State of the Environment reporting


Purpose

State of the Environment (SoE) reports are designed to communicate credible, timely and accessible information about the condition of the environment to decision makers and the community. The 2007 SoE Report does not consider all of the many environmental issues facing Western Australia (WA). Rather, it focuses on the major environmental issues, so as to draw attention on them and to help set the State's environmental policy agenda for the next five years.

History

Previous SoE reports were undertaken by the Western Australian Government in 1992 and 1998.

In September 2003 the Government of Western Australia announced that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) would develop the next SoE report. In November 2003, the EPA formed a State of the Environment Steering Group to assist the it in overseeing the production of the report. The role of the steering group has been to act in an advisory capacity, particularly in relation to development of the draft report and to providing guidance to working groups. The steering group met as required.

In September 2004, the steering group established working groups for each theme within the report. Most working groups had broad membership from government agencies, industry, business, peak bodies, academia and the general community. The working groups were responsible for identifying key issues for each theme and developing the content of the draft reports with the assistance of the State of the Environment Project Team. The working groups met about once a month until late 2005 - early 2006.

In December 2004, working groups were formed for each sector within the 'Towards Sustainability' theme. Each sector working group was chaired by a senior officer from a government agency that was most closely affiliated with the sector. The groups were involved in developing sector reports that were then submitted to the EPA. These reports have helped the EPA to assess the environmental performance of each sector.

In July 2006 the EPA released the draft SoE Report for public discussion and comment. Submissions closed on 30 September 2006. The EPA received 76 submissions which helped it to make appropriate changes in the production of this, the final report.

Reporting framework

In Australia, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's 'pressure-state-response' model provides a framework for SoE reports. 'Pressure' (or threat) refers to human activities that affect the environment. 'State' (or condition) refers to the quality of the environment and the functioning of important environmental processes. 'Response' (or actions) refers to initiatives that have been made to address pressures on the environment or to improve or maintain its condition. In WA, a modified version of the model is used: condition-pressure-response-implication. This assists in environmental policy planning while retaining the benefits of an internationally agreed framework for environmental reporting.

Similar to many other state and national SoE reports, WA's reports are structured around environmental themes, issues and indicators. 'Themes' refer to major groupings of the environment, including Fundamental Pressures, Atmosphere, Land, Inland Waters, Biodiversity, Marine, Human Settlements, Heritage and Towards Sustainability.

'Issues' refer to environmental problems and are reported under each theme. Environmental indicators are used to provide a summary measure of the changes and/or trends in the environment or for environmental issues.

The SoE report is the key mechanism used for reporting on the State's environmental bottom line. The report reviews the progress of WA's economic sectors in the 'Towards Sustainability' theme, by reporting on their sustainable management, use, protection and conservation of natural resources.

Theme structure of report

The report uses the following format for each theme (where appropriate):

  • Introduction: Describes natural resources and information related to this theme and explains the significance or importance of these resources to the environment, society and the economy.
  • Objectives: Outlines broad environmental goals relevant to the theme and the environmental values for the natural resource.
  • Headline indicators: High-level indicators that provide a summary measure of the progress towards meeting the objectives.
  • Overall condition: Summarises the general condition of the environment relevant to the theme.
  • Effectiveness: A summary of the progress and effectiveness of government actions that arose from State of the Environment Report: Western Australia 1998.
  • Suggested responses: Recommends responses (i.e. policy, on-ground action, strategies) to address environmental condition.
  • Emerging or outgoing issues: An emerging issue is a minor issue with potential to be a problem in the future, or it has little current information available about it. An outgoing issue is an issue that previously appeared in the State of the Environment Report: Western Australia 1998 but is no longer considered a major environmental problem.

Issue structure

The format for each environmental issue is as follows:

  • Priority rating: A five-level score assigned by the EPA to represent the priority of the environmental issue to WA. A priority rating of "1" indicates a top priority environmental issue.
  • Indicative extent: A map representing areas of WA that is affected by the issue.
  • Key findings: Summary dot points which highlight the major findings.
  • Description: Describes the issue.
  • Objectives: Outlines the specific objectives for addressing the environmental issue. Often these statements are based on existing policy documents.
  • Condition: Summarises what is known about the current status and trend of the issue's impact on the environment. This section may include indicators.
  • Pressures: Identifies the key processes that cause the issue. This section may include indicators.
  • Current responses: Summarises the current major community and government actions (i.e. policy, on-ground action, strategies) that have been implemented to address the issue. This section may include indicators.
  • Implications: Identifies the social, environmental and economic consequences of the issue.
  • Suggested responses: Recommends responses (i.e. policy, on-ground action, strategies) to address the issue.