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Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2005–06

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006
ISSN 1441 9335

Managing the department (continued)

Environmental sustainability

This section is presented in accordance with the requirements of section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Section 516A requires government departments to report on:

How the department applies the principles

The principles of ecologically sustainable development1 are central to the department’s environment and natural heritage protection activities, all of which aim to conserve biodiversity and ecological integrity, and to maintain the health, diversity and productivity of the environment for the benefit of future generations.

The department administers the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act 1997, both of which explicitly recognise these principles.

Examples of how the department applies the principles of ecologically sustainable development are summarised in the table below. More details on specific programmes are contained in other chapters of this annual report.

Contribution of outcomes

The Department of the Environment and Heritage is the lead Australian Government agency for developing and implementing national policy, programmes and legislation to protect and conserve the natural environment. One of the key functions of the department is to promote and support ecologically sustainable development.

The department’s outcomes contribute to ecologically sustainable development as follows:

Outcome 1: Protecting and conserving the environment helps to maintain the ecological processes on which life depends.

Outcome 2: Australia’s Antarctic interests include a strong focus on protecting the Antarctic environment, as well as managing the sustainable use of Antarctic marine resources.

How the department applies the principles of ecologically sustainable development
Principles Activities
Integration principle: decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations Integrated natural resource management: develops and invests in natural resource management plans and other strategies for integrating management based on the need to maintain ecosystems, including the regional component of the Natural Heritage Trust and regional marine plans. These plans integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations

Integrated reporting: publishes its own triple bottom line report (renamed sustainability report) and State of the Environment report
Precautionary principle: if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation Environmental impact assessments: applies the precautionary principle to prevent serious environmental damage when assessing the possible environmental impacts of proposed actions, often in the absence of full scientific certainty, most notably through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and through chemical and gene technology assessment schemes

National response to climate change:
develops Australia’s national and international response to the threat of climate change in the absence of full scientific certainty, and manages for uncertainty, including preparing Australia for unavoidable climate change impacts
Intergenerational principle: the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations Pollution prevention: applies laws and other national measures to prevent environmentally harmful substances from entering the environment, notably the various national environment protection measures, the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989, and the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989

Whole-of-government policy development:
advocates environmental protection in the development of other Australian Government policies, including major energy and water reforms

Community capacity building: administers the Australian Government’s major natural resource management programmes that have an environmental focus, including the Natural Heritage Trust. These programmes increase the capacity of Australians to conserve ecosystems for future generations
Biodiversity principle: the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making Biodiversity conservation: applies laws for the conservation of biodiversity to protect wildlife and places with environmental values, including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and through the Natural Heritage Trust, marine protected areas, terrestrial parks and reserves
Valuation principle: improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted Conservation incentives: promotes incentives for protecting wildlife and habitats on private land through covenants. Supports fishing industry adjustment processes to reduce pressures on the marine environment

Waste reduction incentives: provides incentives for more efficient uses of resources, including markets for waste products such as used lubricating oils, water efficiency labelling, and product stewardship programmes to reduce plastic bag consumption and to recycle used oil

Environmental impacts of operations

The department is a strong advocate of environmental accountability and sustainability reporting. The department reports in detail on its environmental, social and economic performance in a sustainability report (previously called a triple bottom line report). Reporting is in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative sustainability reporting (see www.globalreporting.org).

The following section summarises the environmental performance of the department’s operations during the year. It covers how the department is minimising the environmental impacts of its operations, and is increasing the effectiveness of the measures it takes to minimise its environmental impacts.

The department reports on the environmental impacts of four major operational areas:

The department will be publishing its sustainability report for 2005–06 later in the year. The Sustainability Report will contain more detailed information on the department’s environmental performance and goals. Information on last year’s Triple Bottom Line Report can also be obtained at www.deh.gov.au/about/publications/tbl/04-05/index.html.

Results 2005–06

John Gorton Building and Edmund Barton Building

Australian Antarctic Division

Parks Australia Division

Supervising Scientist Division


Footnote
1 The principles of ecologically sustainable development are set out in sections 3A and (in the case of the precautionary principle) 391 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

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