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Appendix 8

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

Following is the department’s report on its ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance in accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

How the activities of the organisation, and the administration of legislation by the organisation, accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development

The department, in pursuing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally, seeks to the extent possible to ensure that its policy activities and other operations accord with and contribute to the principles of ecologically sustainable development, and are shaped and implemented with appropriate reference to environmental impact. Relevant activities across a wide range of policy issues include multilateral environment agreements, international legal frameworks, sustainable development, climate change, fisheries, nuclear waste, trade, aid and public diplomacy.

The department engaged constructively in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations to enhance the mutual supportiveness of trade and environment objectives while resisting efforts by others to condone the use of concepts such as precaution and multi-functionality in environmental forums for trade protectionist purposes. This has included tabling a proposal to advance the issue of the relationship between specific trade obligations in multilateral environment agreements and WTO rules. We supported observer status for secretariats of multilateral environment agreements in the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session and increasing information exchange. We continue to explore the scope for increased trade liberalisation within the WTO for environmental goods and services.

The department made a major contribution to Australian engagement in the World Summit on Sustainable Development, focusing on practical outcomes that would advance sustainable development. Key outcomes included: a recognition of the key role of trade and investment flows in sustainable development and of agricultural trade liberalisation; a focus on good governance; and a range of practical environmental initiatives on, for example, high seas biodiversity and coral reefs.

The department led a whole-of-government effort on international climate change issues, and pursued the development of a more effective global response. In doing so, we focused on developing and supporting concrete, practical measures at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels, and on encouraging all major emitters to contribute to actions addressing the causes of climate change.

Other efforts in the United Nations context included Australian leadership on the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) of Wild Animals. The department’s overseas diplomatic network played a key role in having several species of whales and sharks added to the list of those species protected by the CMS. We worked with like-minded countries within the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species to pursue recognition of the particular needs of countries in the Oceania region and progress the marine species agenda, including a plan of action on sharks.

The department has also made an important contribution to development of international legal frameworks for ecologically sustainable development. For example, in the context of the Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste, we helped shape the debate on compliance by focusing on approaches which were facilitative rather than punitive, concentrating on assisting countries through capacity building measures to meet their obligations on the handling of hazardous wastes.

Departmental initiatives within the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources have led to stronger safeguards against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, particularly in our exclusive economic zone. Australian efforts within the International Whaling Commission also led to enhanced mechanisms to protect relevant species.

The department worked actively to ensure the environment was protected from potential damage from nuclear and radioactive materials, through initiatives within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other instruments to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons; through our membership of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (which serves as the global focal point for cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including safeguards, safety and security issues); and through our network of bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements and through dialogue with nuclear shipping states and Pacific island countries.

The department has taken an active approach to outreach on trade and environment issues, including organising and chairing a high-level Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation workshop in Bangkok and providing assistance in the African region through the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, to raise awareness, particularly among developing countries, about how environment and trade objectives can be taken forward in a mutually supportive manner.

The department’s Direct Aid Program contributes to ecologically sustainable development. Last year, several projects had an environmental focus, including: the purchase of equipment and raw materials to be used to teach women in northern Brazil to manufacture natural soap from the fruit of local palm trees; the preservation of a mangrove forest reserve in the Federated States of Micronesia; and an awareness campaign to inform locals and tourists about safe and environmentally sustainable ways of interacting with the coral reefs in the British Virgin Islands.

Public diplomacy at posts plays a key role in projecting a positive ‘clean and green’ image of Australia overseas. The department is an official sponsor of the Clean Up the World campaign. By supporting posts’ engagement with Clean Up the World campaigns in host countries, the department contributes to identifying and remedying local environmental problems.

How the department’s outcomes contribute to ecologically sustainable development

The department’s outcomes, specified in the Portfolio Budget Statements 2002–03, are:

  1. Australia’s national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global economic cooperation
  2. Australians informed about and provided access to consular and passport services in Australia and overseas
  3. Public understanding in Australia and overseas of Australia’s foreign and trade policy and a positive image of Australia internationally
  4. Efficient management of the Commonwealth overseas-owned estate.

Outcome 1

The department contributes to ecologically sustainable development through participation in international negotiations across a wide range of policy areas.

Outcome 2

Activities under this outcome do not directly contribute to ecologically sustainable development.

Outcome 3

The department’s Direct Aid Program and public diplomacy programs at overseas posts contribute to ecologically sustainable development through small, practical aid programs to protect the environment and participation in Clean Up the World campaigns as outlined on the previous page.

Outcome 4

The department contributes directly to ecologically sustainable development by managing construction and maintenance of the overseas-owned estate (see below).

Effect of the organisation’s activities on the environment

The department’s daily operations in Canberra and through its overseas network and state and territory offices have a range of impacts on the environment. Measures to address these impacts are outlined below.

Measures being taken by the organisation to minimise the impact of its activities on the environment

In accordance with the Government’s decision taken in May 2001, the department has completed the development of an Environmental Management System (EMS) covering its offices in Australia and is in the process of implementing the system. The EMS provides a framework to improve operating efficiencies and to identify and improve environmental performance. The department is on schedule to achieve accreditation of its Canberra headquarters, the R G Casey Building, under ISO14001 by the end of 2003.

The department has supported Australian Greenhouse Office-led negotiations with energy suppliers for a whole-of-government electricity supply contract for the Australian Capital Territory that incorporates energy generated from renewable sources (Greenpower). The department has a three-year energy contract with a 10 per cent green energy requirement.

The department is also working closely with the Australian Greenhouse Office to identify further mechanisms for energy conservation in the R G Casey Building. We are working with the building management on an energy efficiency audit of the operations of the building to identify areas where further efficiencies can be achieved.

Purchasing policies for major consumable items include consideration of their capacity to be recycled and energy efficiency ratings. Computer purchasing policy identifies the components’ recyclable qualities as a high priority.

The department conducts its overseas property management and design in accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. As part of the tender submission for Australian Government projects in the owned overseas estate, consultants are required to provide draft environmental management and waste management plans to enable evaluation panels to assess their management of environmental issues.

Following engagement, project designers are required to prepare a concept design report dealing with issues such as ecologically sustainable development and the life-cycle costings of proposed options. This report also considers the appropriate selection of materials and the setting of energy use targets that are then modelled to confirm that the design meets the targets. The department aims to achieve environmental best practice in all projects regardless of location or local regulatory requirements.

Capital works projects in the design and approvals stages in 2002–03 included the proposed new chancery complexes in Colombo and New Delhi and refurbishment of apartments in the Paris embassy complex. These projects, which are all subject to consideration by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, will be completed fully in accordance with the environmentally sustainable requirements outlined in their construction documentation.

Mechanisms for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of these measures

The EMS, once fully operational, will provide a framework for measuring the effectiveness of the department’s efforts in minimising the impact of its operations on the environment. The EMS includes guidelines for reducing power consumption and waste.


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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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