Conclusions and recommendations
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
and Environment Australia, April 1998
About the report
Australia is an ecologically unique continent, characterised by mega-biodiversity. It is also a fully developed, highly urbanised, federal country with growing links to many developing countries in the region. It has an economy based more on natural resources than many other OECD countries: agriculture and mining account for over 61 per cent of export earnings derived from trade in commodities, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.
In the past ten years, Australia's economy has grown faster than the OECD average. Pressures on the environment and natural resources from agriculture, manufacturing, the energy sector, transport and mining continue to grow, constituting a major challenge for Australia. Environmental progress thus depends not only on environmental policies themselves but also on the integration of environmental concerns in sectoral policies, as well as on action taken by local, State/Territory and Commonwealth Governments and by enterprises, households and community groups.
Early environmental policy responses were directed at limiting the local impact of natural resource exploitation and large development projects. As environmental issues have grown in importance on Australia's policy agenda, the debate has centred on the Commonwealth Government's constitutional power to protect the environment and on the need for intergovernmental co-operation within Australia on environmental matters, with sharing of responsibilities and the development of a more consultative approach to conflict resolution. After the adoption of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development in the early 1990s, efforts are now directed at breathing life into Australia's sustainable development policy agenda and meeting the challenge of integrating the practice of sustainable development into economic and sectoral decisions. Sectoral strategies consistent with ecologically sustainable development have recently been completed for agriculture, forestry, waste, biodiversity and water. State and local governments have the main responsibility in addressing issues such as water, air and waste management, land use, transport planning and natural resource management.
This OECD report sets out the baseline for assessing future environmental progress, and examines Australia's environmental performance in three areas:
- implementation of environmental policies;
- integration of environmental concerns and economic decisions;
- international co-operation on environmental protection.
It also assesses the extent to which Australia's domestic objectives and international commitments are being met, based on the criteria of environmental effectiveness and economic efficiency. A number of recommendations are put forward that could contribute to further environmental progress in Australia.
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