations is nearing completion.

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 2009–10 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 and adoption of the 2010 Protocol to the International Convention for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 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. This included:

  • delivering the Jobs Fund-Bike Paths Projects program, which is expected to have a positive impact on the environment through reduced reliance on cars and improved urban amenity
  • requiring Regional Development Australia committees to consider environmental priorities, along with economic development and social inclusion priorities, in developing and implementing their regional plans/roadmaps, and
  • implementing ongoing community infrastructure and regional development programs that deliver positive environmental impacts, for example:
    • encouraging green building technologies and environmental sustainability
    • promoting walking, cycling and use of public transport
    • reducing the negative effects of motor vehicles on the environment, and
    • improving quality of life.

The Department provided funding and administrative support to the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce. The taskforce was convened in 2007 to look at opportunities for new development in the north, based on water availability. In 2008, the scope was broadened to look at the sustainability of new development in the north, based on water quality and availability, the environment, existing water users and the broader community. The taskforce released its final report, Sustainable Development of Northern Australia, in February 2010. The report highlights the opportunities for economic development in northern Australia as an integrated, sustainable region and provides 15 recommendations that cultivate and enhance these prospects. The Australian Government is considering the report and is scheduled to respond during 2010–11.

The precautionary principle

The Department applies the precautionary principle in its role as a regulator: for example, the Department ensured the precautionary principle was embodied in the airport environmental strategy for each of the leased federal airports.

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 2009–10, the Department actively participated in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Directors General of Civil Aviation Climate Group, which was set up to develop a draft resolution on international aviation emissions for the meeting of the ICAO Assembly to be held in September-October 2010.

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 Impact Statements for proposed projects
  • participated in the development of the Australian Government's policy position on climate change adaptation, creating a recognition of the portfolio's key role in responding to a changing climate, and
  • provided analysis and advice in the preparation of sustainable transport policy.

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 Fund, as well as contributing to the development of international standards and instruments in the areas of marine pollution and air quality impacts from shipping.

The Department updated and expanded the information on the popular Green Vehicle Guide website <> to include safety ratings for vehicles. The guide provides environmental performance ratings on all new light vehicle models, including both 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 concluded the public consultation phase on a regulation impact statement examining the case for upgrading Australia's vehicle air pollutant emissions standards to adopt stricter international standards (‘Euro 5/6’) aimed at improving air quality in major cities, with commensurate health benefits.

The Department commenced action on a number of measures endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, under the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency.

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 (BITRE). The BITRE continued to undertake high-quality research, including on economic, environmental and social 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, 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 costs 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 measures, including participation in International Maritime Organization discussions of regulatory principles to address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

How the Department administers legislation in accordance with ESD principles

While administering legislation in 2009–10, 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 services-and to the Department's work, throughout 2009–10.

  • By linking transport performance outcomes to projected economic growth and sustainable development, the Department continued to influence the way development and maintenance of major road and rail system infrastructure is funded in Australia. For more information on how the Department achieved this in 2009–10, 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 2009–10, 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 2009–10, see Chapter 5.

How the Department minimises harm to the environment

During 2009–10, the Department continued to seek ways to minimise the environmental impact of its day-to-day activities, including by:

  • contributing to the Online System for Comprehensive Activity Reporting (OSCAR), 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 2010, 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 2009–10.

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 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 2009–10 will be provided in the annual report for 2010–11. Data for 2008–09 and previous years appear in this year's report, in Table D1.

In 2009–10:

  • despite a 14 per cent increase in occupied floor area, the electricity consumption in office buildings increased by only 5 per cent, to 14,516 gigajoules
  • the electricity used by area decreased by 8 per cent, to 360 megajoules per square metre
  • departmental passenger vehicle fuel consumption decreased by 10 per cent, to 3,068 gigajoules, and
  • greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 19 per cent, to 3,800 tonnes.

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 D.1 Trends in departmental energy consumption, 2004–05 to 2008–09
  2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09
Buildings and electricity Office buildings
Area occupied (m2) 28,235 30,080 34,273 35,515 40,363
Occupantsa 1,326 1,531 1,734 1,679 1,526
Area per person (m2) 21.3 19.7 18.9 21.15 26.00
Electricity used (GJ) 12,259 14,887b 14,662 13,857 14,516
Electricity used per person (MJ)c 9,254 9,723 8,455 8,253 9,512
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 434 495 428 390 360
Electricity sourced from renewable sources (%) 3.50 3.00 8.00 6.13 6.00
Other buildings
Area occupied (m2) 1,306 1,306 1,306 1,306 1,306
Electricity used (GJ) 118 68 72 96 155
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 90 52 55 73 119
Passenger vehiclesd
Total petrol used (l) 124,425 126,999 109,191 81,691 81,936
Average fuel economy (l/100km) 11.10 11.00e 11.00 10.36 13.00
Total energy used as fuel (GJ) 4,267 4,598 3,710 3,418 3,068
Vehicle fleet compliance with green vehicle guide (%) 35 20 18.5 58 31
Total consumption
Direct energy consumed (GJ) 16,644 19,553 20,018 17,371 17,739
Greenhouse gas emissions
(tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents)
3,777 4,736 5,000 4,700 3,800

aOccupants may include contractors and employees of contracted service providers as well as staff.

bIncludes green power.

cThe Australian Government's energy consumption target is no more than 10,000 megajoules per person per year.

dTransport statistics include senior executive and other departmental vehicles, but do not include vehicles that staff receive in lieu of remuneration under salary packaging.

eDiesel and petrol.

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Last Updated: 24 October, 2014