Sustainability Bites

There is no such thing as a free lunch

Peter Burnett

The fifth and final transformation: Restoring trust in decision-making

The fifth and final transformation: Restoring trust in decision-making

One of the main findings of the Samuel Review of the EPBC Act was that it was not trusted, either by business nor by the wider community. Restoring trust requires a fundamental shift from process-based decision-making to outcome-based decisions. This requires standards supported by regional plans and stronger institutions, including information systems and compliance regimes. At the end of the day, people will only trust environmental laws that truly protect and conserve the environment.

It’s ‘business as usual’, but at least there actually is plenty of business

It’s ‘business as usual’, but at least there actually is plenty of business

Australia’s environment department has been run down over the past decade. This month’s Estimate hearings reveals that the new Labor Government is putting extra resources towards environmental management. What does that mean? In terms of Indigenous heritage protection it’s a rare example of good news in the environment portfolio. In terms of biodiversity, the new government has made a small down payment, but on a veritable mountain of environmental debt.

Simplicity harmony and the third transformation

Simplicity harmony and the third transformation

Proposals for regulatory streamlining, and for the alignment of federal and state environmental assessment laws have been floated at various times over the last 30 years. Graeme Samuel’s review recommended a harmonising of both environmental processes and outcomes between federal and state jurisdictions. To do this we need to: Develop national standards; build a risk-based decision-making system; accredit states to take most of the decisions.

Taking Indigenous knowledge and values seriously: The second transformation of national environmental law

Taking Indigenous knowledge and values seriously: The second transformation of national environmental law

Taking Indigenous knowledge and values seriously in environmental policy is not limited to the transformation recommended by Professor Samuel under the EPBC Act. Providing for ‘respectful consideration of Indigenous views and knowledge’ will take time and investment.

Getting results: the first transformation of our national environmental law starts with ‘standards’

Getting results: the first transformation of our national environmental law starts with ‘standards’

To transform our national environmental law, we need to begin with ‘standards’
Discretionary, bottom-up decision-making is no way to achieve consistent & ecologically sustainable outcomes.

Five transformations: Breathing life into Australia’s national environmental law

Five transformations: Breathing life into Australia’s national environmental law

The EPBC Act is the most important environmental law in the country, but it doesn’t work. To achieve what it was established to do it needs to:
– pursuing national environmental outcomes (rather than just be a prescriptive regulatory processe);
– shift from Indigenous tokenism to full use of Indigenous knowledge;
– simplify regulatory outcomes between federal and state jurisdictions;
– lay new foundations for quality decision-making; and
– restore trust in decision-making.

Down into the weeds again – the new government announces a return to bioregional planning

Down into the weeds again – the new government announces a return to bioregional planning

Our new environment minister has announced the government’s commitment to regional (biodiversity) planning. Australian governments have been talking about this approach for over 25 years. If done well, regional planning has the potential to enable biodiversity conservation to be integrated across land uses, programs and tenures, and enhance resilience to climate change. But doing it well will take money, good planning and collaboration with multiple partners – a big ask for any national government.

Triggering the safeguard or safeguarding the trigger: Climate, large emitters and the EPBC Act

Triggering the safeguard or safeguarding the trigger: Climate, large emitters and the EPBC Act

Triggering the climate safeguard or safeguarding the climate trigger
A climate trigger should be limited to actions that are not caught by the safeguard mechanism, such as land clearing.
However, there are some benefits that are better delivered by one or other of the two mechanisms.

What can we expect in Australia’s new climate law?

What can we expect in Australia’s new climate law?

Australia’s newly elected government has promised to introduce a Climate Change Bill. It won’t be available till later this month but we have a fair idea of what it is likely to say. It will not seek to reimpose a carbon price but will use an existing law reduce allowable emissions for the largest polluters. It will enshrine both Australia’s ‘net zero by 2050’ goal and its new Paris ‘nationally determined contribution’ of a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030. It will also restore the CCA’s role of advising Government on future targets; require the climate minister to report annually to Parliament on progress in meeting targets; and paste the new climate targets across into the formal objectives and functions of several government agencies.

A new government and a new environment minister – what now for Australian environmental policy?

A new government and a new environment minister – what now for Australian environmental policy?

While Labor lifted its game at the last minute with its environmental law reform policy, they can hardly be said to be environmental-policy high performers. So, what’s ‘on the record’ and ‘off the record’ for our new government when it comes to the Environment? What should our new environment minister prioritise?