Appendix 2 Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance
Ecologically sustainable development principles
The Department of Agriculture has a statutory requirement under section 516A of the Environment 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.
The principles of ESD outlined in section 3A of the EPBC Act are that:
- decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term 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
Our 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.
We play a leading role or contribute to national and international policies with significant ESD objectives. We deliver programmes 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.
Details of our work in 2013-14 are provided in Part 3: Our performance.
The following legislation, administered by the department 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
- Fisheries Administration Act 1991
- Fisheries Management Act 1991
- Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012
- 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
Our central office buildings in the Canberra CBD maintain 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.
As shown in Figure 10, over the four years to 30 June 2014 the department's electricity and gas consumption has been steady and in the range of 50 000 to 54 000 gigajoules. In 2013-14, our energy consumption (excluding diesel and petroleum products) reduced by 1.7 per cent to 52 744 gigajoules, because of changes in accommodation and the installation or upgrade of electrical devices to meet a changing operational environment.
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 seven hybrid vehicles in our fleet nationally.
In 2013-14, the department consumed 17 489 gigajoules on transport fuels for passenger vehicles. Figure 11 shows a downward trend in transport energy consumed over a five-year period. This in part reflects the department's changing operational environment, resulting in decreased usage of official vehicles.
We consistently exceed 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 423 vehicles averages a GVG rating of 13, and 373 vehicles, or 88 per cent of the fleet, exceed the 10.5 GVG rating. We encourage staff to consider a variety of personal transport methods to reduce emissions, including cycling and public transport.
Our central office buildings recycle and capture stormwater 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 continue to encourage good recycling practices, providing ready access to segregated waste streams in 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.
Over the four years to 30 June 2014, the department has steadily increased reclaiming of usable materials and reducing the quantity of general waste. The organic waste stream captured 9.26 tonnes of organic waste in 2013-14.
The recycling programme in the Canberra offices continues to be strongly supported. In 2013-14, we collected and processed 74 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.