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 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 EPBC 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 appropriates 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 Program. 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 Program, projects 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 receiving Australian Government funding. The focus was on the Australian Government's investment in major land transport infrastructure projects.

In May 2011 the Australian Government released Our Cities, Our Future-a national urban policy for a productive, sustainable and liveable future, (the National Urban Policy) clearly incorporating principles for achieving more ecologically sustainable development.

The National Urban Policy builds on the work in the State of Australian Cities 2010 report, and the subsequent discussion paper Our Cities-building a productive, sustainable and liveable future and accompanying background and research paper-Our Cities-the challenge of change, which were released in December 2010. The sustainability objectives and priorities specifically referred to include:

  • Protect and sustain our natural and built environments by:
    • protecting and enhancing ecosystems, and
    • supporting sustainable development and refurbishment of our built environment.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality by:
    • supporting and investing in low-emissions technologies
    • putting a price on carbon, and
    • sustainable urban planning and regulatory reform.
  • Manage our resources sustainably by:
    • reducing resource consumption and waste, and
    • improving water, energy and food security.

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 to prepare and submit to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport for approval under the Airports Act 1996. 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 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 at Work on software to assist in calculating 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 two pieces of Australian legislation enacted during 2010–11 to protect the marine environment and give effect to international conventions for the protection of the marine environment
  • oversaw the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which has the primary role in ensuring maritime safety and protection of the marine environment, and
  • contributed to the ongoing process for increasing liability limits for shipowners in case of pollution damage resulting from a spill of fuel oil.

The precautionary principle

The Department contributed to the Australian Government's work on climate change issues, including development of the ‘Securing a Clean Energy Future’ climate change plan announced by the Prime Minister on 9 July 2011.

The Department also made a significant contribution to the development of the Australian Government's position on the transport elements under the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development.

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 intergenerational principle

The Department also played an active role in work of the International Civil Aviation Organization on global strategies to address the contribution of the growing international aviation sector to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

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 from shipping.

The Department undertook a public consultation process to determine stakeholders' views on whether Australia should become a party to the Protocol of 2010 to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996. The implementation of the protocol would ensure the prompt, adequate and effective payment of compensation to anybody who suffers loss as a result of an incident involving hazardous and noxious substances carried on board a ship.

The Department is reviewing the ratings system of the popular Green Vehicle Guide website The guide provides environmental performance ratings on all new light vehicle models, including both greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution emissions. Together with the 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 new ratings system will recognise manufacturers' continuing improvements in vehicle air pollution and greenhouse emissions and enable consumers to continue to compare the relative environmental performance of new vehicles. The revised Stage 3 rating, once finalised, is intended to take effect from 1 January 2012.

On 11 June 2011, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, announced that Australia will implement Euro 5 and Euro 6 emission standards for light vehicles. Once fully implemented in 2018, these standards will reduce a new car's maximum allowable emissions of hydrocarbons by up to 50 per cent, oxides of nitrogen by up to 70 per cent; and particulate matter by up to 90 per cent. The Department is currently developing the Australian Design Rules, ADR79/03 and ADR79/04, to give effect to this announcement.

The Department began the consultation process supporting the implementation of the Australian Government's election commitment to introduce mandatory CO2 emissions standards for light vehicles from 2015. The Improving Fuel Economy in Australia conference, held in Melbourne on 2 March 2011, was the first informal step in this process. The conference brought together international experts in the detailed design and assessment of CO2 emissions regulations for vehicles. Development of these standards will be undertaken in consultation with the vehicle industry and other key 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 supervision 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 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 2010–11, 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 Program projects were and are subject to both national and state/territory environmental legislation
  • 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, and
  • 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.

How the Department's outcomes contribute to ESD

ESD was integral to the Department's two outcomes-infrastructure and transport-and to the Department's work, throughout 2010–11.

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 2010–11, 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 2010–11, see Chapter 4.

How the Department minimises harm to the environment

During 2010–11 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, a tool designed to report energy use under the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy
  • contributing to an annual report on the Australian 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 2011, 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 2010–11.

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 time frames for the energy use data and the Department's annual report, energy consumption data for the Department for 2010–11 will be provided in the annual report for 2011–12. Data for 2009–10 and previous years appear in this year's report, in Table D1.

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.

The Department's own Mitsubishi i-Miev - the first mass produced fully electric car.

Table D.1 Trends in departmental energy consumption, 2004–05 to 2008–09
2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10
Buildings and electricity          
Office buildings
Area occupied (m2) 30,080 34,273 35,515 40,363 32,070
Occupantsa 1,531 1,734 1,679 1,526 1,271
Area per person (m2) 19.7 18.9 21.15 26 25
Electricity used (GJ) 14,887b 14,662 13,857 14,516 13,099
Electricity used per person (MJ)c 9,723 8,455 8,253 9,512 10,305
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 495 428 390 360 408
Electricity sourced from renewable sources (%) 3.00 8.00 6.13 6.00 6.00
Other buildings
Area occupied (m2) 1,306 1,306 1,306 1,306 1,250
Electricity used (GJ) 68 72.5 96 155 361
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 51.8 55.23 73 119 288
Passenger vehiclesd          
Total petrol used (l) 126,999 109,191 81,691 81,936 67,942
Average fuel economy (l/100km) 11.0e 11.0 10.36 13.00 10.68
Total fuel used (GJ) 4,598 3,710 3,418 3,068 2,319
Vehicle fleet compliance with green vehicle guide (%) 20 18.5 58 31 31
Total of the above          
Direct energy consumed (GJ) 19,553 20,018 17,371 17,739 16,579
Greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents) 4,736 5,000 4,700 3,800 3,764

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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Last Updated: 29 October, 2014