Australia

   

Environmental Policies

#33
Key Findings
Emissions concerns and unaddressed infrastructural needs have left Australia scoring relatively poorly (rank 33) with respect to environmental policy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

Energy consumption levels are generally high, with renewable energy contributions low despite great potential for solar and wind power. Energy prices are high, and emissions reductions efforts have made limited progress, with no effective means apparent for the achievement of 2030 reduction targets. There has been little focus on climate change policy overall.

Environmental policy has focused instead on water-security issues. Some progress has been made with desalination plants and water-management plans. However, sustained droughts have exacerbated the challenges. Accelerating biodiversity decline is a serious concern.

Successive governments have shown considerable reluctance to engage in global cooperative environment-protection issues, though the country is a signatory to many relevant agreements. The government has focused on protecting the Great Barrier Reef as a global common good.

Environment

#33

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
4
In recent years, environmental policy in Australia has focused strongly on water security. Some progress has been made over this time, including the construction of desalination plants and the creation of the Murray-Darling Basin water-management plan. However, this focus has not resolved water-management issues, not least because sustained droughts affecting large areas of the country appear to have increased in severity.

Environmental pollution is almost entirely the policy domain of state governments. There is considerable variation in the extent of pollution mitigation across the states, and it is difficult to assess overall performance. However, in general, most states enforce relatively strict standards on environmental pollution. There has been no clear change in this regard in the review period.

Climate change policy, clearly the most important component of environmental policy in the current era, has been largely absent. One of the early acts of Prime Minister Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition government was to abolish the carbon tax introduced by the previous Labor government in 2012, which ceased to apply from 1 July 2014. The federal government remains committed to reducing by 2030 carbon emissions by anywhere from 26% to 28% compared to 2005 levels, but currently has no effective means of achieving this.

Energy consumption levels are generally high, and despite great potential for solar and wind energy, the contribution of renewable energy to the grid remains considerably lower than it could be. A government-commissioned review of the national electricity market was published in June 2017. Most of its recommendations were accepted, but in the intervening period up to the end of the review period, there has been almost no progress on the policy front. Industry uncertainty therefore persists, undermining incentives to invest in energy generation and contributing to record-high energy prices for consumers, low levels of reliability and very limited progress on emissions reductions.

Biodiversity decline is also a significant concern in Australia, with considerable evidence of an acceleration in decline over recent decades. In response to this concern, in October 2010 the Australian government released “Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010 – 2030,” which provides the guiding framework for conserving Australia’s biodiversity over that period. Various policies to address the decline in biodiversity have been implemented, though more action is required.

Citations:
Australian Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, ‘Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010–2030,’ 2010: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/publications/strategy-2010-30/pubs/biodiversity-strategy-2010.pdf

Murray-Darling Basin Authority: https://www.mdba.gov.au/

In Australien herrscht wegen der Volatilität der Strompreise und der sich häufenden Blackouts eine Energiekrise, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11. Mai 2017.

Tesla to build world’s biggest lithium ion battery in South Australia, The Guardian, 7. July 2017, www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/07/tesla-to-build-worlds-biggest-lithium-ion-battery-in-south-australia

Electricity Market Review: https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/1d6b0464-6162-4223-ac08-3395a6b1c7fa/files/electricity-market-review-final-report.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/08/the-perfect-storm-woodside-energy-and-siemens-invest-in-australias-hydrogen-economy

Global Environmental Protection

#32

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
5
Australia is not prioritizing the advancement of global environmental protection regimes. After winning the 2013 election, the coalition abolished the carbon tax introduced by the previous labor government. While this is a domestic issue, the coalition’s strong anti-carbon tax posture indicates the Liberal party and its coalition partner is much less enthusiastic than the previous Labor party government about participating in a global environmental protection regime. The current Morrison government has retained the Abbott government’s reluctance to advance global cooperation to protect the environment, though it participates in numerous multilateral and bilateral forums dealing with environmental issues, and is a signatory to many international treaties/agreements.

The Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981 and the Australian government considers it a responsibility to protect it as a global common good. To this end, an updated Reef 2050 Plan was released in July 2018 with the goal of ensuring the reef’s preservation.

Citations:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/02/australia-will-honour-paris-climate-agreement-simon-birmingham-says
http://www.environment.gov.au/about-us/international.
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