The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a group of thirty member countries that cooperatively discuss, develop and refine a broad range of economic and social policies including macroeconomics, education and science. Australia became a member of the OECD in 1971.
One of the several major topics on which the OECD produces its economics-focussed reports and comparative studies is the environment. A wide range of environmental issues receive attention in the work program of the Environment Policy Committee (made up of member country officials). The Environment Directorate within the Secretariat provides governments with the analytical basis to develop policies that are effective and economically efficient, including through country performance reviews, data collection, policy analysis, projections and modelling, and the development of common approaches. Topics covered include chemical safety, waste management, climate change, natural resource management, economic instruments, links between environment and trade and investment, environmental impacts of production and consumption and environmental indicators. The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts contributes to, and benefits from, all of these activities.
In 1998 OECD Ministers agreed that sustainable development is a key priority for the OECD. From 1998-2001 the OECD carried out a project on sustainable development that drew together the organisation's work on economic, social and environmental policy.
The OECD's sustainable development project was discussed at a special session of the annual Ministerial Council Meeting in May 2001. Sustainable development was recognised as an overarching goal for the Organisation and its member countries, based on a major Policy Report submitted to Ministers.
Ministers asked the OECD to continue to assist them in formulating and implementing policies to achieve sustainable development and to:
- Develop indicators that measure progress across all three dimensions of sustainable development (environmental, economic, social);
- Identify how obstacles to policy reforms can be overcome and further analyse social aspects of sustainable development;
- Provide guidance for achieving improved economic, environmental and social policy coherence and integration.
The 2001 Ministerial Council Meeting also endorsed the OECD Environmental Strategy for the next decade.
The OECD established the Round Table on Sustainable Development in 1998. In 2001, OECD Ministers formally endorsed the role of the Round Table "as a forum for international dialogue among stakeholders".
The review of trends, policies and countries' performance is a core function of the OECD. Environment Performance Reviews (EPRs) are peer reviews of environmental conditions and progress. The original program mandate for the EPRs came from the OECD meeting of Environment Ministers in 1991. Since the commitment to EPRs was made, there have been two review cycles.
The principal aim of the EPR program is to help Member countries improve their individual and collective performance in environmental management and sustainable development. The review scrutinises the efforts of each Member country to meet both domestic objectives and international commitments. In addition, the review evaluates progress in reducing the pollution burden, improving natural resource management, integrating environmental and economic and social policies, and strengthening international cooperation.
The review process is broken into three distinct stages:
- The provision of materials and data to the OECD;
- The review team’s in-country visit; and
- Finalisation and release of the review report.
The Australian Government, through the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, has overall responsibility for managing Australia’s participation in the review. The review is of Australia as a whole, and the OECD is very keen to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the review process.
Second Cycle Review
Australia’s review under the second cycle began in July 2005 and concluded in July 2007. An OECD review team made up of seven experts from Austria, New Zealand, the UK and the US, and the OECD Secretariat, visited Australia in July 2006.
The review team met with Federal, State, Territory, and local governments, non-government organisations and industry representatives. They visited the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. They also collected and analysed a large number of policy and other documents relating to Australia’s environmental management.
- OECD Environmental Performance Review: Australia - 19 March 2008
First Cycle Review
Australia was reviewed under the first cycle in 1997/98, with the review team visiting Australia in April/May 1997. The team held discussions with key stakeholders, including Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, industry and environment groups, and academics. The team also conducted field trips in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. The first review sets out the baseline information for assessing future environmental progress.