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Publications archive


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Independent review of the Australian Greenhouse Office

Hon. Warwick L. Smith LLB, June 2002

2. Australian Greenhouse Office - background

The Australian Greenhouse Office was established to directly respond to Australia's international obligations and national policy objectives in relation to greenhouse and climate change.

2.1 History

The formation of a Commonwealth Greenhouse Office was announced in November 1997 in the Prime Minister's statement Safeguarding the Future: Australia's Response to Climate Change. The Commonwealth Greenhouse Office was to be the lead agency on greenhouse matters and coordinate domestic climate change policy. The Office was to be established as a separate agency within the Environment Portfolio, for an initial period of two years. (Details of reporting and governance arrangements for the Office are covered in Section 2.4.)

In response to this announcement, in April 1998 the Australian Greenhouse Office was established as a Prescribed Agency within the Environment and Heritage portfolio.

In March 2000 the AGO became an Executive Agency with the following functions:

2.2 Objectives

The vision, mission and values of the AGO are listed in Box 2. The AGO is seeking to meet Australia's international greenhouse commitments through effective domestic action in a way that advances our national interest in terms of:

More specifically, the AGO will:

Source: Environment & Heritage Portfolio, Portfolio Budget Statement, 2002-03, p.133

Box 2: AGO Vision, Mission and Values

AGO Vision: Australians working together to meet the challenge of climate change

AGO Mission: Leading Australia's greenhouse action to achieve effective and sustainable results

AGO Values: The core values and behaviours the AGO will pursue in carrying out its mission are:

  • Accountability - The Government is our principal client. We serve the needs of the Australian public through the Government in a professional, responsible and accountable manner.
  • Integrity - We deal with each other and with our customers and stakeholders on the basis of trust, understanding and respect for differing views and interests. We try to find solutions that best reconcile diverse interests and provide optimum value to our stakeholders.
  • Professionalism - We perform our tasks and produce our outputs to the best of our ability, with optimum utilisation of resources and with a focus on continuously improving quality, productivity and professional development.
  • Responsiveness - We consulted with our stakeholders and appreciate their views. We seek to enable stakeholders to play a participative role in policy development and implementation.
  • Empowerment - We involve our people in the success of our organisation. We value initiative, cooperation, innovation, communication and flexibility in our work, and the quality of work life within our organisation. We encourage, support and involve staff in the mechanisms and processes through which we make decisions in our organisation.

Source: AGO Corporate Plan 1999-2001

2.3 Structure, staffing, programs and budget

The current structure of the AGO is shown in Figure 1. The major responsibilities of the three main work groups of the AGO are also shown in the figure. Since 1999-2000, staffing levels have been stable at around 170 staff (Table 1). Figure 1 does not include the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator, which was established as a separate statutory agency in February 2001 and administers the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Regulations 2001.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Structure of the Australian Greenhouse Office
Source: AGO Website,

Table 1: Staffing levels at the AGO (all staff - ongoing, non-ongoing, full-time and part-time), 1997-98 to 2001-02
Source: AGO Annual Reports; AGO
Number of Staff
* All figures are as at 30 June, except for 1997–98, which are average staffing numbers

Like other Commonwealth Government agencies, the AGO adopts an outcomes and outputs framework as the basis of its budgetary documentation and reporting. Under this framework, the AGO organises its program and policy work into five output groups. Figure 2 illustrates these diagrammatically, also showing the link to the higher-order environmental outcome of the Environment & Heritage portfolio.

Figure 2: AGO outcomes and outputs framework
Source: Environment & Heritage, Portfolio Budget Statement, 2002-03
Outcome 1 — The environment especially those aspects that are matters of national environmental significance, is protected and conserved
Sub-outcome — Australians working together to meet the challenge of climate change
1.1 Leading the agenda   1.1.1 Developing the strategy for the future and broadening the commitment to greenhouse action
1.2 Taking early action   1.2.1 Working with partners across Australia to take immediate action in reducing our national greenhouse emissions
1.3 Promoting sustainable energy   1.3.1 Reducing emissions for the energy sector while meeting the needs of the community and stakeholders for ecologically sustainable energy services
1.4 Enhancing the land   1.4.1 Enhance Australia’s natural resources management by promoting greenhouse actions on the land
1.5 Staying on track   1.5.1 Evaluating progress towards commitments under the convention and the Kyoto target, and improving the knowledge base on climate change
1 The AGO provides funding for the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator, which operates independently of the AGO. The Diesel and Alternative Fuel Grants Scheme is delivered by the Australian Taxation Office, with the AGO’s involvement limited to certification of fuel eligibility and assisting with the determination of grant rates.

