Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Dr Gillian Sparkes letter to the Editor, Australian Financial Review, 26 March 2019
Environment reporting needs rewiring
Victoria’s five-yearly environmental report card, the Victorian State of the Environment (SoE) 2018 report, was tabled in Parliament last week. It contains 20 recommendations for business, government and the wider community to better protect the state’s natural assets that value and benefit Victoria’s $400 billion economy.
The recommendations include better investment in, and use of, digital platforms, data analytics, citizen science and shifting environmental reporting to a new framework informed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). I also advocate for a shift in how we monitor and protect Victoria’s natural assets. Investment by governments in these capabilities and workforce skills is critical. It is about knowing what we need to know, when we need to know it. In particular, the recommendations highlight the need for:
- improved localised climate projections, particularly in agricultural regions, to reduce the uncertainties associated with rainfall projections;
- better waste and resource recovery indicators to enable, and track progress on, the state’s transition to a circular economy;
- investment in spatial information. This will improve data capability for government programs and particularly improve the coherence and impact of publicly funded scientific research and adaptive management.
Australia’s population growth and the effects of climate change will require regulators and policy makers to move beyond traditional methods of environmental monitoring and reporting. The system must be rewired to support decision makers with the science and data they need to enable ecologically sustainable development.
Dr Gillian Sparkes
Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability