A National Sustainability Council for Australia

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

On 23 October, Minister for the Environment Tony Burke announced the establishment of a National Sustainability Council (NSC) for Australia.

Burke said the council would provide independent advice to the government on sustainability issues and produce public reports against a set of sustainability indicators.

“It was clear from the Sustainable Population Strategy that we need better information about how our economy, environment and society interact to inform better planning and decision making,” Burke said.

“That’s why the government announced the Measuring Sustainability program in the 2011-12 Budget.

“This program will allow for the collection of data guided by a set of sustainability indicators that will measure our progress while delivering capacity for better planning and decision making.

“The indicators will help us take a longer-term view and consider how actions and decisions today affect the opportunities available to future generations.

“The National Sustainability Council will report against the sustainability indicators every two years, highlighting key trends and emerging issues for policy and decision makers and communities around Australia.”

The indicators will provide information about Australia’s economic, natural, social and human capital. They will cover a broad range of issues including housing supply, broadband internet connections, water consumption, recycling rates, ecosystem protection, educational attainment, feelings of safety, under- and unemployment, and mental health.

The council will be chaired by Professor John Thwaites, chair of the Monash Sustainability Institute and ClimateWorks Australia. He will be supported by members covering a breadth of disciplines and expertise.

The launch of the council had been welcomed by Engineers Australia.

“Engineers Australia has a long-standing commitment to sustainability. We have been calling for a transparent framework for reporting on progress toward sustainability outcomes since the launch of our Sustainability Charter in 2007,” said the National President of Engineers Australia, Adjunct Professor David Hood.

“We are pleased that the NSC has finally been established. This is a very welcome development that will greatly aid the goals of planning and decision making for sustainability.

“Engineers Australia believes that sustainability should be at the heart of mainstream policy and administration. Achieving outcomes that deliver a sustainable future requires a fundamental change in the way that resources are used and social decisions are made; the key is to ensure that economic, social and environmental issues are all given equal consideration.

“The NSC will provide engineering professionals with valuable information for enhancing the sustainability of all engineering works. This long-term approach will be of great benefit in ensuring a sustainable future for our country.

“This advisory body will be an excellent resource for engineers when it comes to designing the critical infrastructure that will be used by future generations, and we congratulate the government for this important initiative.”

More information on the National Sustainability Council and the sustainability indicators is available at www.environment.gov.au/sustainability/measuring.

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