Annual Report 2003-2004

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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, accorded 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, development assistance and public diplomacy.

The department worked constructively in the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the past year to achieve outcomes in the Doha Round that will strengthen both the multilateral trading system and promote sustainable development. We continued to argue that multilateral environment agreements and WTO obligations are mutually supportive and that both sets of obligations must be respected. We also encouraged WTO members to develop domestic regulatory frameworks and administrative arrangements which ensure that trade and environment policies are implemented in a mutually supportive manner. We contributed positively to the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session on liberalising trade in environmental goods and services, which will have trade and environmental benefits.

The department was active in international environment meetings, including the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in opposing attempts by some parties to misuse concepts such as the 'precautionary principle' and 'multifunctionality' for trade protectionist purposes. The department was the lead agency in the first Meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

The department continued to lead 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 mutilateral, regional and bilateral levels, and on encouraging all major emitters to contribute to actions addressing the causes of climate change.

Other international environment efforts included the department's leadership in bringing into force the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Together with the Department of the Environment and Heritage, and the Attorney-General's Department, we worked with like-minded countries within the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species to advance the marine species agenda, including a plan of action on sharks.

The department remained involved in efforts to maintain a moratorium on whaling through the International Whaling Commission. In the United Nations we also coordinated efforts to help Pacific island countries develop a regional plan for input into the 10 Year Review of the Barbados Plan of Action on Sustainable Development for Small Island Developing States. The department co-hosted, with Indonesia, an APEC Workshop on Trade and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity, in Jakarta.

The department made an important contribution to the development of international legal frameworks for ecologically sustainable development, including the Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste. In consultation with other agencies we are developing a negotiating position on these issues for the first Conference of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

Along with other agencies, the department continued to drive initiatives within the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to protect marine species and to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, particularly of Patagonian toothfish. Australia is participating in a trial operation of a centralised vessel monitoring system, agreed at the 2003 meeting, as a further tool to address illegal fishing activities.

We 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 Australia's 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 Australia's network of bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements and through our dialogue with nuclear shipping states and Pacific island countries.

The department, via the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), worked actively with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and counterpart organisations in other countries to ensure the environment was protected by providing training to countries in the Asia–Pacific region on issues related to the security of nuclear material and to efficient and effective application of international safeguards to nuclear material and facilities. ASNO hosted the first ever course on the physical protection of research reactor facilities and large radioactive sources with the active cooperation of the IAEA and the United States Department of Energy. ASNO also hosted the fifth of its triennial regional courses on states systems of accountancy for and control of nuclear material. ASNO also conducted outreach activities in regional countries, which were aimed at improving the application of nuclear non-proliferation safeguards in the Asia–Pacific region.

The department's Direct Aid Program contributes to ecologically sustainable development. Last year several projects had an environmental focus including: rehabilitation of the rain-fed Zibqin water reservoir, situated in a demined area in the former Israeli occupied zone of Southern Lebanon; a model aquaculture project to teach sustainable fishing practices and fish/algae breeding in Ceara, Brazil; and environmental conservation to protect the sea turtles and monitor changes in sea bed flora and fauna in Barbados.

Public diplomacy at posts plays a key role in projecting a positive 'clean and green' image of Australia overseas. The department remains 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 2003–04, are:

  1. Australia's national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global 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 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 modest, practical aid programs to protect the environment and participation in Clean Up the World campaigns as earlier outlined.

Outcome 4

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

Effect of the organisation's activities on the environment

The department's 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 of May 2001, the department has completed the development of an Environmental Management System (EMS) covering its Central Office, the RG Casey Building in Canberra. The department has selected an accredited certifying body, NCS International, to audit its EMS against ISO 14001:1996, the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems. The EMS external audit process began on 7 April 2004 with the introductory visit by the accredited auditor.

In keeping with EMS requirements, the Secretary endorsed the department's Environmental Policy, which is available on the DFAT website. The EMS manual and integral electronic reporting forms are also publicly available, along with the first two issues of the Greening DFAT newsletter. In addition, an EMS General Awareness Training module has been introduced to provide all staff and contractors with key information on: the importance of conforming with the department's environmental policy and EMS procedures; the significant environmental impacts of their work activities and the environmental benefits of improved personal performance; and their roles and responsibilities in meeting the policy and procedures.

The department's Senior Executive approved the establishment of an EMS Committee to implement, monitor and audit the departmental EMS. The EMS Committee comprises representatives from all divisions within the department, and includes the Domestic Property and Services Section, including the Chief Fire Warden and the Information and Communication Technology Branch.

The department's EMS is aimed at reducing negative impacts on the environment, in particular through reduction in the use of energy and minimisation of waste, and improvement in recycling and re-use of materials.

The department supported the 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 contract with a 10 per cent green energy requirement. In addition, with the agreement of the building owners, the department has begun the installation of additional electricity meters to improve monitoring of power consumption. Measures have also been taken to reduce water consumption.

Additional key EMS procedures undertaken during the period included: the introduction of a Switch Off and Save campaign (prompts staff to switch off lights and office equipment when not in use); amended procurement guidelines incorporating departmental EMS requirements (eg energy efficiency ratings; re-use or recycling capacity; procurement of printers and photocopiers with duplex printing functionality and power-save modes; and steps to reduce/recycle packaging materials); individual paper recycling boxes were provided for each desk; a Stationery Recycling Depot for collection and re-use of stationery items was established; co-mingled waste bins (for plastics, glass, tins, cartons and clean paper) were placed in the cafeteria, childcare centre and kitchens throughout the department; and, water conservation signs and sink plugs were provided in all kitchens. Regular use is made of the department's electronic bulletin board to introduce and promote these new procedures.

Remanufactured printer toners are now used in lieu of purchasing new toner cartridges. The department also sends to auction all obsolete IT equipment that has a possibility of being sold and uses PC Graveyard Pty Ltd to recycle equipment that is not auctioned.

The department received EMS support from the Brindabella Café, located in the R G Casey Building, which has introduced a 20 cent levy on takeaway polystyrene cups to reduce the number going to landfill. In the first full month of operation, the number of takeaway cups was reduced by almost 50 per cent with the accumulated levy of $775.00 donated to Greening Australia for the planting of Australian native trees in areas affected by the Canberra bushfires in 2003.

Mechanisms for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of these measures

The EMS measures the effectiveness of the department's efforts in minimising the impact of its operations on the environment. This is achieved through regular meetings of an EMS Committee, internal and external EMS audits and the implementation of the Monitoring and Measurement Plan. The effectiveness of EMS is also enhanced by completion by staff of the EMS General Awareness Training module. Through these measures we are establishing a culture of environmental awareness, energy efficiency and waste recycling.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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