International activities

The trend towards globalisation is having major implications for protection of the environment and achievement of sustainable development. Although Australia is an island, its environment is not isolated from the rest of the world.

Many of the world's most serious environment problems - such as loss of biodiversity, climate change, deforestation, ozone depletion, desertification and marine pollution - are global in scope and effect. International cooperation is an essential part of addressing the underlying causes of these problems and in developing and implementing effective solutions.

Australia continues to be an influential and constructive player in this field, both globally and regionally. It aims to make tangible contributions to sustainable development.

International involvement

Participation in the international community brings both benefits and obligations in dealing with environmental issues. The Department's international efforts are guided by Australia's national interests, our internationally shared natural resources, species and ecosystems, and an understanding that countries and peoples face a diversity of needs and challenges.

The Department engages internationally to address environmental issues through a variety of methods – from informal discussions and understandings, to cooperative activities, and formal agreements or legally binding instruments.

The Department has a range of skills and experience in environmental management and undertakes some activities to share expertise with its counterpart agencies in other countries, particularly in Asia and the Pacific.

Activities in multilateral and regional fora

The Department's international activities include representing Australia's international environmental, water, heritage and sustainable development interests in a range of regional and international fora. In this role the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts formulates policy and provides briefing for participation and intervention at key international environment, water, heritage and sustainable development meetings and events. Those which cover the full range of environmental issues include meetings of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Secretariat of the  Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and numerous multilateral conventions.

Bilateral relationships

The Department also works bilaterally on environmental, water, heritage and sustainable development issues with government agencies in other key countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific Region. In our relationships with these key Asia-Pacific countries we seek to take advantage of similar policies and approaches to develop synergies in our mutual positions, work on attaining similar positions for international negotiations and reconcile differences of perspective on important issues. We also seek to learn from the experiences of other countries where this is relevant. To facilitate future work we seek to develop our contacts in counterpart agencies in those countries, with which the Department, and the wider environment portfolio, have significant engagement on a number of issues and/or which are of strategic interest.

On 18 May 2004, Australia and the US signed a Joint Statement on Environmental Cooperation to further strengthen the relationship between our countries on environment issues both bilaterally and multilaterally.

Fora and relationships on particular issues

A wide variety of endeavours carried out within the Portfolio have both a domestic and an international component. Information about international relationships can be found below:

International reporting

Australia contributes to a number of international fora by means of periodic and regular reporting. In addition to reports submitted as required by various conventions, reports are submitted to international organisations. These reports are an assessment of how Australia meets its own environmental objectives and fulfils international commitments. They also provide an insight into Australia's political and administrative arrangements, through which environmental and heritage issues are addressed.