Appendix 4: Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance
DAFF has a statutory requirement under section 516A of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) to report on:
- our contribution to ecologically sustainable development (ESD) through our outcomes and activities
- the environmental performance of our internal operations.
Ecologically sustainable development principles
The principles of ESD outlined in section 3A of the EPBC Act are that:
- decision making processes should effectively integrate both long- and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations
- 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
- the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations
- the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision making
- improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted.
Our contribution to ecologically sustainable development through our outcomes and activities
DAFF's outcomes embody the ESD principles:
Outcome 1: More sustainable, productive, internationally competitive and profitable Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries through policies and initiatives that promote better resource management practices, innovation, self-reliance and improved access to international markets.
Outcome 2: Safeguard Australia's animal and plant health status to maintain overseas markets and protect the economy and environment from the impact of exotic pests and diseases, through risk assessment, inspection and certification and the implementation of emergency response arrangements for Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries.
In working towards these outcomes, we play a leading role or contribute to developing and implementing national and international policies with significant ESD objectives. We deliver programs to fund research, training and projects aimed at mitigating climate change and improving sustainable resource management. Our role in biosecurity is critical to maintaining biodiversity in Australia and overseas. We also deliver funding to community organisations and to the portfolio research and development corporations whose work includes activities supporting ESD.
Our work supports the goal of development that meets Australia's current needs while conserving our ecosystems for the benefit of future generations. We have regard to the ESD principles in pursuing our 15 program objectives and the principles are reflected to varying degrees in our activities. For example:
- exit assistance for Tasmanian forest contractors to reduce business overcapacity in the native forest harvest and haulage sectors, applies the integration principle
- the precautionary principle drives our support for adjustment and adaption to climate change
- funding and conducting research aimed at combining sustainable resource management practices with increased productivity reflects the principles of maintaining a strong and growing economy, while preserving our natural resources for future generations
- the valuation principle is evident in the Carbon Farming Initiative and in the incentives we offer through Caring for our Country for farmers to protect and rehabilitate threatened ecological communities on their land
- our biosecurity activities are driven by the need to maintain biodiversity, as well as by economic, social and health considerations, and underpin our international competitiveness
- consulting our stakeholders is part of all our policy and planning processes, while engaging stakeholders and the community in activities that support ESD is integral to much of our work.
Our key activities in 2011–12 are outlined below. Details of this work are provided in Part 3: Report on performance.
A continuing focus this year was the government's Carbon Farming Initiative, which will help farmers, forest growers and landholders to earn income by reducing agricultural emissions through improved land management. We finalised funding under the Australia's Farming Future initiative to help farmers adapt and adjust to climate change. We also commenced funding under the Carbon Farming Futures program to ensure that advances in technology support the evolution of land management practices towards emissions reduction while maintaining productivity. ABARES published an assessment of the government's carbon price scheme on Australia's broadacre and dairy industries (see Program 1.1).
ABARES also published studies on the impact of climate change on forest industries, including assessments of the social and economic implications for six key regions across Australia. In the Asia–Pacific region, two projects commenced in Papua New Guinea to help reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (see Program 1.3).
Sustainable resource management
Through Caring for our Country and Landcare, we delivered funding to improve and extend sustainable resource management and environmental stewardship. We supported projects and activities that will promote clean water, healthy soils and biodiversity conservation, while increasing productivity. We also worked with state and territory governments to develop and implement national plans and strategies for managing weeds and pest animals and for improving soil management, as well as administering funding for weeds research. We contributed to the government's response to the review of the EPBC Act and are contributing to the implementation of the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and the Australian Native Vegetation Framework (see Program 1.2).
We progressed legislation to prohibit the importation and sale of illegally logged timber, with the introduction of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011. The department assisted 58 Tasmanian forest contractors to exit the industry to reduce overcapacity in the native forest harvest and haulage sector. We continued work to review the performance of Australia's regional forest agreements (see Program 1.3).
During the year, the department commenced concurrent reviews of the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch and the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines. ABARES research informed the government's proposal for a fisheries adjustment assistance package to support fishers and fishing-dependent communities that are significantly affected by the introduction of marine reserves. We finalised Shark-plan 2, providing updated assessment of shark conservation and management issues. We continued work to strengthen cooperation on illegal fishing and conservation of endangered species through our involvement in regional and international organisations and forums (see Program 1.4).
The department continued to contribute to national reforms to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the regulation of agricultural and veterinary chemicals. We also participated in international efforts to reduce the risk to human health and the environment from the use of pesticides (see Program 1.10).
DAFF is implementing reforms to Australia's biosecurity system to continue to deliver a modern system that protects the environment from exotic pests and diseases. We are moving to a risk-based approach to biosecurity operations, in which resources are allocated according to biosecurity risk levels. The department introduced a new nationally consistent approach to monitoring imported goods at quarantine-approved premises, airport wharves and port precincts and expanded this to the wider import community, including importers' premises and rural delivery locations. We further developed the Australian Government's requirements for the future post entry quarantine facilities and carried out extensive work to ensure our existing facilities continue to meet biosecurity requirements until the end of the current leases. During the year, we continued a range of cooperative activities with other countries to address biosecurity risks before they reach our shores (see Program 2.1).
We continued to work with other government agencies, industries and other stakeholders to mitigate the potential impacts of major pest and disease incursions. DAFF is supporting the implementation of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity and the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement. We worked with the Australian Wildlife Health Network to coordinate national surveillance for disease in Australia's wild animal population and continued to implement the National Plant Pest Surveillance Program. We continued to support international and regional activities to promote biosecurity (see Program 2.2).
Food security is a social and economic imperative. While there is little risk to Australia's food security, DAFF seeks to maximise Australia's contribution to the world food supply. During the year, we continued to work on the development of a National Food Plan, ahead of the release of a government green paper in early 2012–13. We continue to work with other agencies and organisations overseas to address food security issues. We continue to invest in rural research and development, training and innovation to enable primary producers to improve productivity, while sustaining Australia's resources for future generations (see Program 1.10).
Scientific advice and economic research
ABARES continues to contribute to ESD by providing integrated research, scientific assessments and review and economic analyses across our portfolio industries. The year saw a range of work on research for climate change, fisheries and biosecurity and outputs for the draft Murray–Darling Basin Plan (see Program 1.10).
The following legislation, administered by DAFF under the current Administrative Arrangements Order, contributes directly to ESD:
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Act 1994
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Act 1992
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994
- Agricultural and Veterinary Chemical Products (Collection of Levy) Act 1994
- Fisheries Management Act 1991
- Fisheries Administration Act 1991
- Quarantine Act 1908
- Natural Resources Management (Financial Assistance) Act 1992
- Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989
- Regional Forest Agreements Act 2002.
Environmental impact of our operations
We are committed to making a positive contribution to the environment by further reducing the impacts from our internal operations. Our central office buildings at 18 Marcus Clarke Street and 7 London Circuit in Canberra are the largest premises in the department's property portfolio. We have a number of environmental initiatives in place at these locations. Nationally, the department continues to look for opportunities to reduce energy, fuel and water consumption while improving our existing waste and recycling programs.
The central office buildings in the Canberra CBD have a base building rating of 4.5 stars under the National Australian Built Environment Rating System. Both buildings contain T5 energy efficient lighting and movement sensors, which turn off lighting in office areas after hours. The buildings also contain energy efficient window blinds, which reduce the energy required to heat and cool the buildings during the day. We acknowledge the importance of green energy in the electricity contracts for our Canberra buildings. These contracts include a 10 per cent allocation of green power through the whole-of-government electricity contract.
We have actively participated in the Earth Hour initiative of the World Wide Fund for Nature since it started in 2007. This involves switching off lights and non-essential electrical devices in office buildings for one hour at a nominated date and time in March of each year. Both of our central office buildings and many regional sites were included in Earth Hour 2012. Our continuing involvement has assisted in raising awareness among staff of the need to reduce energy consumption both in the office and at home.
Over the four years to 30 June 2012, we achieved a steady reduction in our electricity and gas consumption (see Figure 18). In 2011–12, our energy consumption (excluding diesel and petroleum products) was 50 376 gigajoules.
Note: This chart reflects energy consumption associated with electricity and gas, but excludes transport fuels. Previous annual reports included transport energy consumption (reported below) in this total, so figures from previous years have changed.
We are aware of the environmental impact of our vehicles. We monitor the fuel consumption and kilometres travelled for all fleet vehicles and encourage drivers to purchase ethanol blended fuel (E10) where possible. As existing fleet vehicle leases reach expiry, staff are asked to consider replacing these with efficient hybrid or diesel vehicles where this is operationally practical. We currently lease 17 hybrid vehicles in our fleet nationally.
In 2011–12, the department consumed 33 108 gigajoules on transport fuels for passenger vehicles. Figure 19 shows an upward trend in transport energy consumed over a four-year period. The increase in part reflects the department's changing operational environment, resulting in increased usage of official vehicles.
The department is compliant with the target set under the Commonwealth Green Vehicle Guide (GVG) for half of all fleet vehicles to have a GVG rating of 10.5 or above by 2020. The department's fleet of 469 vehicles averages a GVG rating of 12.4, with 377 vehicles, or 80 per cent of the fleet, exceeding the 10.5 GVG rating. We encourage and promote a variety of personal transportation methods for staff in order to reduce emissions. We maintain a car-pool register on our intranet to connect employees seeking to share a vehicle into work and encourage alternative methods such as cycling or public transport.
Our central office buildings in the Canberra CBD have a variety of water saving devices to reduce our overall water consumption. We recycle and capture stormwater through a dedicated 80 000 litre tank, which is used to flush all toilets. In bathrooms and change rooms, we have waterless urinals, water saving shower heads, infrared motion-active hand basins and 4A-rated dual flush toilets. These initiatives contribute to reducing our reliance on the local water supply.
We encourage good recycling practices among staff by providing ready access to segregated waste streams within the office environment. Recycling bins are located throughout central office buildings in kitchens and common areas and include general waste, organic recycling and co-mingled recycling.
The organic waste stream is a unique feature of our central office buildings and can be used to dispose of compostable materials and foodstuffs. Through this process, all organic waste from all levels of the participating buildings is collected and relocated off-site and then processed into mulch for further use. This reclaims usable materials and reduces the quantity of general waste from these sites. The organic waste stream captured 8.4 tonnes of organic waste in 2011–12. Figure 20 shows a monthly breakdown of the number of kilograms of organic waste stream captured in our central office buildings.
The co-mingled recycling program is also well supported in the Canberra offices. From 1 July 2011 to 30 April 2012, we collected and processed 13.57 tonnes of recycling from kitchenettes.