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Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment



State of the Environment Reporting

State of the Environment Reports assess change in all aspects of the environment including atmosphere, biodiversity, land, water and human settlements.

The objectives of the ACT State of the Environment Report are to:

  • provide accurate, timely and accessible information to the community and government regarding the condition of the environment, underlying pressures, and sustainability trends 
  • evaluate the effectiveness of community and government actions, policies, and initiatives in terms of progress towards sustainability, and 
  •  increase community and government understanding of environmental and sustainability trends and interactions. 

In the ACT, State of the Environment reporting is a requirement of the ACT Commissioner for the Environment Act 1993. The Office undertakes a State of the Environment Report every four years. 

So far, seven State of the Environment reports have been completed. These are:

  • ACT State of the Environment Report 2011
  • ACT State of the Environment Report 2007/08
  • 2003 State of the Environment Report
  • 2000 State of the Environment Report (also on CD-ROM)
  • 1997 State of the Environment Report (also on CD-ROM, and on this website):

    Factsheet for schools - ACT State of the Environment Report 2007/08

    Since 1997, State of the Environment reports for the Australian Capital Region have also been prepared by this office as part of an agreement with the member councils of the region.

    Structure of the State of the Environment Report

    Review

    In 2009-10, the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment undertook a review of State of Environment Reporting in the ACT through an iterative process to strategically review, assess and refine the ACT SoE 2011 reporting framework. 

    Executive Summary of Review (pdf)

    Full Report (pdf)

    This process included:

    • engaging a consultant (Halcrow Pacific Pty Ltd) to review the 2007/08 State of the Environment reporting framework, develop a draft reporting framework, and advise on final Indicator definitions. Full report from Halcrow (pdf).
    • consulting with four focus groups and a technical Reference Group on a draft reporting framework – the Reference Group has been established to inform the development of the ACT State of the Environment 2011 Report; and
    • assessing proposed Themes and Indicators and, where appropriate, removing or adding Indicators to best report on the condition of the ACT environment, key trends, and progress towards sustainability.

    The new framework will provide a better picture of the complex environment in the ACT.

    2011

    The review of the 2011 State of the Environment Report was released on 15 February 2013. The review was conducted internally by Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment staff.

    Download: Review of the ACT 2011 State of the Environment Report (pdf)

    The 2011 review includes

    1. Background information on State of Environment Reporting in the ACT, a description of the framework, Report format, process of development, distribution and strategies for communicating key findings.
    2. A record of review findings resulting from the various methods used for gathering information and feedback.
    3. A set of recommendations for the preparation of the next ACT SoER due in December 2015.

    State of the Environment Report Model

    State of Environment reporting has evolved from the initial Condition-Pressure-Response model that was used by the Office when we started reporting in the early 1990s.  This model indicated the pressures of human activities on the environment, the current condition of the environment and natural resources and the responses by government, business, organisations and the community.  

    The Office will now use the Driving force-Pressure-State-Impact-Response model, which extends the previous model by taking into account both the driving forces or significant causes of change, as well as the impacts on environmental, social and economic systems. 

    Driving force indicators present data on demographic, social and economic development which, in turn, exert pressure on the environment.  For example, population growth and changes in consumption patterns, is a key cause in the increase in motor vehicles that increase air pollution. 

    Pressure indicators present data for the main human activities that could potentially adversely affect the condition of the environment. For example, we know that motor vehicle exhaust is a main cause of air pollution in Australia, and the more we drive our cars the worse it is. So we have pressure indicator that tells us how bad this pressure is and whether it is getting better or worse. We have called it "Motor vehicle use", and it uses data about how much we use our cars each year, and how many cars are being used.

    State indicators present the data that tells us how the environment is at any particular time. A state indicator for air quality, for example, could be the amount of carbon monoxide in the air, whether this amount affects our health, and whether the amount of carbon monoxide is increasing or decreasing. It is like asking a friend "How are you going?".

    Impact indicators present data on the effect that environmental changes have on environmental or human health.  For example, increased exposure to air pollution can increase the level of a number of human illnesses such as asthma and respiratory diseases.

    Response indicators present data about the main things we are doing to alleviate pressures, or to improve the condition of the environment. For example, our air quality can be improved by increasing our use of public transport, car-pooling, or improving fuel quality.

    State of the Environment Report Framework

    The ACT State of Environment report has adopted a framework of headline indicators, themes, indicator clusters and indicators to assess and report the environment. Driving forces are identified separately within this framework and the Pressure, State, Impact and Response components of the framework are contained within each theme and their respective indicator clusters.

    2011 ACT State of Environment Reporting Framework

    2011 ACT State of Environment Reporting Framework 

    Headline indicators - A small set of Headline Indicators help provide simple and clear information to decision-makers and the general public about the overall condition of the environment.  They are indicators which best illustrate key environmental parameters and present information on issues which are either directly or indirectly related, or measure if the condition of the environment is improving. Headline Indicators can be more widely reported and explained compared with the much larger base State of the Environment report.  

    Themes – these are the main things you are likely to think of when you think of the environment.  For example, land and water, air, biodiversity, climate and people.  The identification of themes within the State of Environment Report assists with structuring the report and can be useful where causal links between, for example, pressure s and impacts, can be difficult to determine. 

    Indicators – these are the key measurement, with analysis and interpretation, that are used to assess the themes.  A State of the Environment Report aims to show changes in key issues through time by using indicators related to each theme.   Indicator clusters will also be used to group related condition, pressure, impact and response indicators in order to highlight interconnections and positive and negative relationships.  

    Progressing Sustainability - The Progressing Sustainability section will place the findings of the State of Environment Report into a wider sustainability framework and provide information on the key challenges and opportunities for progressing sustainability in the ACT.  

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