The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Performance Review is wide-ranging and includes recognition of the excellent work Australia is doing in protecting and conserving our unique environment, as well as recommendations for improvement.
The report praises Australia’s outstanding achievements in protecting both land and sea through reserves. It notes that our National Reserve System covers about 20 per cent of Australia’s land, which is above the OECD average of 15 per cent.
The Coalition’s record in oceans management is exemplary, with marine protected areas covering 36 per cent of our marine areas following the implementation of new reserve management plans in 2018 – well above the OECD average.
The OECD acknowledges that environmental protection is a shared responsibility across all levels of government, with the states and territories having primary carriage of many of the issues covered in the Report.
For example, it praises the collaborative approach the Commonwealth is taking with Queensland in tackling the urgent issues faced by the Great Barrier Reef through the Reef 2050 Plan, proposing that “the initiative could be a model framework”.
The OECD Better Life Index consistently ranks Australia near the top of the world on social, economic and environment indicators.
The Morrison Government intends to maintain that ranking, particularly in relation to Indigenous engagement and employment.
The report notes the Government’s Indigenous Protected Area and Indigenous Ranger programmes are world-leading and I am pleased that it recognises the contribution Indigenous Australians make to conserving our environment.
Indigenous peoples have an important role in the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia’s biodiversity, and this is recognised in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and indigenous heritage protection laws.
The Government notes the OECD’s recommendations relating to Australia’s biodiversity and chemicals management. These recommendations build on work the Government is currently undertaking.
We acknowledge the findings relating to current and planned biodiversity initiatives, such as the Threatened Species Strategy.
Since 2014, we have mobilised more than $425 million for projects supporting outcomes for our threatened species. We will continue to refine our approach, building on our appointment of the first Threatened Species Commissioner.
The OECD’s recommendations for chemicals management reflect the need to develop a more robust, national framework for the sound management of chemicals. The Australian Government has been leading work with states and territories to establish this framework through the meeting of Environment Ministers.
The Department of the Environment and Energy’s latest emissions projections report shows the Government is on track to beat its 2020 emissions reduction target and that progress continues to be made to meet the 2030 target. As the 2017 review of climate change policies highlighted, we have the right mix of policies in place to meet our targets and our policies are scalable.
The Government has engaged with the OECD in the compilation of this report. I met with a visiting OECD delegation late last year to outline what Australia is doing to improve our environment.
Australia values the role of the OECD in promoting policies that improve social and economic well-being. The Government will consider the recommendations made in this report.
The OECD conducts these reviews on a rotational basis, with the last report delivered more than 10 years ago.