Appendix B - Recommended National Environmental Standards
National Environmental Standards describe the outcomes that contribute to effective environmental protection and management as well as the fundamental processes that are needed to support the effective implementation of the EPBC Act. Standards enable consistency and flexibility across decisions and recognise that the overall outcome is best accomplished by the collective achievements of all activities.
The Review recommends that the full suite of National Environmental Standards should be immediately developed and implemented to provide clear rules and improved decision-making. All the Standards are necessary to improve decision-making by the Commonwealth and to provide confidence in agreements with accredited parties.
The full suite of Standards should include:
- matters of national environmental significance
- Commonwealth actions and actions involving Commonwealth land
- transparent processes and robust decisions, including:
- judicial review
- community consultation
- adequate assessment of impacts on MNES – including climate considerations
- disclosure of emissions profile
- quality regional planning
- Indigenous engagement and participation in decision-making
- compliance and enforcement
- data and information
- environmental monitoring and evaluation of outcomes
- environmental restoration, including offsets
- wildlife permits and trade.
To accelerate the process, the Review has developed in detail recommended National Environmental Standards for:
- matters of national environmental significance (Appendix B1)
- Indigenous engagement and participation in decision-making (Appendix B2)
- compliance and enforcement (Appendix B3)
- data and information (Appendix B4).
These have been developed and refined following extensive consultation with science, Indigenous, environmental and business stakeholders, and with input from technical experts (Appendix A).
The National Environmental Standards set out in detail in this Appendix should be adopted in full. The remainder of the suite of Standards should be developed without delay to enable the full suite of 9 Standards to be implemented immediately. Standards should underpin accreditation arrangements with States and Territories.
The National Environmental Standards should be read and implemented together. The common intent is that Standards are relevant to all decision-makers operating or accredited under the EPBC Act. Additional requirements for the application of individual Standards are provided in those Standards.
Application of the National Environmental Standards by the Commonwealth Environment Minister
National Environmental Standards should be made and implemented by the Environment Minister.
The collective activities and decisions made by the Environment Minister under the EPBC Act should be consistent with the National Environmental Standards. The Standards are relevant to activities and decisions at all scales, including policies, plans and programs.
This includes decisions on the approval of individual projects or actions, where they trigger the EPBC Act. A decision by the Environment Minister to approve an action under the EPBC Act must not prevent a National Environmental Standard from being met.
In considering the accreditation of the regulatory processes or arrangements of third parties under the EPBC Act, the Environment Minister must be satisfied that the processes or arrangements proposed for accreditation can meet the National Environmental Standards and that the parties assure accountability for the outcomes.
The EPBC Act should provide discretion for the Environment Minister to make a decision that is inconsistent with the National Environmental Standards. The use of this power should be a rare exception, justified in the public interest. When doing so, the Minister should publish a statement of reasons, including reasons and environmental implications of the decision.
Application by third parties following accreditation
The National Environmental Standards enable the outcomes sought through the EPBC Act to be more effectively integrated into broader environmental management responsibilities and activities of others (such as a State, Territory or other Commonwealth agency), so long as they can demonstrate that they can act consistently with the Standards.
The collective activities and decisions of a third party under an accredited regulatory process or arrangement should be consistent with the National Environmental Standards. The Standards are relevant to activities and decisions at all scales, including policies, plans and programs. This includes decisions about the approval or authorisation of individual projects or actions. An accredited party must not allow an activity, such as an individual project, that prevents a Standard from being met.
In limited circumstances, such as where an accredited party believes it is in the national interest to undertake an activity or make a decision that would prevent the party from meeting a National Environmental Standard, the party must refer that activity to the Commonwealth Environment Minister for decision.