Appendix C: Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

The following summary of our environmental management activities and performance is provided in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which requires entities to report on:

  • how their activities accord with, and their outcomes contribute to, the principles of ecologically sustainable development
  • the environmental impacts of their operations during the year, and measures taken to minimise these

The department undertakes all of its activities—from corporate initiatives to departmental policies, programs and procedures—in accordance with the five principles set out in the Act: integration, precaution, intergeneration, biodiversity and valuation.

Infrastructure and regional development

Australian Government investment in infrastructure projects aims to improve total quality of life, both now and in the future. Under the Infrastructure Investment Program, the department worked in partnership with state and territory agencies to ensure environmental issues were appropriately considered in identifying, designing and delivering infrastructure projects. Examples of Infrastructure Investment Program projects where we liaise with Commonwealth and state agencies to ensure that appropriate environmental approvals are obtained include:

  • the Pacific Highway Upgrade in NSW
  • Great Northern Highway—Muchea to Wubin Upgrade in WA

The department is the lead Australian Government agency for Goals 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals which came into effect in January 2016. In 2017–18 the department participated in working groups and helped develop the Voluntary National Review on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which was released by the government on 15 June 2018. The review is a comprehensive brief on how Australia is addressing the goals. A website has been launched to provide a live and ongoing platform to centralise and showcase action being taken across government, business, civil society and academia to advance the goals in the Australian context see


The department plays a key role in protecting the marine environment for future generations from the impacts of international shipping. It achieves this through its work at the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee.

We continued to collaborate with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to help develop international standards to address CO2 emissions from shipping, including the roadmap for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. At the IMO, Australia supported adoption of the initial strategy to reduce emissions from ships, with a final strategy to be adopted in 2023.

The Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Act 2018 updated the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollutions from Ships) Act 1983 to implement amendments to Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. These changes will ensure that Australia meets its international obligations on maritime environment matters.

The department also administered the annual Australian contribution to the IMO and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

Motor vehicles

The Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions was established in October 2015 to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to reducing vehicle emissions. In 2017 we worked with the Department of the Environment and Energy to further develop proposals to improve fuel efficiency, reduce noxious emissions and improve fuel quality. In January 2018 the Ministerial Forum released a draft Regulation Impact Statement on better fuel for cleaner air, which was led by the Department of the Environment and Energy.


The department worked with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on global strategies to redress impacts of aviation on the environment, including aircraft noise and emissions. This included establishing a cross-agency industry working group to help develop the technical elements of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, and to implement the scheme in Australia to allow international aviation operators to meet reporting requirements from 1 January 2019.

Under the Airports Act 1996 airport lessees are required to prepare and submit for department approval the environmental, social and economic impacts of all airport master plans, major development plans and airport environment strategies. The department assessed these during the year and advised ministers on the extent that these documents met legislative requirements, including environmental impact assessments and plans for managing assessment outcomes.

Executive Council agreed to the new Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise) Regulations 2018, which began on 1 April 2018. The new regulations allow Australia to certify the newest aircraft types, including large passenger jet and propeller-driven aircraft (those over 55,000kg) used in international aviation. This will ensure that Australia maintains one of the youngest aviation fleets in the world, leading to both noise and emission reductions from new aircraft types.


The department is responsible for infrastructure delivery in the Indian Ocean Territories and Jervis Bay Territory. Each proposed infrastructure project was assessed against the requirements under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 at the project approval stage. Where required, environmental management plans were established and implemented. All project design and delivery work considered sustainability principles and whole-of-life impacts.

Throughout the year the department had access to the Department of Defence's infrastructure and environment and heritage panels. This helped us plan projects, develop requests for tender, incorporate environmental requirements into contractual arrangements, and obtain environmental approvals. On Norfolk Island, GML Heritage was engaged through this panel to help prepare two major advisory reports: the Kingston and Arthur's Vale historic area's cultural landscape masterplan, and the Kingston and Arthur's Vale historic area's safety hazard scoping study. These reports will inform a variety of construction projects to achieve best practice environmental and heritage outcomes.

Norfolk Island's historical area works also aligned with ecological sustainability requirements. The department is also continuing work with the Norfolk Island Regional Council to help develop more sustainable waste management practices.

On Norfolk Island, all historical area works aligned with ecological sustainability requirements. The department is also continuing work with the Norfolk Island Regional Council to help develop more sustainable waste management practices.

Office energy use

The department is committed to implementing ecologically sustainable principles in its operations and limits the consumption of office energy and other resources where practical.

All central office locations use automated lighting controls to switch off non-essential lighting outside of work hours, and have devices in place to minimise water use. A number of initiatives are in place to provide effective waste management and to monitor and maintain indoor environment quality in major offices.

The department uses 10 per cent green energy and has also progressively reduced its carbon footprint from motor vehicles. The department's entire operational vehicle fleet is made-up of hybrid technology vehicles.

No breaches of environmental laws or licences by the department were reported during 2016–17.

Due to a difference between reporting timeframes for the energy use data and the department's Annual Report, energy consumption data for 2017–18 will be provided in the Annual Report for 2018–19. Data for 2015–16 and 2016–17 are in table C.1.

Table C.1 Departmental energy consumption 2015–16 to 2016–17
Buildings and electricity
Office buildings
Area occupied (m2) 34,565 35,543
Occupantsa 1,326 1,272
Area per person (m2) 26.07 27.94
Electricity used (GJ) 10,949 12,343
Electricity used per person (MJ)b 8,257 9,197
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 317 347
Electricity sourced from renewable sources (%) 7.3 5.7
Other buildingsc
Area occupied (m2) 453 453
Electricity used (GJ)d 324 342
Electricity used by area (MJ/m2) 715 755
Total of the above
Direct energy consumed (GJ) 11,273 12,685
Greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents)e 2,990 3,184


  1. Occupants include contractors and employees of contracted service providers as well as departmental employees
  2. The Australian Government's energy consumption target is no more than 7,500 megajoules per person per year
  3. Other buildings (Mitchell Warehouse) the Net Lettable Area is apportioned to 35 per cent
  4. Includes green power
  5. Emission includes scope 2 (direct) and scope 3 (indirect)

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Last Updated: 12 November, 2018