An international authority on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property and two environmental scientists have been appointed as co-chief authors of the 2021 National State of the Environment Report (SoE).
UNSW Canberra climate scientist Sophie Lewis has been appointed as the ACT’s new Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.
The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment is responsible for preparing State of the Environment reports every four years, conducting investigations into environment-related matters and raising environmental awareness.
Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury said Dr Lewis would bring a strong climate change focus to the position given her research background.
“Dr Lewis has extensive experience in researching Australia’s changing climate extremes, including as a lead author with the International Climate Change Panel assessment reports that are used worldwide to develop policies around climate change,” he said.
“In 2019, Dr Lewis was the ACT Scientist of the Year in recognition of her research, particularly her research on climate extremes and their specific relevance to Canberra.”
Dr Lewis said she was looking forward to working with the community and the government to build on the territory’s success in addressing climate change and environmental protection.
“The ACT is already a world leader in addressing climate change in particular, but there is still a lot to be done to address the challenges and vulnerabilities around our environment and sustainability, and I’m keen to be involved through the Commissioner position,” she said.
“As we have seen with our recent extreme heat, drought and fires, climate change is a huge challenge now and for our future, as it will continue to impact on our environment at local, national and international levels.”
Dr Lewis said she is committed to using her role to promote the involvement of children in finding solutions to environmental challenges.
“There is also much we can do to help children understand climate change and to involve them in taking the essential action we need to achieve zero-net emissions, and have the best possible chance to preserve our environment and their future,” she said.
Mr Rattenbury thanked interim Commissioner Margaret Kitchin for her contributions, initiating and progressing important work over several months.
The NSW EPA has released its 2018 State of the Environment report – available for the first time on a purpose built interactive website with the capacity for regular data updates.
EPA CEO Mark Gifford said the report will be used to inform decision makers and the wider community about essential elements of the environment.
“There have been a number of key environmental improvements across NSW in the 25 years since the first State of the Environment report was handed down in 1993,” Mr Gifford said.
“The report highlights areas where government, community and industry efforts are leading to benefits, with less household and industry waste going to landfill, a significant decrease in litter, good air quality, and renewable energy generation rising rapidly.”
The report lists two indicator status’ as moderate, total waste generation and per person waste generation.
Total and per person solid waste disposal, total and per person solid waste recycled and litter items per 1000 meters squared are listed as good.
Mr Gifford said the report also shows how the NSW economy has shifted to become less resource intensive and more services based, resulting in positive environmental outcomes.
“This shows that economic growth and a better environment can be mutual goals,” Mr Gifford said.
“Electricity generation has seen a strong increase in the use of renewable, low emissions sources, from 11 per cent in 2014 to 16 per cent in 2017. Over the three years to June 2016, total NSW and ACT energy consumption declined by almost six per cent.”
According to Mr Gifford, the report shows population growth continues to be a key driver of changes to the environment.
“By 2036 the population of NSW is expected to grow to 9.9 million people with the majority of this growth expected to be in Sydney, which brings challenges for our environment and resource use,” Mr Gifford said.
“Climate change continues to pose a significant threat, counteracting these effects requires collaborative action at a state, national and global level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build the resilience of the environment for the future.”
The report will be used by government and the community to monitor environmental indicators and track progress.
“Having the report released every three years means all agencies can continue to work together on environmental improvements now and into the future,” Mr Gifford said.
The Victorian State of the Environment 2018 report says the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of its planned circular economy strategy.
The report, commissioned by Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Dr Gillian Sparkes, says five out of six waste indicators are stable.
Indicators used were total waste generation, generation of municipal waste per capita, total food waste generated, diversion rate, littler and illegal dumping and total hazardous waste managed and reported.
While most indicators are stable, except litter and illegal dumping which is improving, the report says the total amount of waste generated is poor and offers two key recommendations to improve the waste situation in Victoria.
First, in 2019 Sustainability Victoria need to develop indicators and implement a comprehensive monitoring and reporting framework to measure delivery of the statewide Waste and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan against circular-economy design principals.
Recommendations suggest that from July 2020 this progress should be expanded and a reporting framework that tracks progress put in place, with a public report released annually.
Second, the Victorian Government needs to align its institutional planning and procurement processes to support the delivery of the circular economy strategy and clarify which agencies will be responsible for delivering policy, procurement, program, reporting and regulatory roles.
The report says this alignment should be adopted statewide to enable an orderly transition to a circular economy in Victoria by 2030, with the initial focus being reducing consumption and contamination levels in kerbside recycling.
Recommendations also note that the Victorian Government needs to commit to long-term, systemic, statewide community education to support these transitions and improve long-term system outcomes.
The Environment Protection Authority has released 2018 South Australia’s State of the Environment Report, indicating in the report that the prospects of achieving the government’s waste generation reduction target seems unlikely.
The report shows South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2015-20 set a target to reduce waste generation per capita by more than five per cent by 2020 from the 2015 baseline, equating to a reduction of 400 kilograms per person from the volume generated in 2016-17 by 2020. It notes that given the current upward trend, this seems unlikely.
The report shows the average amount of waste generated in SA rose by just over 2000 kilograms per capita per year in 2003-4 to 3000 kilograms in 2016-17 – an increase of 42 per cent.
It highlights that current priority actions to meet the target are to promote green purchasing, waste avoidance, collaborative consumption and production, product refurbishment and behaviour change.
“Given strong competing influences on consumer behaviour in the form of marketing, fashion and social norms, a targeted program is needed to encourage production (for example, design, durability and packaging), marketing (for example, labelling) and consumption (for example, product selection) choices that reduce waste generation,” the report says.
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“There is also a major opportunity for government to take the lead in increasing the strength of a circular economy, including through green procurement.”
To tackle these issues, the report recommends coordinated national action to reduce waste, including through regulation of packaging, providing leadership in the strengthening of the local resource recovery industry through green procurement and strengthening education and behaviour change initiatives aimed at reducing waste.
“While we continue to get better at diverting most of this waste away from landfill to resource recovery, the most efficient solution remains that of avoiding generation of the waste in the first place,” the report says.
“However, it also remains imperative to keep getting better at reusing recovered resources locally to reduce the risk of reliance on other markets.”
The key recommendations of the report are to review the state’s climate change response to ensure that climate risks are adequately embedded into planning and investment by government agencies, review environmental reporting in the state, including trend and condition report cards, prioritise water management and onground land stewardship initiatives and a range of other areas.
Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said the state government was considering the EPA’s important report in detail.
“This report provides a wealth of information about the challenges facing our state, that can be used to help shape government policy and actions in the future,” Mr Speirs said.
Environment Protection Authority Board Presiding Member Catherine Cooper said that the report assesses the state and condition of SA’s major environmental resources and identifies significant trends in environmental quality, and shows that, while South Australia was doing reasonably well, in some areas there are serious challenges to be met.