- Issues with no end in sight
- Australia’s environmental scorecard: a dreadful year that demands action
- Our natural environment
- How we got here
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- 2. Overview of Sustainable Development in Australia.
For example, a range of economic sectors contribute in various ways to greenhouse gas emissions. Multiple sectors contribute to the effectiveness of greenhouse sinks. Moreover, the impacts of climate change would ultimately impact on the entire country, its environment, its entire people, and its entire economy.
Similarly, a range of sectors impacts on the marine environment while all aspects of the environment, all people and, ultimately, all industries depend on the health of the oceans for their continued existence. It would therefore be difficult to identify anyone ministry with primary responsibility for climate change or marine policy issues.
- Climate change impacts in Australia.
- 15: Environmental issues.
- Australia Environment - current issues!
The Federal Government has responded to these overlapping responsibilities by recognising the need for single-focus agencies with responsibility for some of these cross-sectoral issues, establishing the Australian Greenhouse Office and the National Oceans Office to address the environmental, social and economic aspects of these cross-sectoral concerns. Both are unique, in comparative international terms, in their design, function and administration. This trend towards fostering sustainable development on a sectoral and specific cross-sectoral basis has allowed these issues to be addressed at quite a basic, operational level.
Sectoral and tightly focused cross-sectoral strategies allow for very specific actions to be recommended at a level of detail where the outcomes are measurable, and accountable and may even be more immediate. For example, the Regional Forests Agreement process engaged all interested parties to reach decisions on the logging and other uses of native forests on a region by region basis.
This approach has enabled us to add more than 2. The Agreements aim to ensure the protection of the most ecologically valuable areas of forest in all States while maintaining the economic viability of the logging industry and addressing the social concerns of logging communities.
The Regional Forest Agreement process was an experiment in applying sustainable development principles to a particular sector, through a public consultation process, right down to the level of what happens in a single forest coupe. Despite the institutional and process reforms implemented in Australia to progress sustainability, we face a wide range of difficult ongoing challenges. Sustainable Development of urban environments is a particular concern.
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While the total level of some pollutants has fallen significantly as a result of improved fuel and emissions standards, and a range of government initiatives, urban air and water pollution, remnant habitat loss and various other problems remain serious concerns. The growth in energy-intensive transport has outstripped the development of more fuel efficient systems and other efforts at energy conservation.
Public transport in urban centres while retaining a small share of the passenger transport task has continued its downward spiral of reduced use leading to increased fares, leading to even more reduced use. Private car use has continued to increase, leading to more congestion in the metropolitan cities and putting pressure on urban air quality. These are particularly difficult challenges for policy makers given the many cross-sectoral contributing factors involved and the complexity of linking them in long-term solutions.
Biodiversity, an issue for which Australia has a truly global responsibility because of our own mega-biodiversity , is intrinsically difficult to deal with in an integrated fashion.
Issues with no end in sight
While specific programs aimed at protecting endangered and threatened species have long been in place in Australia, most work to conserve biodiversity is delivered through other programs with objectives such as land health, freshwater health, vegetation conservation, or marine protection. While progress is being made, land clearing for urban development and agriculture continues to deplete and endanger native species and ecosystems while roads continue to dissect the remaining wildlife corridors, and many native animals are killed on those roads every year.
Salinity, caused by land clearing and irrigation, and other pressures on water quality threaten not only plants, animals and ecosystems but also the future of agricultural and other industries in many parts of Australia, and even urban water supplies in some cities. Declining water quality due to over-allocation and nutrient and sediment pollution affects inland aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as affected marine and estuarine biodiversity at the end point of these river systems.
For example, the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon threatens the viability of both the Reef as a functioning ecosystem and the industries that depend on it. A National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality is in place to address water quality and salinity issues but it will take at least several decades to undo the damage already done.
Australia’s environmental scorecard: a dreadful year that demands action
Constraints which have hindered resolution of these issues include competitiveness concerns and social issues, limited ability of the existing tax system and subsidies to target incentives for environmental purposes, the constraints of a federal system of government including the different priorities facing different Governments and the financial considerations which limit the options of Local Governments for keeping land undeveloped. The need to work within these constraints has, however, stimulated some of the institutional experiments described in subsequent chapters of this report.
Consistent with the increasing integration of objectives in Australia's domestic approaches to sustainability, over the last decade there has been a shift, both multilaterally and bilaterally, from assisting more traditional development outside Australia to a more integrated management of resources. Australia's development assistance program assists developing counties to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. Heatwaves have caused more loss of life than any other natural hazard in Australia over the past years.
The increasing frequency and intensity of other extreme weather events poses risks to human health, including injuries, disease and death, and disruption to health services. The duration, frequency and intensity of extreme heat events have increased across large parts of Australia.
Temperatures are projected to continue increasing with more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cool days. Those most at risk during heatwaves include the elderly, children, outdoor workers, Indigenous Australians and those already suffering from chronic disease. The January heatwave resulted in more deaths than normally expected at that time of year in Victoria.
Our natural environment
The costs of extreme weather events range from environmental impacts and financial costs incurred by governments, businesses and households to impacts on the physical and psychological health of individuals. Although Australia is experienced at preparing for and responding to natural disasters, the influence of climate change on extreme weather will place pressure on our capacity to manage these events.
For example, the changing frequency, magnitude and distribution of extreme weather may result in natural disasters occurring in new areas and where emergency management experience is limited. Natural disasters could increasingly occur in close succession, limiting the time available for a community to recover between events. Over many parts of Australia there has been an increase in extreme fire weather as indicated by the Forest Fire Danger Index, and an increase in the length of the fire season since the s.
This increase is especially pronounced in southern and eastern Australia, driven by higher temperatures and reductions in cool-season rainfall. Some parts of Australia do show a tendency over the post period towards a higher proportion of rainfall from extreme events. Extreme rainfall events are highly variable in time and space, and any underlying trend would need to be large in order to be detectable with a high level of statistical significance. Climate model projections generally indicate a higher proportion of total rainfall from extreme events, with more extreme rainfall events projected even in those regions where total rainfall is expected to decrease.
Once variability is accounted for, observations show that since when high quality data became available there has been a reduced number of tropical cyclones in the region which Australia is responsible for observing. There is no clear trend over this time in observations of tropical cyclone intensity. Climate model projections generally indicate a likely decrease in tropical cyclone numbers but an increase in the intensity of those cyclones which do occur.
Regional information about climate change impacts is available on the Climate Change in Australia website, and also through the following state and territory websites:. Skip to main content.
How we got here
Climate change impacts in Australia Australia faces significant environmental and economic impacts from climate change across a number of sectors. Climate change exacerbates existing climate risks for our coasts and creates new risks: Rising sea levels increase the risk of damage caused by storm surges. This in turn exacerbates coastal erosion, with the risk of damage to coastal infrastructure, removal of sediment from beaches and loss of land.
Coastal settlements may be affected by flooding, particularly in low-lying communities. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Search for: Submit search query:. Statistics Census Complete your survey About us. Document Selection These documents will be presented in a new window. Upcoming releases ABS.