Page 1510 - Week 06 - Thursday, 2 July 2020

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MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Corrections and Justice Health, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety and Minister for Mental Health) (2.46): It is a requirement of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Act 1993 that the commissioner present to the government at regular intervals a report on the condition of our environment.

The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment presented the 2019 State of the Environment report to the government on 19 December 2019. The government tabled the report on 13 February 2020 after the summer recess. Today I am pleased to table the government’s formal response, as required by section 19(3) of the act.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 public health emergency has affected government business and operations and, due to the cross-government coordination required during these unprecedented times, the provision of this response to the Assembly has been slightly delayed. The 2019 State of the Environment report assesses the ACT’s performance in relation to climate change, human settlements, air, land, biodiversity, water and fire.

It also includes the consideration of Indigenous heritage, community contribution to sustainability and environmental knowledge, and the importance and status of Canberra’s urban trees. The report provides comment on the ACT government’s many environmental and sustainability achievements. The report recognises the considerable policy development since the previous assessment in 2015, and our leadership on climate change and energy policy.

The report does highlight some serious challenges to environmental management in the ACT, including population growth, development pressures and the climate emergency as drivers of environmental change in the territory. Similarly, there remain challenges around sustainable funding, data management, integrated water management, invasive species, the legacy of historic land management practices, and inappropriate fire regimes.

In the report, the commissioner makes 35 formal recommendations that range across a number of ministers’ and directorates’ responsibilities. The government agrees to 26 of these recommendations and agrees in principle with a further eight. The commissioner’s recommendations are largely consistent with the direction that the government is pursuing on environmental issues.

The commissioner’s recommendations for areas of focus and improvement are useful and welcome. The recommendations agreed to in principle are in areas that the government is working on but is still developing or is pursuing a slightly different approach to. For example, the commissioner recommends potentially hastening the transition of the ACT’s bus fleet to a zero-emission fleet via hydrogen and electric technology in recommendation 18. The government agrees to that in principle but has not yet committed to an earlier transition date, as there are various issues being worked through in Transport Canberra, and in Minister Steel’s portfolio. As the government response notes, as the technology and market evolve, the government could potentially bring its transition date forward.

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