The programs managed by the AGO, their total funding allocations, expenditure to date and budgeted future expenditure are shown in Appendices B and C. It presently administers or is involved in 28 programs , worth nearly $1 billion in total over the life of their delivery. Eighteen of the programs are part of the Prime Minister's 1997 Safeguarding the Future package; seven programs (and sub-programs), worth $796 million are from the Measures for a Better Environment package and the remaining three were new measures in the 1999-2000 budget. Descriptions of some of these initiatives are given below.

Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program (GGAP)

The $400 million GGAP provides funding for activities that are likely to result in substantial emission reductions or substantial sink enhancement, particularly in the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (2008-12). It supports activities that result in cost-effective, large-scale and quantifiable abatement that would not likely occur without GGAP funding. GGAP is projected to deliver total savings of 10.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per annum by 2010. To date, more than $150 million has been invested across a broad range of sectors, that is expected to result in a further $900 million investment in abatement action by industry.

Renewable energy programs

The AGO's suite of renewable energy programs provide over $300 million for actions that encourage development and innovation in Australia's renewable energy industry. These include the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program, which provides rebates for the capital cost of renewable energy installation, to reduce reliance on diesel fuel for electricity generation in areas not serviced by the electricity grid. Other programs include the Renewable Energy Equity Fund, which supports smaller companies involved in innovative Australian renewable energy technology projects, and the Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program that supports renewable industry development, including acceleration of the commercialisation of innovative renewable energy technologies.

Greenhouse challenge

The Greenhouse Challenge is a joint voluntary initiative between the Government and industry to abate greenhouse gas emissions. Since it was launched in 1995, more than 700 businesses from a range of industries have signed up to the Greenhouse Challenge program. Challenge participants represent almost 50 per cent of total emissions from non-agriculture industries, and have reported combined emission savings or more than 30 million tonnes to date.

National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS)

The NCAS was established to provide an accounting capability for land-based sources and sinks of greenhouse gas emissions. This $12.5 million program will provide better confidence in estimates of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions that come from activities like cropping, grazing, land clearing and forestry. It also underpins reporting of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions for the Kyoto Protocol and National Greenhouse Gas Inventory and assists in providing data that will assist assessments of progress towards meeting emissions targets.

2.4 Governance arrangements

The AGO was initially established for a two year period as a prescribed Agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1998, within the Environment and Heritage portfolio. In March 2000, the AGO became an Executive Agency under the Public Service Act 1999. This change of status established the Office as an ongoing agency. The intent of the Executive Agency structure is to provide a degree of separation from departmental management and priorities, but where something less than a statutory authority is warranted. The AGO is also a prescribed agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

Under this arrangement the AGO is still part of the Environment and Heritage Portfolio. The Chief Executive Officer of the AGO is responsible to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage for the delivery and management of the AGO budget outputs. The AGO budget is included within the portfolio budget statement of the Environment and Heritage Portfolio.

There are a number of bodies established that have a role in corporate governance for the AGO and broader climate change policy coordination.

A Ministerial Council on Greenhouse was established to oversight the policy and program framework of the AGO. Regular members of the Council were the Ministers representing the three portfolios with the strongest interest in climate change - the Minister for Environment and Heritage (chair), Minister for Industry, Science and Resources (now Industry, Tourism and Resources) and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the Minister for Finance and Administration was also initially a regular member, but withdrew in June 2001). The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Transport and Regional Services could also participate as appropriate.

The Ministerial Council was supported by the Secretaries' Committee on Greenhouse which comprises the Secretaries of Environment Australia (chair), Industry, Science & Resources and Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry Australia, the Chief Executive Officer of the AGO and a senior official from the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. The Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Transport and Regional Services could also participate through their Secretaries or a delegate.

The Ministerial Council on Greenhouse has been superseded by the Sustainable Environment Committee of Cabinet (SEC), which was established after the last federal election. SEC membership is the Prime Minister (Chair), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Minister for Education and Science, Minister for Industry and Resources and Minister for Forestry and Conservation. SEC's mandate includes greenhouse policy issues; program issues (eg funding) that might have been dealt with through the Ministerial Council on Greenhouse are now handled through informal consultative arrangements between the AGO and the three principal climate change departments.

The Chief Executive of the AGO is also a member of the High Level Group on Greenhouse, a Commonwealth/State high-level officials group established to monitor, review and further develop the National Greenhouse Strategy (see Section 3.1.2). This Group reports to the Council of Australian Governments.

Other high-level and/or expert groups established to assist the AGO in its work include the Greenhouse Challenge Joint Consultative Committee, High Level Steering Committee for the National Carbon Accounting System, Greenhouse Science Advisory Committee and National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Committee.