Australia is the world's sixth largest country and the driest inhabited continent on our planet. Home to an important variety of natural resources, it is one of 17 megadiverse countries and among the top 10 largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the OECD. Outlining a long-term low-carbon strategy and a plan for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is therefore essential. This third Environmental Performance Review of Australia provides 50 recommendations to help the country advance towards green growth and to improve its environmental governance and management.
Despite progress in decoupling the main environmental pressures from economic growth, Australia is one of the most resource- and carbon-intensive OECD economies, and pressures on biodiversity and water resources remain an important concern. While the country is on track to reach its 2020 climate target, Australia needs to intensify efforts to reach its Paris Agreement goal of reducing GHG emissions (including emissions from land use change and forestry) by between 26% and 28% below its 2005 levels by 2030. Adopting an integrated energy and climate policy framework for 2030 with an emission reduction goal for the power sector would avoid the projected rise in GHG emissions.
This review pays special attention to the protection of threatened species and the sustainable use of biodiversity. Australia surpassed the 2020 Aichi targets with 19% of its territory and 36% of its marine jurisdiction under protection. Its Indigenous Protected Area and Indigenous Ranger programmes are world-leading models of Indigenous engagement in biodiversity conservation. However, the status of biodiversity is poor and worsening. Less than 40% of nationally listed threatened species benefit from recovery plans; moreover, the implementation of these plans has been constrained by a lack of financing and weak co-ordination. The review calls for increased public investment in research, protection and restoration to address the scale of the challenge. It encourages state, territory and Commonwealth governments to collaborate in order to address data gaps, measure progress over time and identify priorities for action.
Additionally, the review shows how the ongoing chemical management reforms can help protect human health and the environment, and how they can contribute to better identifying, assessing and managing the pressures associated with chemical manufacture, use and disposal. It stresses the importance of making better use of existing monitoring data and of generating more data via the national monitoring of chemicals in the environment and bio-monitoring campaigns. This can facilitate early identification of emerging contaminants. The review also recommends the creation of a baseline of health and environmental status in Australia, to measure the effectiveness of implementation of the current reforms.
This Environmental Performance Review of Australia is the result of a constructive policy dialogue between Australia and the countries participating in the OECD Working Party on Environmental Performance. The OECD stands ready to support Australia in the implementation of the recommendations outlined in this study.