Introduction

19 Aug 2016 - 12:54 | Version 1 |

The most recent ACT State of the Environment Report (2011) found that in the ACT, 'Our city, our economy and our society rely on the environment. However, the amount of resources we use is unsustainable and damaging our environment at both local and global levels'

The report identifies key environmental challenges including the impact of an increasing, ageing and affluent population, the impact of climate change on natural resources, and high consumption and levels of car use as increasing our ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. The report concludes that 'as a largely urban population who import most of our consumer goods and services, we are increasing the impact on our local and global natural environment'.

The issue of sustainability cuts across most of the environmental issues and environmental legislation in the ACT. As a result, the law relating to questions of urban sustainability, energy and water use is spread across a number of enactments. In some fields, it draws upon New South Wales law, for example, water efficiency and an early version of carbon trading. In relation to the national electricity law, it draws upon national legislation enacted through mechanisms of cooperative federalism. Integration of the law and associated regulatory schemes within an over-arching Sustainability Act would provide the opportunity for an improvement to our climate laws by delivering a more cohesive and efficient system. Alternatively a common set of definitions of the ecologically sustainable development (ESD) principles, could be modelled on NSW law (i.e. Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991, s 6(2)).

In 2011, the ACT Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water (DECCEW) and the ACT Planning Land Authority (ACTPLA) were merged to create the Environment and Planning Directorate (EPD). The Directorate also incorporates the former ACT Heritage and Government Architect, Transport Planning, Nature Conservation Policy and the Conservator of Flora and Fauna. In 2014 the Environmental Protection Authority was moved from the EPD to 'Access Canberra' which provides a combined 'shopfront' of the ACT government's regulatory services (see Contacts list at the back of this book).

This chapter describes the ACT laws that compel action to improve environmental sustainability. It examines provisions to reduce carbon emissions and energy use, improve energy, transport and water efficiency, and requirements to consider the environment in decision-making.

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